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Are You a sales know-it-all?

Making sales, not enemies

A successful sales career requires determination to act, not a tendency to procrastination.
-The Quote Doctor

Sales are the lifeblood of any enterprise, but it’s especially critical for SOHO operations in which regular transfusions of cash help keep the business from flat-lining. Yet many entrepreneurs are not as good at making sales as they are in producing the products and services that originally built the business.

There are two major categories of salespeople: know-it-alls and born salespeople. Know-it-alls initially impress you with their product knowledge, but these Herb Tarlicks can only talk the talk–and how they can talk. Recently I went into a specialty store, the kind that is the last bastion of Mom-and-Pop enterprise in this country. The salesperson seemed to know about the products, but his nonstop gobbledygook and superior attitude resulted in an argument when I raised a technical point about one of the products. Rather than fight, I left the shop vowing never to return. Part of the problem with this dialogue lies in what I call the “talk radiozation” of America in which the death of civility is accompanied by some people’s endless need to bust the balls of anybody who disagrees with them. This attitude is anathema in a salesperson.

Born salespeople are naturally gregarious without being irritating and are honestly interested in the customers they deal with. They believe they are doing the people they sell a genuine service and get up each day fired up about meeting new people and making money. This last part is important and may be their only motivation. One of the best of these born salespeople was a mature lady who worked for the photo studio where I apprenticed. She loved talking with brides and grooms, who she treated like her own children, and cared about making sure their photographic order met their needs. It also made her and the studio lots of money.

To be sure there are some ‘tweeners, but the most important question you need to ask yourself is: Which one are you? Let’s face it, not everybody is good at sales. If you’re not, you need to hire someone who is–preferably a born salesperson. Be sure to offer a generous compensation package that includes commissions and bonuses for reaching goals. Don’t be afraid to raise those goals as they are achieved, but you must be ruthless if those goals are not met. Not every salesperson is a perfect fit for every product and company; if it doesn’t work out, cut them loose. Don’t wait until months of nonperformance. As soon as a goal isn’t met, meet with the sales person to find out whazzup. Depending on the answer he or she can get a second chance or the boot.

Lots of resources on this subject are available on the Web including Floyd Wickman’s “11 Principles of Training Salespeople,” The American Management Association’s “Motivating Salespeople Through Incentives and Compensation” and Bill Brook’s “The Five Cardinal Sins Salespeople Commit”.

Most important, don’t let you or your non-sales staff become jealous when the sales people make more money than anybody else in the company. Without sales, there is no company.

Contributing Editor Joe Farace is the author of more than 1000 magazine articles and 23 books and one of the world’s worst salespeople. Any success he has enjoyed so far has come from putting the right person in the sales role and just plain dumb luck.

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