I’ve been lucky in my life having worked around some of the more successful and talented sales professionals in the country. During the 1990s my sales force of 650 sold more than $80 million a year in
recurring revenue for telecom services. Since 2003, my company has averaged a 17-to-1 return on investment for every dollar our clients have spent with us. Based on these successes, here are some tips for business owners about sales, salespeople, and just plain selling:
1. Dogs have to like the dog food
Here’s an old sales story: A national sales manager is at a meeting with his sales managers from across the country. They have recently launched a new brand of dog food and the sales numbers are terrible. He is ranting and raving about how much marketing has been done, the dollars they’re spending, and no one is selling the new dog food. He asks the group what’s going on! And a small voice in the back of a very quiet room speaks up, “I don’t think dogs like the way it tastes.”
For success, start with your product. Make it taste really good. Too many business owners refuse to accept that a sales problem may, in fact, be a bad product or service. Honestly evaluate your products and services as well as your competition. Make yours better, faster, more affordable. Then go sell it!
Your sales staff will be more productive and your customers will be more loyal.
2. Most salespeople are like plumbers
Plumbers make more than many other professionals. You know why? Because they do the stuff other people don’t want to do. In my experience, 75 percent of salespeople are in sales not because they are trained and passionate sales professionals, but because they will do the stuff other people don’t want to do: they will pick up the phone and make cold calls. You don’t have to be good at sales to make cold calls any more than you have to be good at plumbing to clean out a septic tank. Just make sure that when it comes to your salespeople, you hire the professionals that are passionate about their work; otherwise, you may as well hire a plumber.
3. Great salespeople work for high compensation
The average outside sales rep in Colorado earns around $58,000 a year before benefits. If you’re going to pay an average wage, expect average performance, which in sales means you should hire a plumber. If you want top performance, offer top pay.
4. You can’t hire commission only salespeople to sell your product
Commission only sales representatives must have the opportunity to make $1,500 a week, every week within their first month with your company. And they need to be paid quickly. Can your product support this? No. Stop thinking about hiring cheap sales help, and start thinking about how to make your product irresistible to buyers. Once you have an irresistible product you may be able to hire a commission only sales force because plumbers will be able to give it away.
5. The number one factor in achieving your sales goals is …
… a really great product or service. Period.
6. Most good salespeople are egotists
This is true. If you do not know how to manage egotistical personalities, don’t. Hire an experienced sales manager or a therapist to manage them. Some of the best salespeople I have ever worked with were pains to be around. They whined, they were always late, they didn’t come to mandatory training, and they didn’t play nicely with others. What they did was sell. All they needed was a cheer leader, not a manager.
Most sales managers only know how to manage plumbers because that’s what most salespeople are. Plumbers show up for meetings, fill out the reports, and struggle to make minimum sales; but they always have their shovel with them. The problem is you may be tempted to hire plumbers, because they’re easier to manage and will fit in with your company culture better. So if you are going to hire and manage plumbers, make sure you have a product that is irresistible to buyers.
I think I’ve made my point. Most sales programs are usually handed off to plumbers to sell. Your only chance for great sales success is to spend a great deal of time making your product or service
irresistible to buyers. Trust me, in most cases, this is far more effective and a better return on investment than actually building a professional sales force with top notch management. Why? Because if your product is really good, you’ll attract the best sales professionals anyway.
This leads to my final point for today:
7. Great salespeople aren’t hired, they choose the company they want to work for
Given this, your job as a business owner is to build a service or product that is irresistible. Once you have that, your salespeople will become superstars (and you can throw the shovels away).