Do you know what that means? I admit to being a fair-weather golfer. I like warm, sunny days to really enjoy my trip around the course. Rain and snow are not my favorite times to head to the golf course.
A fair-weather salesperson is something kin to that. They make excuses for why they can’t do their job. The weather is too bad. All the prospects are on spring break. My wife is busy and I have to cook breakfast. And on and on it goes.
Not Completely True
How many times have you heard that you can’t see anyone between Christmas and New Years? Or maybe even between Thanksgiving and the new year. Maybe the snow is blowing so no one is out there calling on customers.
I am so tired of hearing these excuses from salespeople. They are just excuses. Excuses as to why they can’t make their numbers.
Are some prospects on vacation? Sure. Is it really cold with the blowing snow? Yes. However, the true professional is not looking for excuses to slack off, they are looking for sales. They are looking for an advantage over fair-weather salespeople.
Here’s the good news?
The week between Christmas and New Years can be fruitful. Do you know who else is taking vacations during the holidays? The regular gatekeeper. The one no one ever gets past. She is taking two weeks off and the temporary replacement doesn’t have her skills of rejecting you. Now you stand a chance to get past the front desk.
The same goes for spring break and the blinding snowstorm.
Now’s your chance to make the appointment or get in to see that prospect.
Don’t be a fair-weather salesperson. Make the extra effort to excel.
The list goes back a few years, but see if you can think of the law broken with each one.
Home phone lines
This is not a comprehensive list but is enough to serve the point.
Many won’t remember the Energy Policy Act from 1992, but when it went into effect in 1994, five-gallon flush toilets were banned from further sales. All new commodes had to flush with 1.6 gallons of water. This was done with the intention of helping the environment.
It seems that five gallons of water to flush a commode was “extravagant” and “wasteful” so it required government intervention. Of course, as they are want to do, they jumped the gun and passed a law before the tech worked adequately.
The unintended consequence: The technology wasn’t perfect, so to “flush,” most of what went into the toilet required two, three, or four flushes to take care of the circumstance. Many times more water was used for flushing these environmentally friendly toilets than the old ones. The water savings was not seen for a few years.
They tried adding air pumps, pressure pumps for the water and at some point discovered a way to get most “flushes” to work the first time.
Then the government implemented a requirement to go to 1.2 gallons per flush. More fun ensued.
This one seems more dubious to me. Washing machines seemed more efficient than all the other ways to clean clothes.
I’m not sure of the exact dates for this government intervention, but this has lasting effects felt to this day. They required top-loading washing machines to use less water and electricity.
In 2012 another set of regulations was implemented by the Obama Administration that was supposed to save consumers money on electricity and water. The standards were put together to lower the amounts of both needed to wash clothes.
The unintended consequences; In 2007, Consumer Reports tested the new breed of machines and reported that for the first time, they could not recommend any inexpensive, high-performing top loader washers. They were testing brand new washing machines and said the washers did not clean the clothes.
What did they recommend if you wanted to buy a washing machine and actually to clean your clothes? The costly front-loading machines. They ran longer cycles and could operate on less water. The problem is most people couldn’t afford them, and many still can’t.
I can vouch that our top-loader washing machine is horrible. The government regulations require them to work with such a small amount of water they can’t get the clothes clean. Not only that, the rinse cycle uses so little water we have to run four rinse cycles to get the detergent rinsed out of our clothes.
So much for saving water.
Remember these antiques. Many people still need and use a home phone and I would think this skews to the elderly.
Home phones were connected to a pair of copper wires in your house that linked back to the automated switchboard. The power was through the copper line, so even when your home lost electricity, the telephone still worked. You could call the electric company, on your still working telephone, and let them know your electricity was out.
As the internet became more prevalent in households, companies began selling a service called VoIP, or voice over internet protocol. This service provides for voice conversation to take place over the Internet. The third-party companies were selling this service very cheap because they didn’t have to install phone lines or invest in expensive sub-stations. They only sold a device that connected to your Internet connection.
The Baby Bells saw this goldmine and eventually jumped onboard. Now, most home telephone lines are provided by VoIP. It is cheaper to offer and costs the Bells almost $0 extra to give the service. Even if you don’t buy an internet connection from a Baby Bell, they connect you to the internet and only activate for telephone service.
As they provide this service that has a negligible cost add-on, they still charge the same monthly fees they always did. Some even charge you for a long-distance plan as well. We were charged $39.95 for local service and another $39.95 for long distance a few years back. It was VoIP.
The unintended consequences: If you lose your Internet connection for any reason, power outage or Internet outage, you lose your home phone. And the service has a habit of dropping on a regular basis making it difficult to make an extended call without a lot of “what did you say?” between the participants.
Cell phones are a bit different. Their story is similar to the television story (which we’ll get to). In the beginning, cell phone signals we’re analog with a reach of 20 to 30 miles depending on topography. Cell towers were positioned for coverage based on these criteria; topography and signal strength.
I worked a large territory as a salesman in a remote part of the Texas Panhandle. With the layout of towers, I was able to communicate with my customers from almost anywhere in the region. My customers could easily call me if they had an emergency or a situation. It was great.
The unintended consequences: The conversion made all analog cell phones obsolete requiring new phones to work on the new technology. The bigger issue was signal strength and distance. Digital cell signals only carried eight to ten miles, which left much of the remote country I covered without coverage. I honestly can’t remember how long it took for the additional towers to be installed.
The television story is similar to the cell phones. Analog television signals reached for great distances. We lived in a city 60 miles from the “big city” where the television stations were located. With an antenna, we were able to watch TV without any issues. The weather didn’t seem to affect the analog signal we received from the stations. The weather not affecting the signal was the most important part because the weather was why we watched.
We moved to a remote location in the Texas Hill Country and the nearest stations were in San Antonio. Again, the analog signal worked great with one of the new flat panel powered antennas. The 30 or so miles didn’t matter. I could watch the Dallas Cowboys and the local news and weather.
The unintended consequences: The loss of all analog signals caused a large part of the rural population to lose their ability to watch television. This required those receiving “free television over the air” to purchase the new “digital only” signal from cable or satellite companies or do without their television service all together.
As with cell phones, the digital signal has a much shorter reach than the original analog signal.
I have to admit, this one chaps me the most. It was the most political and least thought out government intrusion up to this point in time.
Let’s start with price. At the time of the required conversion date, incandescent bulbs were about $0.50 cents each for a standard 60 watt bulb. The replacement CFL was over $10.00 dollars. So much for helping the poor and middle class.
Then they “forgot” to tell us the new CFL bulbs contained mercury, so they were dangerous if broken. Oh, and when they quit working, which was frequently, you could not throw them in the trash. You had to collect them and haul them to a designated location for proper disposal.
Supposedly, the CFL, or compact flourescent bulb, was supposed to last forever. Like 10,000 hours or something. Well, that didn’t happen. The bulbs manufactured for home use were not as reliable as the 4 foot and 8 foot flouescent tubes designed and built for office use.
The unintended consequences: LED bulbs were all ready being tested when the mandated change took place. I saw the LED (light emitting diode) in Amarillo, Texas in the early ’90s. It was remarkable. It took very little electricity to produce a brilliant light. And better, it did not put off any heat, to speak of.
At that time I knew LEDs would be the lighting of the future. Little did I know at that time the forthcoming CFL debacle.
This is an interesting one from the point of a “car guy.” Especially one that love muscle cars from the ’60s.
So far, the government hasn’t mandated electric cars, but I’m sure they will at some point in time. And if they do, you can be sure it will be before the technology is ready.
I’m not against the electric car, but I know that are better options.
Let’s look at the pros and cons to the electric car.
quiet running (except for government mandated noise)
Expensive to purchase
require diesel, coal, or natural gas to produce electricity to keep running
battery replacement cost are extremely expensive
total operational costs per mile is higher than gasoline vehicle
I know I might be the exception, but I’ve never paid more than $15,000 for a car. In fact, that was a 50% increase in what I paid for the car before that. Then I keep them and drive them for a long time. The $15,000 car is my current Dodge Magnum SXT with over 306,000 miles, and still going.
Since I only buy used, I would never buy a used electric car because of battery replacement costs.
This article is one of the most telling. It seems a police officer began a high-speed chase of a gas vehicle. The officer was forced to break off pursuit because his electric Tesla didn’t have enough charge to continue. He then had to locate and stop at a charging station to enable his return to the police station.
We’ve all seen the pictures of the electric car dead on the side of the highway with a two-ton truck pulling a big diesel generator. It seems that many drivers misjudge the distance one can drive in an electric car with the stereo, windshield wipers, heater, and cruise control running. Hint: It’s less than you think.
When the manufacturer says the car will run for 120 miles, remember that it is measured under ideal circumstances. A gasoline vehicle manufacturer says a car will get 15 city and 19 highway. Again, perfect conditions. In actuality, the car will get 12 city and 16 highway under real-life conditions.
The same goes for battery mileage. 100,000, 200,000, or 300,000 miles promised is like your laptop computer guy that says your battery will last 12 hours. Really? How about 5 hours under real conditions. And electric car batteries are expensive. To replace a battery pack currently is about $6,000. It’s hard to do the math with all the unknowns.
I also have kept meticulous records on my Dodge Magnum. Removing the cost of the vehicle like they did makes my total service and maintenance costs $.0.036/mile. I’m not seeing the huge savings they tout. In fact, they spent 28% more than I have.
And to claim they are carbon free? Where do they think the electricity comes from? The magic socket on the wall? That is a long discussion beyond the scope of this work, but the electric car is ultimately still powered by Natural gas, Coal, Diesel, or Nuclear energy. Sure we can even discuss solar and wind, but they are not ready for prime time, either.
Will electric cars get better? Yes, in time. But not now.
I guess my point is that tech seems to move backwards long before moving ahead. It’s just a shame the government keeps interfering with the process requiring conversions before they are ready. The cost to American taxpayers is tremendous.
A Yeti walked in the door, continuing to the parts department in the auto dealership. Seven feet tall with long dirty, matted hair all over its body. AND NO ONE SAW IT.
Lately, several cartoons have depicted big happenings surrounding people who don’t notice because their heads were looking down at their phones. This was a brief experience I had last week at a car dealer.
My son and his family were on vacation and spending time with us. My son was actively looking for additional transportation since the oldest granddaughter is now sixteen.
He spotted a car of interest while perusing CarGurus.com less than an hour away. Since the next day was his birthday, I said I would drive him over and back. This accomplished two things. He got to see and test drive a car on his list and I got to spend time with him.
We saw the car in the huge lot and walked around it to get a feel. Since he was interested in a test drive, we went to the showroom and consulted with a salesman. He found the keys, they climbed into the car and drove off into the sunrise. Since the back seat was all but non-existent, I declined and went back into the showroom to enjoy the air conditioning.
Then, as happens when you’ve finished several cups of coffee, … well, you get the idea. I walked to the front counter to ask the location of the restroom.
Cell Phones Everywhere
I approached the desk and the receptionist was on her cell phone. It was several moments before she noticed me standing there. Embarrassed, she looked up, and with my question, pointed me through the parts department to the last hallway. “Then take a left,” she said. I thanked her and headed back.
When I was returning to the showroom I noticed that the lady in the first office was on her cell phone. Then passing the second office, she was too.
Looking to my left, I noticed both Service Writers were busy checking their phones.
The Battle is Lost
The battle is lost and the war is not far behind. Here is what I remember from my work experience before the ubiquitous cell phone.
When there were no customers that needed help, we found work to do. Filing, sweeping, cleaning, sorting, whatever. Obviously, the options are different at different types of workplaces. Now the time is filled with heads down looking at social media. I’ve never worked anywhere there was not work that needed doing when the calm hit. Sometimes even preparing for the next onslaught.
I would like to see a study on how many million man-hours we lose daily to these devices.
My personal experience is no different. When I would walk into the warehouse, several people would scramble to put their phones away, while trying to look innocent. Speaking to them didn’t make a difference, neither did scolding them of writing them up. Addictions are hard to overcome.
Sadly, the only solution I found was firing people. That would help all workers in the short term but not for long.
Do you know your products? I mean really know them. I believe product knowledge separates the order taker from the professional salesperson.
I can’t tell you the number of times working with Reps in the field a customer would ask a simple question about a product. The auto-response from the Reps was always, “I’ll check on that and get back with you.” That’s not selling.
First, selling is finding out why the prospect needs to know. Is it important? Is it a critical requirement for their solution? Why did they ask the question? Sometimes they are just curious. Sometimes it’s important. You need to know.
Second, the delay presented by “getting back to them” will many times kill your chances for a sale.
If you don’t know enough about your products to ask the right questions, how do you expect to make the sale?
If you don’t know, find out why it matters to the prospect. Ask. You might be surprised.
My old-school sales training was to always answer a question with a question. Not just any question but a question that clarifies their question. The detective Columbo is an excellent example of the technique. He always asked good questions and always had a final question that got to the heart of the situation. No, he wasn’t selling, but he was asking good questions. That’s the point to take away.
Smart questions are ones that cause the prospect to stop and think before answering. They aren’t intrusive but do reveal the intent.
Let me ask, Do you know your products good enough to ask the smart questions? Then to have the smart answers?
One of the constants in my life had been my interest in Motivation, Leadership, Management, and Goal Setting. That interest led me to run a website and podcast back in 2005 called Motivation on the Run. It revolved around those particular interests.
Then life happened and it slowly passed into insignificance. My wife and I began a new business and made a physical move to get nearer to our new granddaughter.
Now life is happening again. I’ve wanted to revive a website and podcast on these topics but the needs of others are taking precedence. No complaints, just the facts.
So where does this leave me? With planning.
What do I want the new website and podcast to focus on? Only one aspect of the four intetests specializing on one topic? It’s difficult to pair down since all these topics are highly integrated. One cannot exist without a relationship to one or more of the others. Intertwined is the word that comes to mind.
Hince the planning. Between the mindmaps in Xmind and outlines in Evernote I can be as confused as all get out.
Confusion is my middle name the last five months.
Currently I’m in the local Whataburger having a completely free breakfast. I redeemed a reward for a taquito topped off with a senior coffee. Best deal in town.
Do you want SuperStar Salespeople? You can either hire them or train them. Hiring them is expensive and difficult to do. If they are true SuperStars, they are happy where they are or will cost a bundle to lure them away. Then there are non-competes and other obstacles to overcome. Training them is easier but has mixed results. Most won’t try the training route.
Why do companies fear sales training?
Selling is a Profession
Selling is a profession like any other and it takes work to become a professional of any type, including sales. Professional salespeople put in the hours to learn their craft. They ask questions and read books. They dig into sales brochures to learn about products.
Most have to do it on their own because most companies don’t offer the necessary training to turn their people into SuperStars. Make no mistake, the salespeople must want it enough to put in the work.
Why is that? Embarrassment? Lack of confidence? Fear of knowledge?
I’m not sure what the answer is but real, substantive training makes a difference in lives. It can be as simple or complicated as needed.
Sales Training is Essential
When a new salesperson is hired, they must go through the Human Resources department to complete piles of paperwork. Then meet with their sales manager to discuss the specific requirements of the job if those weren’t covered during the interview process. They are then assigned a laptop with which they are required to enter customer and prospect information.
Most companies don’t offer much in the way of computer training but will do a cursory overview of the CRM software along with any other special software needed for the job.
Then as one of my former Sales Managers said, “There’s your territory. Go call on anyone you want.” I’m serious. That was my formal training for my very first outside product sales job.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone in that aspect.
Since then I have worked as a professional salesman for many different companies and only one had a real, formal sales training process. It was a breath of fresh air at the time.
The company required thirty days after hire to gain product knowledge. No sales calls allowed. Sit at your desk and learn about your products. They furnished a huge binder with everything you needed to know.
Then off to the corporate training facility for a week of days that stretched deep into the night. What was the first agenda item on the first day of training? A product knowledge test. A score below 90% and you were taken back to the airport and sent home without a job. They were serious but effective.
Some of the most effective training I received was how to present the product in a demo. Whether a hard product or software doesn’t matter. The ability to show a prospect how you can solve a big headache for them is gold once you get to that stage.
Why are most companies reluctant to build a sales training program. Some possible reasons might be:
Cost of meetings/personnel to decide what to include in the program
Cost to build a program
Time spent building a program
Personnel required to build the program
Personnel required to implement the program
Location to implement training
Time and Cost to build metrics to measure the effectiveness of the program
Personnel to measure and develop metric reports for management
I get it. However, if you think investment rather than cost, it changes the perspective.
Trained sales reps will make more sales and with a higher margin than if you just throw them out into the field. The latter has only one weapon, the price.
Also, the turnover cost is high. A few years ago the statistic I saw showed more than a 50% turnover rate for sales professionals. Not all if from a lack of training but a lot is directly related.
Companies have no problems making requirements from their new salespeople.
Number of Dials
Number of Appointments
Number of sales/week/month
Company New Hires
It seems that with the cost of hiring a salesperson, companies would be more willing to invest in their own profit. The hiring cost is substantial but look at the ongoing costs.
If you use an agency, there is an additional cost associated with the new hire for a specified period of time. And even with their assistance, the company must conduct additional interviews to make sure the person is a fit for the company.
If you do all the hiring in-house, there are many people involved that are either pulled away from their normal duties or are full-time and have a significant salary themselves. There is the testing, the multiple interviews, and the onboarding process. It adds up quickly.
Once a salesperson is hired and placed in the field, they will get paid. Three of the following pay structures cost whether the salesperson is successful or not. Whether he ramps up fast or slow. The last one will cause a considerable turnover rate in today’s market.
Salary + Commission
Salary + Bonuses
When you add up the hiring cost and the ongoing expense of having salespeople, how can you not be instrumental in their ongoing success?
What is Minimum Training
When considering training, what is the minimum a company needs to cover? Here is a beginning list to get started.
Product knowledge – What does it do for the customer.
Competitive knowledge – What is our competitive advantage?
Competitor knowledge – Maybe a SWAT analysis after identifying them.
Time management – How should their time be split for their duties?
Territory management – A Zip Code is different than 3 states for a territory.
Appointment setting – Why should the prospect meet with you?
Conducting/handling meetings with prospects – What are the “need to know” items?
Prospect research; who, what when where and how? – Do your work!
Without this information, it is hard to succeed at a new company, a new market, or a new industry.
I’d like to expand on much of this in the coming articles, but will leave it for another day.
What is your experience?
Does the company you work for have a training program for their newly hired salespeople?
If so, what is helpful to your success?
Did it cover everything you needed to succeed?
How is it going now?
I’d like to know and include any details you feel free to share.
Do you want to be a professional salesperson? Are you sure? If we acknowledge that selling is a profession, you must make a few decisions.
Are you willing to do what it takes to be a professional? Do you have the desire and motivation to be a professional? Selling is a profession. It’s that simple. Unlike other professions though, it doesn’t require a board of review or a certain standard to achieve before calling oneself a salesman.
Many professions require a license to practice. Doctors,
Lawyers, Beauticians too, are required to pass a minimum set of requirements to
get a license. Then there are the continuing education credits to keep the
license in good standing.
Selling is a job many “just fall into” without the real
knowledge of what it takes to succeed. How many people do you know that went
into sales because it “beat working for a living?” The dropout rate is high
because of one thing: SELLING IS HARD!
Sales training was non-existent for every sales job I’ve
had, except one. One company handed me a 3-ring binder with a few pages
inserted. Pointing at a map of the area, my new manager said, “You can call on
anyone you want east of this line.” That was it: my training was complete. Go
forth and sell.
The truth is you must take responsibility for your own
training. If the company offers it, great. Participate with zeal and
enthusiasm. If not, take charge and begin your own “self-training.” It’s more
difficult but completely possible,
speaking from experience.
What does it take to become a professional in selling? More than most people are willing to give. There is a difference between selling and becoming a professional salesman. Professionals take selling seriously.
It’s not “just a job” for a pro, it is more than that.
All the real salespeople I have known had a genuine desire to succeed. They quickly determined where their skills were lacking and then took steps to correct and improve.
The Top 20%
The top 20% make 80% of the sales in an organization. My
experience as a salesman and a Sales Manager bears this out. If you want to be
considered a professional, you must strive for the top 20% in your
organization. Amateurs settle for average.
The top 20% act with integrity and take pride in their work.
They take the extra time to stay up to date in their industry. They work on
their profession of sales. They develop habits that allow them to succeed.
What does it take to succeed at this level?
Study your craft of sales
Read books on sales
Watch videos on sales and training
Take courses in subjects that apply
Listen to sales podcasts and tapes
Attend sales and motivation conferences
Form a Master Mind group
Hire a coach
Now that you are a member of the 20% club, you need to step
up to the next goal. The top 20% should be the first goal, but not the end
The Top 4%
The top 20% of the top 20% are the most professional of all.
This usually takes the additional desire to achieve the best. It is not easy to
reach this distinguished level but it’s a worthy pursuit.
Think about it. This group is 4 out of every 100 salespeople. It is such a small percentage because it is the hardest to break into.
Attaining this level makes you part of a very elite group. It is the pinnacle of the profession made up of people that never have to worry about a job. Companies are seeking these people and recruiters look for them. The 4% are the best.
How Can You Get There?
It is a simple 5-step process. Simple in form, but difficult
Determine you want it enough
Develop a plan
Implement the plan
Make course corrections
Rinse and Repeat
It doesn’t take the smartest or best looking. However, it
does take a person that understands the hardships at the beginning and the
knowledge that it gets better with time.
It does take effort.
Hard, dedicated effort. Oh, and determination.
So is it worth it? All this work? Absolutely. Selling is the most gratifying profession.