My first outside sales pay plan was commission only. No base, no draw, just commission. If I sold, I made money. If not, …. It was a great learning experience. It proved the Tom Hopkins quote, “In sales, there is no ceiling for how much you can earn. Of course, there is no floor either.”
Learn How to Sell
Sales was not a new endeavor for me, but this was my first time where it determined whether I made money. The first few months were tough, but I grew to enjoy the pay plan over time.
I learned to sell using Zig Ziglar’s “Automobile University.” The library was full of cassette tapes at the time, and my first was Tom Hopkin’s “How to Master the Art of Selling.” It was the beginning of my Master’s Degree in self-learned selling.
Next up was Brian Tracy’s “Psychology of Selling.” Then Michael Pink’s “Selling among Wolves.” I was beginning to love the art of selling. And my numbers showed it.
My next sales job was a draw against commission. The draw had a three-month free run, after which you should be earning more than the draw. IF NOT, you went into the hole with the company until you did. I never got into the hole with that incentive.
Then the same company changed the pay plan to be a base salary + commission. The base was small, but the commission was generous. Life was good.
More Pay Plans
As time passed, I noticed that pay plans continued to change. Here is what I can currently identify in pay plans.
Base Salary + Commission
Base Salary + Bonuses
Commission + Bonuses
Draw + Commission
Are there others currently in use by sales companies? I’m curious about that and have set up a survey to see where companies land on this issue.
What is selling? It is a profession. Professional salespeople understand this and rise above the “order takers” that permeate the industry.
Are you a professional? Do you consistently work to improve your skills and abilities? Do you read books on selling and self-improvement? Do you listen to podcasts from salespeople that have shown themselves to be professionals? Do you study the art of selling in the modern world?
A professional salesperson is a person who partners with a customer to make their life better.
What selling is not
Selling is not bullying the customer. It is not pushing the customer. It is not “fast-talking” them into something they don’t need.
I don’t believe selling is spotting the taxidermied fish on the wall and asking about their fishing trip on the initial appointment. It is not asking questions like, “What keeps you up at night?” It is not about telling the customer what you think they want to hear, even if you have to tell a little white lie.
A short time ago, my sixteen-year-old granddaughter made a disparaging remark about selling. “It is crooked and all about lying,” she said. Curious, I asked for details and got the following story.
She and her mother went shopping for cell phones with a new carrier. They looked at the phones and asked a clerk in the store about what she thought about the one they liked. She then steered them to a particular telephone they hadn’t been interested in and began pressuring them to purchase “today” because of some “special” they were running.
They began asking questions and the answers they got were convincing enough that they made the purchase, and switched their phone numbers over to the new carrier.
A week later, they discovered that most of the information was a complete lie. The mother had to go up the chain of command to work at getting the issue resolved. I think they are still working on it after several months.
Because of that interaction, I don’t believe I convinced her what that person did was not indicative of a real salesperson.
The dictionary lists a dozen different ideas defining selling.
Here is the dictionary definition of selling:
gerund or present participle: selling
give or hand over (something) in exchange for money
persuade someone of the merits of
talk someone into
The first one is technically true, but the second and third are the ones that can lead to that “pushy” moniker playing out. Don’t be pushy.
I frequently think about the act of selling, and my favorite game is to define selling in one word.
It’s not easy, but I believe it gets more to the heart of selling than most. A few I have come up with are:
But what about Trust?
I’m sure if I spent enough time and energy, I could come up with a catchy acronym for these particular words or synonyms, but that is a job for another day. (Wait for next weeks acronym for “questions”)
I believe listening is the most critical skill in selling. Allowing the customer to know that you understand them. Listening lets you see what problems they are wrestling with and what their feelings are around the issue.
Then comes empathy. This emotion allows you to sit where they are sitting, stand where they are standing and walk a mile in their shoes. (enough of that). If you genuinely empathize with the customer, you will have their best interest at heart. You can feel their frustration.
Without knowledge of their problems or knowledge of the different ways you might help, you are not a salesperson. You must be creative in solving the issue, even if it doesn’t involve you or your product.
I know this is radical, but sometimes the correct solution is not yours. A real professional salesperson will acknowledge this and contribute to finding the right answer. This ups the trust factor, and the customer knows you are a valuable asset.
People want their problems solved. Period. A person with a broken arm wants a doctor to set the bone and put on a cast. Salespeople have the same responsibility. Knowledge leads to a way to solve their problems. If you can’t solve the issue for them, you are not helping.
Convincing and persuading are two words often used in selling. I’m not sure this is the best way. Better to share with the customer your concern, your thoughts, and possible solutions. That is better than the desperation that shows with a lousy salesperson.
I prefer to help customers any way I can, even if I have to give them someone else’s name and number. They remember and reward your thoughtfulness.
What about Trust?
Trust is huge. However, if following the previous thoughts hasn’t built trust, something else is wrong. Either you weren’t listening or didn’t ask the right questions. Time to rewind and start over. More on this in the coming weeks.
Oh, and practice, practice, practice. It’s the only way.
How do you calculate your monthly sales projection?
On the first of every month, sales managers gather all the salespeople into a room to get their sales projections. What number will you hit this month? Traditionally, salespeople have no real idea, and most are not taught how to calculate their monthly sales numbers before the month begins.
How do most salespeople calculate a sales projection?
I find that most salespeople take a look at their funnel and then make up a number out of thin air.
Example: They look at the funnel and see a total number at the bottom of $100,000. The thinking goes that the salesperson will add a few more into that number during the month, so they project $125,000. Thin air!
Real-life shows us that the above projection is a fantasy.
Allowing this fantasy to continue will frustrate a salesperson because they rarely hit that number. There has to be a formula that helps salespeople be better at this monthly process.
Early in my sales career, I kept meticulous notes. I tracked leads, meetings, proposals, and sales. After a while, patterns begin to emerge.
I began discussing my findings with other people and found theirs were similar. Mind you; we were all in the same industry selling to the same type of prospects. I wondered if it held for other sectors.
Then I left that industry and changed companies. I went from monthly route sales to one-off sales of equipment. The change was both harder and easier than I thought, but success came rather quickly.
Why? I knew how to figure a monthly sales projection, and I don’t remember a time I didn’t make my number. I wasn’t low-balling the forecast either. It didn’t take long for my manager to use my number when giving his team number to the Regional Vice President.
He would doctor most other numbers, but learned mine was as close as one could get in the type sales we did.
How do you get to the number?
Historical data is the secret sauce. I noticed a pattern that seems to hold for most industries (I’ve used it in four different industries) and is easy to use.
Referring to the earlier example of the salesperson with the $100,000 funnel. Real-life shows us that 1/3 will close, 1/3 will push, and 1/3 are lost. The correct projection for this person is $30,000. Yes, I know that is only 99%, and that $30,000 is not quite a third, but I like round numbers.
Using this formula is also an excellent way to increase your sales. There is magic in the numbers.
How do you increase your sales using the funnel?
How can a funnel increase your sales? Working the rule of thirds means if you improve the number of correct prospects and close the same ration of 1/3, you will increase your sales. Need to sell 100,000 per month? Increase your funnel to $300,000.
Increasing your sales funnel is the easiest way to increase your monthly sales. It’s not easy, but it is the easiest.
Make that extra call on the way back to the office.
Make another dial before breaking for lunch.
Do the work for more sales.
Will some months exceed the number? Yes. Will some fall below? Yes again.
Just a rule of thumb
We all know sales is a hard business. Monthly projections are only our best guesses of what number we can confidently hit for the month. Trust me, your sales manager might grimace when you give a smaller amount, but after a few months of close, accurate numbers, they will begin to appreciate the new you.
Use the rule of thirds for yourself for a few months and see how close it gets to your actual number.
I’m betting it will be on target.
Let me know your results. I am always collecting data for sales projections accuracy.
Later we’ll discuss the other two ways I know to increase your sales.
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.
Is journaling the secret to productivity? Does our quiet time along with recording our thoughts on paper or computer really generate success?
The answer is a resounding yes if you believe all the blog articles online today. It seems that all one must do is prepare one’s mind and write it down for success and productivity to come knocking on your door. The statements are bold and predictive. It is the secret sauce.
Along with a few moments of mindfulness, journaling is one of the hottest topics on the Internet today. Don’t believe me? Google journaling and see over 42 million returns from articles and videos. Mindfulness returns more than 181 million.
These two topics seem intertwined. Apparently one requires the other to be complete.
Let’s Define the Words
What exactly is mindfulness? Here is the definition.
Learn to pronounce
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
“their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Okay, what about journaling. What defines it from other writing?
Definition of journal, journaled, journaling
: to keep a personal journal : to enter or record daily thoughts, experiences, etc., in a journal.
As a kid, I journaled about everything from boys to bad haircuts.— Redbook
The principal at the school says since students began journaling last year, poor behavior reports have dropped 40 percent.— Stephanie Stahl
The students engaged in several process discussions to reflect on their service-learning projects, and they journaled their reactions.— Roeper Review
It seems we come down to paying attention and recording what our attention is on. It even seems to stem poor behavior in students. That’s amazing. Why don’t we require prison inmates to journal? I think the reason is that journaling requires mindfulness.
Maybe the act of asking questions and writing about it is a form of journaling. This article might just be the result of conscious awareness and recording my thoughts.
Are your goals stalled? Are you determined to get all your projects defined and prioritized? Do you want a shove?
Well, this isn’t it. I’m in the same boat as all of you. I am a productivity, motivation, time-management, fast-charging, organized wannabe junkie. Surprised? Probably not.
I have been all of these things at different times in my life, for specific periods. But like most people, I sometimes have a hard time tieing it all together.
Goals are just vague wishes if they are not written down and clarified. I’ve written on this subject for years on Business Unusual and Motivation on the Run (both taken down). There are SMART goals and SMARTER goals. Guess what? It doesn’t matter what your goals are, as long as you have them.
SMART was the standard for decades. I first defined SMARTER goals back in March of 2006. Now, everyone has an acronym for SMARTER. Most are revisions of earlier editions with a few minor updates.
I see goals and process as being two sides of the same coin. You can’t have goals without process, and process without goals is just busy work, right? And that’s one of the reasons we resist process so much is that it’s not connected to goals that we care about.
One thing I’ve learned from the brilliant Natasha Vorompiova, who is a systems wizard, is that systems are not created, they are recognized and documented.
Stop and go back and read that again. Slowly. What is your take on those statements? Could the difficult task of accomplishing goals come down to recognizing, documenting, and implementing better processes?
As is said many times, productivity is not getting a lot of stuff done; it is getting the right things done. I can’t tell you how often I look up at the end of the day and see that I’ve gotten a lot of stuff done, but didn’t push a single goal forward. I’ll bet you’ve experienced the same issue.
It is frustrating but inevitable. It will happen no matter your to-do list, your goal list, or what program or notebook you use. It will happen.
So what. Do you quit and give up. Of course not. Life happens over and over again. We can’t stop it from diverting our attention regularly, but eventually, we must get back on track.
Go back, look at our goals, make sure we have projects defined for each goal and next action. If not, how are you supposed to know how to push your life forward?
What is motivation? It is tough to define and even harder to come by. Motivation comes from the inside. I’ve received some negative feedback on this, but I can not give you motivation. ONLY you can motivate yourself.
I can encourage you. I can offer to brainstorm ideas, goals, or projects, but that is not motivation.
I can threaten you if I have that power over you, but that is not motivation.
I can offer you incentives, but that is not motivation.
Only you can be motivated. Only you can stop procrastination. Only you can decide to push forward with a project or goal to the conclusion.
How much controversy can we cause around this topic? People often cite truisms about time management.
Time is finite and can’t be managed.
We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day.
Time is a master that can’t free you from its bonds.
Of course, how you manage your time does affect what you get done in the course of your life. But sometimes, time is not yours. It belongs to your house, your spouse, your kids, your boss, your job. Owning a home requires a lot of time. If you doubt it, ask a homeowner. Spouses and children can demand a lot of your time. Your job and boss (if you have one) take up about a third of your life for over fifty years. Think about that one.
In defense of spouse and kids, they should be your number one goal anyway. But it is time spent. Do you ignore them in search of productivity at work? Do you trade the time for your kid’s ballgame for another meeting?
I’m don’t want to preach here, but these are decisions we make every day.
Then one day you wake up and time has slipped by, and you have to take stock of where you are.
My favorite part of this is the organization. Without it, none of the others have a shot. But how do you get organized? Is it something we do? Maybe something we decide or think about? Is it a tool or piece of software?
Maybe it’s writing each thing on a separate 3″x 5″ card and spending the afternoon arranging and rearranging them over and over again.
To get clear on who you are, what you want, and what do you want to be? This begins the journey of organizing. Then determine how to get to that place.
Who You Are?
Who are you? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Are you a doer or a procrastinator? Exactly, who are you?
I believe it is challenging to make plans and get them organized if you aren’t aware of who you are and your personality. It doesn’t matter what those answers are, but only you can determine how to move forward to get what you want. Once that is done, you can begin to organize or get things in order.
What Do You Want?
What do you want is the hardest question for me to answer. What do I want? There are so many and so few. There are physical and spiritual. There are easy things to acquire and tricky items to desire.
Matthew 6 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth …” How strict or legalistic do you want to be with this verse? It can affect what you want in a way that is different than a what you desire list.
Those questions lead directly to the last question.
Who Do You Want to Be?
Who do you want to be? Think about that in a completed life context. This question is for long-term.
What do you want people to say at your funeral type long-term thinking? Of course, we have to think about next month, next year, and the next few years, but what about the end?
I’m not sure I fully comprehend the magnitude of this question, but I struggle with it and think about it.
Introspection is not my strong suit. In fact, it is not something I even like to discuss, so I won’t. But think about it. How can you organize your life if you don’t know who you are, what you want, and who you want to become?
Let’s Finish This
When you think about it, this is some serious stuff. Deciding on your life goals, building processing, and to do lists from these to get them done. It requires motivation and time-management, but more importantly, organization.
What do you think? Am I off? Am I strange in my thinking?
The chemotherapy caused his death. I was sure of it. One day we were talking normally in the hospital, and the next day, after the treatment, he couldn’t even speak. He seemed scared and lost. Then the doctors decided to send him home to die. And he did.
RIP Ray Edward “Dink” Hendrick Jr. Born August 18, 1931, in Shamrock, Texas. Died January 24, 1990, in Wheeler, Texas. Both are in Wheeler County. However, there were many miles and many places between the two events.
In thinking about events to share, I decided to cut the hundreds down to two. These were in the first five that popped into my head and seemed appropriate.
Scout Camping Trip
The Boy Scout week-long camping trip to New Mexico was a great example. The boys ranged from age 11 to about 17 at that time. I was the Scoutmaster, and my Dad and several other dads accompanied us on this memorable trip. We worked on many merit badges from cooking to wilderness survival. All the dads were great, but one story stands out in my brain.
We were cooking breakfast one morning and one of the younger boys, on his first trip, was horseplaying around the fire. All was fine until he kicked up dirt into the cooking food. Dad quickly made it known that horseplay was fine, but not around the food. He made sure the boy got the message and as a result, the running and jumping around took place far away from the food after that.
My First Hunting Trip
Hunting was one of Dad’s passions, especially quail. I remember my first time hunting with him.
The car was loaded, and we were heading from Spearman, Texas to Wheeler County. I was about twelve at the time. Leaving the house, Dad drove through downtown and pulled in at the Western Auto store and went in by himself.
When he came out, he was carrying a long, narrow box. Getting into the car, he handed me the box and said, “Don’t mess with it now. We’ll go over what you need to know when we get to Shamrock. In the box was a Springfield Model 18 410 shotgun. It was a beauty with a bolt action and perfectly sized for a twelve-year-old boy. I was in heaven.
Gun and hunting safety was first and foremost with Dad, and I learned from him. I don’t remember if I shot any birds that first trip, but I had a great time with Dad in the field that weekend.
Then there was the trip in the big truck and trailer full of equipment. It was the summer of 1961, and Dad invited me to go along. The story revolves around me, refusing to eat anything but pancakes and hamburgers.
And the time he bought me a set of junior golf clubs and asked me to play with him on a real golf course.
And the baseball saga, or skateboard crashes, and the time my bicycle handlebars came off mid-jump and Dad welded the pieces back together.
I could tell dozens of more stories about him that shaped my life, but I will refrain for now.
Dad called it a Hippiwampus. I’m not sure where that name was birthed, but it seemed to fit. What started as a typical 1956 Plymouth Suburban Station Wagon was now a full blown hunting buggy, with no resemblance to the former station wagon.
Dad was a serious, quail hunter. I don’t think he ever missed opening day of hunting season. Once he even quit a job because they wouldn’t let him off. It was that big a deal to him.
In the early sixties, he bought a 1956 Plymouth Station Wagon for Mom to drive. Later he bought her a 1960 Ford Wagon, and he took over the Plymouth. It became his daily driver, but he had plans. Plans that would forever change the look of this car.
The modifications took place in Amarillo, Texas in the mid to late nineteen sixties. Dad worked at a big welding shop in town, and over many weekends, he transformed the vehicle to something else. I wish I had pictures.
Dad bought the wagon when we lived in Aurora, Colorado. He and mom were planning, to my knowledge, our first big two-week family vacation. I was nine, and my sister was four.
It was two-tone silver/gray and blue with four doors, a V-8 (272 ci. I believe) and a three-speed standard transmission with a column shifter. It was roomy, and the four of us headed out by the northern route ending in Oregon. Then down to California and eventually back through Texas by the southern way. Returning to Colorado two weeks later with five of us. We picked up a cousin in California who came to stay part of the summer.
Mom drove the car for years afterward. First in Colorado, then in Spearman, Texas, and finally in Amarillo. By then, it was a high-mileage car by the standard of the day, and Dad, in about 1965, decided to move Mom up to a1960 Ford Wagon. That’s when he took over the Plymouth. It was a back-and-forth to work car for a few years.
His first move was to shorten the wheelbase. He cut the body off immediately behind the front doors and chopped the frame and drive shaft to match. Dad found a wrecked mid-fifties pickup cab that he cut apart at the back in order to keep the rear window glass. Then he welded it to the back of the cut off wagon. The old cab had black paint, and he didn’t bother to change anything.
Now the car was shortened where the drive shaft was less than a foot long, and Dad continued to drive it back and forth to work. But this was only the beginning.
He built a small bed to cover the rear frame in front of the rear wheels. He carried a chain and a tire tool in it, though I don’t remember a spare tire,
Next Steps, More Mods
A good friend of Dad’s spent a weekend each month in Little Sahara, Oklahoma. Dad decided it would be fun to take the Plymouth along and see how it did in the sand. It turns out regular street tires aren’t that good in the loose sand.
Back home, Dad gathered a set of wheels, and after cutting them apart, he added a 4″ spacer to the front wheels and a 6″ spacer to the back rims. With some bigger, wider tires, the buggy was taking shape.
We took it on several hunting trips after that, and it was an excellent quail hunting buggy.
By this time, I had my license, and I got to drive it some. It was fun because of two things: the short wheelbase made it quick handling, and with all the weight off the back, it would really burn rubber. Hey, I was fifteen.
But Wait, There’s More
Dad spied a 1954 Ford Pickup a buddy at work was selling. The price was reasonable, so Dad bought it. He’d been without a pickup for a few years and was ready for another. By the way, it was an awesome pickup, but more on that another time.
He decided the roof and cab on the ’56 Plymouth buggy was no longer needed so the cutting torch came out again and off they came. Now it was a short wheel-based convertible buggy. That lasted about six months.
On a particular hunting trip, Dad was feeling bad, so we were cutting across a field, driving the hunting buggy, to get to a tree row. Suddenly, we spooked a covey of quail and Dad slammed on the brakes, grabbed his shotgun and in getting out of the buggy, the shotgun barrel hit the A-pillar and kept him from getting out of the driver’s seat.
That was the day, using his 12 gauge shotgun, the windshield was removed. Honestly, he shot it off with four or five shots.
Don’t believe the cop shows on television showing the police hiding behind the car door and remaining safe from all the flying bullets. Pure nonsense. Bullets will pierce the metal quicker than you can believe.
We kept the buggy for a couple more years, and then Dad sold it to someone who wanted a project. It was definitely that.