I was standing in a group of about 100 salespeople at a reverse tradeshow a couple of days ago with all the state and local municipalities. I don’t normally do this in my position, but my other reps were busy so I decided it would be a great opportunity to get out in the field with a captive audience. I ended up spending a good amount of time waiting in line and took the opportunity to observe people approach existing and potential customers and upon reflecting had some thoughts.
If you’re looking for sales employment or are in an existing job but unhappy I think it’s important to ask yourself a series of questions. I did, and I thought I would share with you.
Do you love what you do?
Even though I was on my feet for 3 hours going from table to table I realized that I really like my customers. They are almost always great people and the industrial equipment marketplace is the engine of the country. We offer products and services that solve a problem and they are the best products and services in our market. While that’s important, the most important thing is do you really like what you do? I love going out and meeting with my customers and finding out about their businesses. I have seen some incredible businesses such as aerospace, golf, manufacturing, mining equipment, contract cleaners, facilities maintenance and do business with some of the smallest and largest companies in Arizona and California. And I admire them and watch them and love to learn from them. I get to work with new business startups looking to change their lifestyle to people who run Fortune 500 companies. I get up every day and I love going to work. I think that’s a big one. Because if you don’t have that no work environment, no on-site gym, no new truck, no commission plan is enough to overcome the fact that you love what you do and the industry and the people in it.
If so, are you practicing infinite learning?
In my company we do a lot of things in house that my competitors do not. We do all our own marketing, graphic design, web design, CRM management, AutoCAD design, etc. I love, technology, saving money, having control over the finished product and I am always reading and learning. I think it makes us a better company. I want everybody in the company to maintain a balance in their life but always be learning about our CRM program, how to better use Excel, Word, Outlook and how to maximize technology to make more calls, see more people, remember things you wouldn’t ordinarily remember and because of the ROI it has I fully embrace it. I see far too many salespeople that don’t think it’s important and far too many companies that don’t have control over the process and the data. Our 15,000 name ACT CRM program is linked with our accounting program so that we can see not only data and equipment detail but also our customer purchases, including every line item they have purchased and what their buying habits are all through our CRM program. Even if they are working remotely. I also taught myself AutoCAD LT so that we could draw out our closed loop wash racks systems to scale which help us internally when we install the product and lets the customer see what the finished product is going to look like as part of the sales process. This is very unusual for a dealer, but I think it gives us an edge. It adds value. Which is huge. I additionally want to be able to be involved in the marketing process and material we send out, so I learned how to use InDesign and Photoshop and although I’m not great at it, I can make changes and send it back which greatly speeds up the process. In other words, I love learning and even though I’m 56 years old I’m learning more now than ever. I listen to podcasts, I read tons of business articles and I share them with our staff and encourage them to always be learning as well. I think there is a very strong correlation to employees that practice this and their earnings and their ability to move up in a company.
EX: A new sales rep comes to me and says “I have been spending time in our CRM program and I have learned to create a filter/group for each of the zip codes I am responsible for and also have the ability to look up the oldest equipment in those filters and am going to spend time calling on and following up on them.” My reply? “Welcome to SCE and congrats to being on your way to higher revenue for both of us.”
Sincerity Counts. Period.
It doesn’t matter how great your product, or your company is. If you’re not sincere and a good listener you’re not going to have near as much success as you could. I believe customers can smell a lack of sincerity or caring easily when communicating during the sales process. Antenna go up and no matter how great your company or product is, it won’t matter if you are not a good listener and really want to solve a problem, whether you make the sale or not. Sometimes that means referring them to someone else, sometimes it means walking away and being honest but most of the time if you listen, follow up and care and you have the solution you are miles ahead.
You can have great tools such as our above-mentioned CRM database, expensive systems and processes but if you don’t set the callbacks, use the tools, record that data, follow-up, do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, it won’t matter. One of the reasons I love technology is that it enables me to be organized and efficient and helps me follow-up. We hire follow-up. I don’t care how experienced well-spoken you are if you don’t know how to follow-up you can’t work at our company. It is a huge part of our success. We don’t always do it perfectly but that is our goal. Any issues we have had with customers we can trace to a root cause of lack of communication and follow-up. It is an ongoing goal. If you want to be in sales, you have to follow-up.
Do you care enough to prepare?
I also noticed how people appeared. Were they organized? Did they have their material ready like a business card and company brochure as soon as they walked up? It was amazing how many people were unkempt and a little sloppy with shirts untucked, no belt, dirty or worn shoes, sweating from the walk from the parking lot to the venue, etc. I took the time before walking into the tradeshow, turned my phone on vibrate, making sure I had materials ready, no stains on my shirt, glasses cleaned, belt loops all in, etc. Sounds stupid but I didn’t want to embarrass myself or be a distraction to the prospective or existing customer(s) I was meeting. I made sure before I went that I had 50 of our four-page company brochures with our business cards stapled on them. I received positive feedback when I walked up as I could just open up the brochure, explain to them what we did, and within a matter of seconds they were pointing me out to the right buyer and who to talk to and seemed to appreciate the efficiency. I also did notice people there that were attentive, obviously concerned about their appearance and organized and it really made a difference when you watched that person. I think it matters.
I wrote this article not only for our internal use but because we are looking for sales reps and thought it would be good to put down my thoughts regarding what I feel is important and what our core values are in this area. I hope you enjoyed the article and feel fortunate that many of the vendors we do business with practice the above and hope to continue doing the same for our customers.