VOL. 125 | NO. 95 | Monday, May 17, 2010
Salespeople Form A Business’ Lifeline
Regardless of your experiences with salespeople, they are some of the most important people in business. It is true: Nothing happens until somebody sells something.
For there to be a space industry somebody first sold the president on putting a man into orbit. The sale closed and gave us NASA.
When my company sells office machines, it employs technicians to service them and administrative people to keep up with them. All merchandise bustling down the interstate in 18-wheelers first had to be sold by somebody. They say America’s needs move by trucks. But who fills the trucks? Salespeople.
Salespeople do not have a union, but if they all went on strike the country would shut down quicker than a Larry King marriage.
Outside sales work is among better paying employment and for good reason. Salespeople exist on 90 percent No’s in any month and live for the 10 percent yeses. Their scorecard resets to zero each month, as do commissions. Sales work is closest to being in business for yourself but using someone else’s money. Likewise, if you have a successful sales career, you increase the probability you can run your own business.
Salespeople are the athletes of the business world. They must stay physically and mentally fit to compete on a high enough level to win. It is rare to see an overweight, unfit person do well at outside sales. An abundance of energy is required to complete a day’s worth of sales pitches that have sparkle.
Salespeople have to have a higher tolerance for stress than most. I learned sales at IBM, which was great training. IBM preferred hiring from ex-athletes, thinking they were the competitive type and ex-teachers, figuring they could explain products and benefits best.
Salespeople are their own worst enemies and among the most difficult people to manage. They have fragile egos and feel administration (the sales prevention unit) is out to get them.
Admin types feel reps are arrogant. They are, but it is a byproduct of living with uncertainty month after month. It is a great mistake to be annoyed by salespeople. They really just want to be supported and get understanding for what they do.
Never pay salespeople on revenue. Always make commissions based upon the gross profit in the deals. Some sales positions are straight commission but the better jobs have a salary of about 35 percent and commission of 65 percent.
Hiring quality salespeople is one of a business owner’s greatest headaches. Turnover is high. I have learned that it is best to grow your own and that women are a better bet than men. If you have a good one or, even better, a good manager, do all you can to keep them.
The time, expense, training and headache of replacing them will be worse than working with their quirks.
Tom Pease is owner of e/Doc Systems Inc. and author “Going Out of Business By Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail.”