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DeWese--Turning a Grazer into a Hunter

October 1999
A senior manager of a large printing equipment manufacturer called me back in July. He was inviting me to speak to his U.S. sales force at Graph Expo in Chicago this month.

The speech was to be only 30 minutes, and I was going to Graph Expo anyway, so I said, "sure." Now, of course, I'm known as "old rhetoric breath," and I can talk about anything for 30 minutes.

I can give you 30 minutes on the best timing, the breathtaking beauty and the proper execution of the suicide-squeeze bunt in baseball.

In a half-hour, I can easily discuss the virtues of North Carolina barbecue over, say, Texas barbecue.

Want 30 minutes on building and maintaining a water garden? I'm your man.

Lots of conferences ask me to talk about the up-to-the-minute statistics of consolidation in the printing industry. I am just a veritable potpourri of speech topics. I don't even have to prepare. I usually write the outline for my speeches on the plane or in a cab. And I'm way too dumb to be nervous in front of a crowd. Some of my ancestors were preachers, some were travelling salesmen and some were both. So, I've got this genetic impairment that makes the power of the podium very compelling.

This printing equipment executive is a powerful guy, and I didn't want to disappoint him, so I cleverly asked if there was some specific topic that he wanted me to address.

I thought I heard him choke back a little sob, and then he said, "I want you talk about prospecting for new business. We've just completed an analysis that tells us that 80 percent of our sales are coming from 20 percent of our salespeople."

My mind is like a steel trap and works at about 600MHz, and I responded, "So you mean that 80 percent of your salespeople are only selling 20 percent of your equipment? I think I get the picture!"

The executive whined on. "It's worse than that. Eighty percent of the 20 percent who sell the 80 percent are retiring during the next 36 months. My top prospectors are headed for the pasture. My competitors are going to eat my lunch!"

I told the executive to get a hold of himself. I said that printers had a similar problem a few years ago, but I wrote a column on prospecting for new business, and all the salespeople read it, and now there's no longer a problem.
 

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