Tips for the 21st Century —DeWese
I’M ONLY gonna say this once!
I deny all of the rumors!
I know it seemed possible, even likely.
I know you will be disappointed. You’ve come to expect so much of me.
The whole thing had such a romantic cachet.
Here goes. Grab your armrests and hold on tight.
I am not the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.
I’ll let that settle in for a minute.
That leaves only 7,213 candidates remaining.
I am, however, the guy who was sitting alone at a $100 blackjack table in Las Vegas when a tall, curvaceous blonde sat next to me and asked, “Gotta light, big boy?”
Remember, I quit smoking on February 5, 2005, so I didn’t have any, but the pit boss handed me a book of matches.
I held the flickering match, she cupped her hands around mine and her eyes looked deeply into my baby browns as she lit her cigarette.
The mystery woman continued, “I know that you’re famous. Aren’t you the Mañana Man?”
I paused before answering because I feared it would lead to another request for my autograph.
I was wrong. She asked, “I bet you’ve got a room in this hotel—am I right?”
Can You Believe It?
I stood and motioned to the dealer to “color me up” with $5,000 chips. And, sounding as forceful as possible, I replied, “Yes, Miss Anna Nicole Smith, I am the Mañana Man. But I have to head up to that room and write my next column for PRINTING IMPRESSIONS magazine.
She swooned in disbelief as I stuffed the chips in my pockets and walked away.
I said “no” that night.
I said “yes,” though, when the equally beautiful Joan Kasper—an official with the National Association of Printing Leadership—called and asked, “Mañana Man, will you conduct a seminar at our NAPL Top Management Conference in Santa Barbara? The topic should be on selling in the 21st century.”
Obviously, NAPL wanted me to talk about how technology and customers were requiring change in the ways we sell. But, I thought, “This is 2007, seven years into the 21st century and nothing has changed so far. We didn’t get it right in the 20th century, and we still make the same darn mistakes! We haven’t improved one iota.”
Saying “yes” is always the easy part. Performing, on the other hand, is so hard. I guess that’s why I walked away from that blackjack table. Those two sentences, come to think of it, are profound.
As a father of four, I have always whispered to myself, “Having these kids was so easy. Now, raising them is just way too hard.”
I’ll repeat myself one more time:
Saying “yes” is always the easy part. Performing is so hard.
There’s no preparation for “yes.” Performance won’t happen without preparation.
So I began to think about all of the things graphics communications companies and salespeople must do to perform at a high level of success. I made a stream-of- consciousness list of sales characteristics of the previous century. It’s in no particular order.
• Salespeople with account concentration. There were many salespeople who have one big egg in their tiny little basket. In other words, they have one $800,000 account and six little accounts that aggregate at $100,000. Lose the big boy and you lose the farm. This is still quite common in the industry.
• Salespeople with no major accounts. There are many salespeople who have no significant accounts. They dabble with a bunch of promising customers and are constantly playing a bidding game, never really developing any relationships.
• Salespeople who have plateaued. This was a big problem in the previous century and it’s still here. Actually, there are many salespeople and companies who either can’t or won’t expend the effort to grow.
• Salespeople loyal only to themselves. This is a horrible malady. Companies must rid themselves of these egocentric cancers.
• Salespeople who will not prospect. This was a huge weakness in the 20th century and I think it’s getting bigger. It’s sick. It’s sorry. It’s pathetic.
• Salespeople who cannot identify their market(s). Lot of this last century. They have no clue about what they should be pursuing.
• Salespeople who cannot identify their target customers. They can’t even name their prospects. It’s still happening.
• Salespeople who will not grow. Their companies provide no training and they are not motivated to get it on their own.
• Salespeople who complain, moan and whine. These people are closely linked to the egotists mentioned earlier. And, yes, they are still here.
• Salespeople with no initiative, resourcefulness or sense of humor. These people were dullards in the 20th century and are even worse now. The superheroes in any field always possess those first two qualities—initiative and resourcefulness.
• Salespeople who can only sell based on price. This doesn’t even deserve my comment.
• Salespeople who never leave the office. Yawn! These are folks who would be better as beachcombers or forest rangers.
Last century, numerous owners and managers attended expensive association conferences geared toward senior executives. They enjoyed the weather, played golf and sat in during the sessions. They vowed to do better from a marketing and sales development standpoint when they got home. But...
• Managers wrote no marketing plans. They don’t believe in marketing.
• Some other managers wrote a marketing plan, but never discussed the plan with their sales staffs.
• Most managers filed the marketing plan.
• No one asked the customers what they need.
• No one ever monitored the competition.
• No marketing actions were taken. (Well, except for the football tickets.)
• No effort was made to make the company a top-to-bottom customer satisfaction machine.
• Managers did a lousy recruiting job.
• No sales training was provided to the salespeople.
• No behavioral training was provided.
• No one supervised, directed or motivated the sales force.
• There are no performance appraisals, nor any coaching or counseling.
• Management suffers from salesphobia (a persistent mistrust and disdain for selling, salespeople and customers). “They are all a bunch of Willy Lomans.”
• No one remembered to cut bait and fire Marvelle Stump.
• The companies failed to support the sales force.
Well, all that and more happened last century. I believe that the winners this century—if I live long enough to see it—will:
• Treat marketing with the same serious reverence you have for your Heidelberg, Komori, MAN Roland, Ryobi and Mitsubishi presses.
• Treat your salespeople with the same “investment” (dues paying) love you have for your parents, children or significant other.
If you just do these two things, all of the negatives mentioned will turn to positives and your salespeople and companies will prosper and flourish. Marketing and talented salespeople, adept at building relationships, will characterize this century. Excel at these and you’ll seriously pursue ROI north of 35 percent, pre-tax profits north of 10 percent and EBITDA north of 15 percent.
Now, please say “yes,” do some preparation, and get out there and sell something! PI
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of Now Get Out There and Sell Something, available through NAPL or PIA/GATF. He is chairman and CEO at Compass Capital Partners and is an author of the annual “Compass Report,” the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies. He can be reached via e-mail at DeWeseH@ComCapLtd.com.