Hindsight: Reflecting on Bad Sales Behaviors

Since all of you who read me know about my penchant for clichés, it will come as no surprise that I’ve got another one for you this week.

If only I knew THEN what I know NOW.

The power of 20/20 hindsight is important, especially if we actually apply some of the lessons we learn in order to make our present and future better and brighter. What follows is a reflection on my past career as a sales person in print. I aim to identify the behaviors and paths I chose that limited me, kept my earnings sometimes lower than they could have been, and possibly even hurt my reputation at times. These are in no particular order.

MY SALES APPROACH—For many years, beginning in the mid ’90s, this is what I sounded like. “My name is Kelly and I specialize in digital printing of all kinds. I’d like to talk to you about saving you money on your printing. Do you have any jobs coming up that I can quote on?”

Yuck! I know the concept of solution selling is a newer philosophy, but just think how much higher my close ratios would have been had I focused on the needs and problems of my prospects—not what my iron did and what my prices were! Or even better, if I had researched the company and actually knew something about it and its goals before I even picked up the phone!

MY PLAN OF ATTACK—As a new salesperson, I was all about cold calling. But as I developed and got more “successful,” my approach to new business development was scattershot at best. It took me about 10 years, and some great coaching by a fellow PI blogger, to realize that I had to have commitment, discipline and a serious approach that was measurable to be truly successful in landing new accounts. If I had executed a prospecting plan and stuck to it with daily activity, commitment and accountability, I am quite sure I would have earned as much as double what I made in my best year.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • http://ClayForsberg Clay Forsberg

    Kelly, the look out my rear view mirror is littered with the carnage of opportunities lost. But I imagine such is the case with most people. If I may, I’d like to share a story that may hit home with you and your readers.

    When I moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, my first order of business was to find a job. My wife secured an apartment and a job … now it was my turn. I produced printing directories in the Twin Cities so I wanted to stay in the printing industry.

    One of my interviews was for a sales rep with the regional office of a national envelope printer. I thought I was hot stuff and figured I’d have no problem landing an offer. The question was whether I would accept it.

    I went to interview and the manager’s first question was whether I had any questions for him. I didn’t. What was there to know – I was going to sell envelopes. His response was not quite what I expected:

    “How dare you come in here and waste my time if you didn’t even respect me enough to research our firm to have at least one question.”

    That was it. Interview done and I was out the door. But he was right. Imagine if our potential clients acted like that. How many of us would be out the door?

  • http://AndreasBurkart Andreas Burkart


    You are correct: Discipline and sticking with your target account list is the key. It is like climbing a mountain, there are many hurdles in the way to the top ( the guy or gal we want to talk to… What works for me is always always making notes , produce a mental picture of the current situation before I call and try to understand the dynamics between the decision makers and influencers. I even make notes when I typically can reach them best.

    Here is a story: A couple years ago I called on a smaller commercial printer ( 2 – 5 Mil) in Canada and the gate keeper a young girl always blocked me. I probably called her minimum 5 – 6 times. One day I found out that she was very familiar with the financial situation of the company and I found out that she actually was the daughter of the owner (her mom). It took me another two calls until I finally was able to talk to the owner. The point here: persistence.