Farquharson/Tedesco on Business Development: 10 Lessons No Longer Taught
If you would consider yourself a veteran salesperson (see also, "Vintage," "Old-School" and "Geezer"), it is likely that you experienced some form of training early in your career that included lessons on Prospecting, Time Management, Beating Voicemail and Overcoming Objections. That is, someone taught you the basic blocking and tackling required to be a success; successful enough to make it as far as you did, you old coot.
From there, you went on to learn the more subtle and obscure do's and don'ts of the sales craft on your own, likely through trial and error.
Sadly, most companies have trimmed their training budgets and new hires are thrown into the deep end of the pool with only a stack of business cards and a cell phone. No wonder the odds are against them from still being on payroll in a year or two (it also explains how the cell phones keep getting wet).
No one teaches sales professionalism or how to act in certain circumstances. No one teaches the nuances. Nowhere is there a list of the more subtle lessons in sales. New reps must learn what the rest of us know on their own. If only someone would step up and help. If only a magazine dedicated to the printing industry had highly paid sales columnists who wrote about such things. For if there were such a thing, it'd look something like this:
1 Never leave an angry voice mail—Keep your frustration in check when on the phone. The rule is that you will not hear back from someone. The exception is when you do. Regardless of whether you are pursuing a client or a prospect, be prepared for the long haul and remember that you can always get angry later. For now, remain calm, citizens.
2 Never put anything in writing that you wouldn't want the client to see—This one is even more important that the first rule. Let's say you write "annoying customer" on a quote request with an outside vendor. What if that comment never got erased and made its way to the customer? Your client would be justifiably irate if he/she saw it. Even when you are adding comments to your CRM system, show some class. By the way, this is a true story. It really happened!!!
3 Be appreciative of in-house employees—Learn and remember names of everyone in the plant. When you're with a customer on a plant tour, introduce them to the client and ask that they summarize their role at the company. In addition, share positive feedback received from customers with everyone who touched the piece.
4 Respect the client's time—If your appointment is at 10 a.m., be on time. If you are going to be late, call. If the job is scheduled to ship on Wednesday, see that it does. If your appointment is more than a week away, call to confirm. On a first sales call, confirm the amount of time the client has to spend with you. In your followup, thank him/her for taking the time out of their busy day. Failure to follow this rule can (and quite frankly, does) tell the customer, "I don't care." Everything you do as a sales rep reflects upon your company. You can kill a relationship quickly simply by missing a deadline or waltzing in a few minutes late. Yeah, it's that important.
5 Communicate with your boss—You have another internal relationship to manage. If you are hitting your quota each month, go ahead and skip this rule. If not, you need to make certain that your boss knows everything you are doing. How many appointments do you have this week? How much business are you quoting? Any Big Fish on the hook? Assume that your boss is sitting at his/her desk right now asking one question about you: "Is my rep doing the job?" Answer that question. Weekly, at minimum. Daily, if you are on Double Secret Probation.
6 Be supportive of your fellow sales rep—Sales is a lonely job. Life is easy when you have a book of business and orders are rolling in, but that doesn't mean you couldn't use a compliment. Conversely, when times are tough the phone isn't ringing, be a good friend and offer some encouragement. What goes around, comes around.
7 Someday, mentor a newbie—Right now, you are on the bottom of the sales food chain. In the near future, that will change and a new hire will join the staff. Don't ever forget the anxiety and stress you are feeling and what you wish someone had said to be of support. Someday, you will have the chance to make a difference with a newbie when it is his/her turn to be terrified or frustrated. When that day comes, offer some support and a few suggestions. "Let me know if you need anything" is not enough. Be a cheerleader. There is nothing more personally rewarding than getting a phone call or e-mail from someone whom you've mentored in the past and is now successful.
8 Thank a client for the order—"I appreciate the confidence you've placed in me." "I will take good care of your business." "Thank you for affording me the opportunity to be of service." There. That wasn't so tough, was it? Every order and every client is precious. Never assume they know it. Tell them.
9 Don't prospect from the cell phone—When you call on a prospect, do so from a good connection with minimal background noise. If you call someone from your car, you might as well start off your pitch by shouting, "HI, THIS IS BILL! YOU'RE NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR ME TO CALL FROM A QUIET LANDLINE..."
10 Leave your job at the office—Google the phrase, "End of the day." There was a time before e-mail and cell phones that the sales day ended, business was over and your personal life began. The weekend was yours to share with your family. You'd watch your child's game without talking on the phone from the sideline. Sales etiquette includes a separation of business and personal. Be present to your family. How do you wish to be remembered by your kids? Go be that person.
Those 10 lessons could be followed up with 10 more, but what fun would it be if we gave you all of the answers? Sales is hard. It's not for everyone. Just because you have a good look and a nice smile does not mean that you will automatically make it as a rep. Every time you think you are "there" and really getting on top of things, something happens that reminds you just how much there is to learn.Oh, and that's another thing: Never stop learning. There is no finish line to the task of improving. PI
About the Authors
T.J. Tedesco is team leader at Grow Sales Inc., a marketing and PR services company that has served graphic arts companies since 1996. He wrote "Direct Mail Pal 2012" and seven other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail email@example.com. Bill Farquharson is a vice president at NAPL. Farquharson can help drive your sales. Visit www.aspirefor.com or call him at (781) 934-7036.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.