Dear Printing Industry Salesperson, Your Sales Mirror Lies to You
Taking stock of your own sales efforts is a lot like looking in the mirror while wearing an ill-fitting, but super cheap, clearance item. The low price makes you ignore the fact that the color and style are outdated and, if we’re being honest here, ugly. So, you see what you want to see and not how things really are. Salespeople routinely do the same thing when gauging their own progress, sizing themselves up as if they are in a dressing room.
“Sales mirror, mirror on the wall, how am I doing?” they ask in an effort to justify their current state. And the mirror, an internal accomplice, does what it does best — it lies:
“You are amazing. You’re universally loved inside and outside of the plant, and the powers-that-be love you and think you’re doing a great job. You have loyal accounts who aren’t going anywhere. Oh, and you are working harder than anyone else in the office or plant. In fact, this place would fall down without you.”
But, here’s the thing: The sales mirror lies to you. It tells you what it wants you to hear, and what you desperately need it to say so you don’t have to face the harsh truths. So long as it keeps up the illusions, you are good to go.
We See What We Want to See
Similar to the fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” sometimes we see what we want to see and other times we believe what others tell us despite the fact that neither demonstrates the truth. An accurate examination of our sales self would be an eye-opening, if painful, experience. But instead, we hear and eagerly believe the lies our sales mirror tells us, namely:
“Your clients love you. They aren’t going anywhere.” — Every successful sales rep has this deep-rooted thought at some point as time goes on and we become increasingly familiar with our accounts and they with us. It’s a natural conclusion to draw.
Customers become friends over time and trust builds. Walls of nervousness drop and expectations rise in their place. We get lulled by uncontested prices and friendly greetings as we walk through their office. In short, we get comfortable. Do they, in fact, love you? Yes! You do a great job for them and no one doubts your customer service skills.
But, you become vulnerable to losing that account with every assumption you make and when you mistake comfort for invincibility. Believe this sales lie and there is a wake-up call in your future when another sales rep asks, “When is the last time your existing vendor brought you a new idea?”
“You can’t possibly prospect for new business. You’re too busy with existing clients. That’s crazy talk!” — Everyone is busy, or at least we think we are and the sales mirror whispers, “But no one is as busy as you,” and we believe it.
But know this: There is a huge difference between being busy and being productive. It is easy to fill a 40-hour work week with 20 hours worth of actual work. The best of the best find a way to do 40 hours of selling in 20 hours. By focusing on the essential and most profitable tasks, you can sell more in less time.
“No need to open new accounts. All the new business you need will come from within your current account base.” — If the sales mirror isn’t convincing you of your lack of time, it is challenging the need to look any further than the book of business you already have for sales growth.
But dismiss the need to prospect at your own peril. Every wave hits the beach and you are currently a surfer catching a ride. You need to make sales calls every day seeking new business and you should constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities. Here’s a sales tip: You probably don’t have time to pick up the phone six times, right? So make just two calls but do it three times a day. Voilà!
“Your boss thinks you’re doing a great job. You are an example to others.” — News flash! Your boss has little interest in what you are doing so long as you are meeting expectations. Hit your numbers and the sales mirror is absolutely correct. But fall short and you are suddenly in the crosshairs.
Sales Results Are Measurable
Everything a sales rep does is measurable and it is by those numbers that we are judged. Starting with sales volume and ending with sales activity, you’d best be communicating your results to the higher-ups. The mirror wants you to believe the place would go under if it weren’t for you. Making that lie seem like the truth requires a lot of hard work.
Sell to expectations and life is good. Start falling short of sales goals and your last name better be the same as your boss’ ... but even nepotism has its limits.
“The CSR department complains about the other reps, but not you. They L-O-V-E you.” — Have you ever heard someone gossip and wondered, “I wonder what is said about me to others?”
How Are You Really Viewed?
The sales mirror tells you you’re worshiped inside the walls of the plant and those complaining whispers are not about you. Your charm is magical, it says, and you get special treatment and favors not given to others.
The truth is, no sooner are you out of earshot when the bashing begins. Owning up to this belief means asking a difficult question: How am I doing? Then, drop the defenses and find out what you need to do in order to make this lie a truth.
“Learn new skills? Learn about new technologies? Learn about a new product line? You don’t need to do that. Print has been your bread and butter and it will continue to put food on your table.” — You got here, to a place of comfort, selling a product you are familiar with to a client you understand, using a certain set of skills.
This is your safety zone; your happy place. But to deny the shrinking number of new print opportunities is to deny climate change on a hot January day in Boston.
What got you here won’t get you there. You need to expand, grow, and evolve. Seek out new profitable pursuits, starting with a thorough understanding of where your customers are headed and then get there first.
“Sales mirror, mirror on the wall, how am I really doing?” If you constantly work for your customer base and never take them for granted, if you stay sales-curious for new accounts, if you keep your boss informed, if you check in with your CSR department, and if you never stop learning, you really are doing great, but … that thing you are wearing is still butt-ugly.
(Thanks go out to Jeff Meade, SpeedPro Lexington, for the “sales mirror” idea! )