Evolution of a Sales Rep
It is her first day. The new print rep, freshly minted from sales training class, sits at a desk. She need not reread her job description to know the task at hand: build a customer base. Okay, she thinks, but how? The sales rep understands there to be four key components to sales growth:
- A high-value, well-researched sales call
- The right target market
- A prospecting process
That last one is not a problem for her. She’s just signed her first one-year apartment lease, putting her on the hook for 12 months of payments. That, combined with her car loan, food bill and other “real world” expenses has her plenty motivated to be as persistent as the day is long. Creating a prospecting process is easy for her, too. She understands there to be no magical step-by-step procedure for sales activity, only that she put something together that features consistent touches. Check!
And while she is not yet totally comfortable with the research required to create a valuable sales message, she gets the concept, successfully completed some exercises and believes that will come in time. It’s the target market piece that has her nervous. She knows better than to “sell print” by seeking out opportunities to quote. That leads to the dreaded, “Your price is too high,” objection. Nope, it’s the challenge she’s wrestled with ever since accepting the job: Who is her customer and who isn’t?
This is a question that will follow her for the rest of her sales career. The answer is fluid, in motion and constantly changing; one whose key factors shift with time and sales experience.
The Newbie Rep’s Best Client
Key questions to ask:
- Do they have a pulse?
- Do they have a checkbook?
When you are just starting out, everyone is a prospect. Identifying the right target market requires a sales rep only to reach across the desk and check for a lub-dub, lub-dub sensation in the wrist. Beggars can’t be choosers and newbies put up with a lot in order to gain a sale.
Client behavior that later on will be unaccepted (incessant AAs, for example) is overlooked and tolerated … for now. So, for the first 12-18 months, she will blitz call like the Tasmanian Devil, spinning from opportunity to opportunity and taking anything she can get. Then, one day, she will come to the realization that she can say, “No.”
She draws a line in the sand and declines to quote on certain jobs or pursue certain clients. A pattern has emerged within her customer base. Now, it takes more than the presence of a pulse for her to get excited about a new opportunity. She is ready to move on.
‘Growth Mode’ Rep’s Best Client
Key questions to ask:
- Does the client fit my profile?
- Is this someone I might be working with for years to come?
Having now proven herself to be a keeper, our salesperson decides that it’s okay to be a tad more discerning when it comes to her desired sales market and that, no, not everyone is a good client for her.
Some are one-and-done and leave for a lower price. Some take her good idea and go shopping with it. But some reward her efforts and abilities with business even when a better price is available. Is that client who fails to return a phone call after multiple voicemails really the kind of person she wants to work with? Is their personality a match? Do they value her value? Does she see herself building a long-term relationship here?
What’s happened? Why the change? Well, for one thing, the rep now realizes that instead of holding the bar low and begging for business, she can hold it high by establishing minimum standards and accepting nothing less. Her “Please give me a chance!” has morphed into a, “You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall!” confidence level, and it is having the unexpected benefit of attracting business.
In short, she believes in herself (and it shows). She knows that she brings value to her customers and sells as if she is worthy of the client’s time. What’s interesting is how this new sales attitude is also attracting a better kind of customer. Whereas once she said “yes” to everything, now her “no” is clearly drawing respectful curiosity from clients, as if she is radiating a confidence and success that is somehow winning her business.
The Veteran Rep’s Best Client
Key questions to ask:
- What can I expect from you?
- Why should I take you on?
Growth for the experienced sales rep typically comes either from within, where existing customers provide additional opportunities, or as a result of a referral. At this level, the question of, “Who is her customer and who isn’t?” contains an interesting twist.
Successful salespeople are savvy enough to qualify new clients on a much higher level. For example, let’s say our once-new sales rep has been around the block a few times and is now hyper-focused and completely aware of what to look for — and what to watch out for — when it comes to a new client.
One day, the phone rings. The caller says, “We have a mutual friend and he recommended I call you to get some work done.” Seems like a slamdunk, no-brainer kind of sale. Most would rush right in, gladly accepting the order. But not our heroine.
She asks questions she’d never have dreamt of asking in the past, like “Why are you looking for a new printer? Did something happen with your old one? How long does your company take to pay its bills? What is the average tenure of an existing vendor? On what basis to choose one vendor over another?”
It’s not that she is trying to be rude and it’s not out of overconfidence that she “interviews” this potential client. She simply realizes what could happen and she knows enough to ask, “what if?” questions. It’s almost as if a role reversal has occurred. The information she gathers, along with a review of the company’s website, will tell her whether or not this is a good fit.
Sitting back in her same old chair at her same old desk, she smiles as she thinks about how far she has come from the first time she thought about her ideal customer.
Across the ages and experience levels, there are certain key factors for consideration when it comes to identifying your target market. Those factors might include age, gender, personality, company size or geographic location. Moreover, that sweet spot is likely to shift in time, especially after a couple of decades pass and that once young rep hears herself say, “Back in my day … ” for the first time.
New salespeople will take anyone and put up with almost anything. In time, they learn to identify their target market by considering specific common customer denominators. Reaching the top level of sales success, they enjoy the luxury of choosing their customers carefully …
That is, until they lose a big account whereby — unless they have been actively prospecting for new printing business along the way — they revert back to the days of reaching over the desk and checking for a lub-dub, lub-dub sensation on the client’s wrist.