How to Be the Best Print Sales Rep Ever
In his 2014 Academy Awards acceptance speech for Best Actor, Matthew McConaughey famously stated that his hero was a future version of himself. His speech went something along the lines of, “Me in 10 years. That’s who I chase.” Think about the salesperson you were 10 years ago as a reference point. It’s probably difficult to remember the qualities, skill sets and challenges that made up “old you.” Looking ahead is far easier when you know your current faults, weaknesses and sales challenges. But where do we look for clues as to who we want to become? We could be the best sales rep we’ve ever met if only we had an example of what good and bad look like — emulating one while avoiding the other.
During the course of our day, we all come across and interact with salespeople of all shapes and disguises. We don’t recognize them as being in sales since they don’t appear in typical selling situations, but they are there. Everywhere. Some hand us our coffee. Others, perhaps, a traffic ticket. Little sales reps ask us for lunch money and then head off to school. In one form or another, they are all salespeople and teachers and each has a lesson for us as we create a vision of our highest and best sales selves.
Your day starts when a cold nose touches your cheek. Opening your eyes, you are greeted by a dog who acts as if she is meeting you for the first time and you are the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. Sales lesson: Be genuinely welcoming and completely present to your clients. People will be glad to see you because of the way you make them feel.
At the breakfast table, chaos reigns. Someday you will miss all of the chatter and noise, but today is not that day. Today, you anxiously await your kids’ departure for the school bus and for the calm that follows. With a grunt, your teenage daughter enters the room and parks herself under the dark cloud once again where she will continue to brood for another, oh, five years or so. Attempts to engage her in conversation are met with primal noises and angry looks.
Taking a Different Tact
Eventually, she looks up and declares, “I want to go to the movies with my friends this weekend and will need you to drive us.” The argument that ensues raises everyone’s blood pressure. After a few minutes, she takes a deep breath and says, “Mom and Dad, wouldn’t it be great if the two of you went on a date to the movies? How ’bout this weekend? You could go see one while my friends and I are in another. How does that sound?” Sales Lesson: You can get what you want when you figure out what the other person wants and then help him/her to get it.
Before hitting the office, you walk into your favorite coffee shop for a second cup. The attendant greets you by name and you say his in response. Sales lesson: Take note of someone’s name and use it each time. It matters. Ordinarily, your coffee choice is handed to you without your even having to ask. Sales lesson: Anticipate repeat orders.
Today, however, the cappuccino machine is broken. When you express disappointment, the attendee says some version of, “It’s not my fault” when he states: “The machine has been down for two days now. It’s ridiculous. The service company we use has dropped the ball time-and-time again. I don’t know why management hasn’t done something about this issue.” Sales lesson: Own the problem. The customer doesn’t care whose fault it is and now is not the time to assign blame. In addition, there’s never a good time to throw someone else under the bus. By offering up a solution, you focus on the issue at hand (which, in this case, means pumping more caffeine into the customer’s bloodstream).
Later that morning you sit in a sales meeting while your manager drones on and on, making some point about sales tactics you are certain he stole from whatever book he’s currently reading. Mindlessly perusing Amazon on your cell phone, you notice they lined up all of your recent purchases, making it incredibly easy to reorder. Sales lesson: Be like Amazon. It’s their world and we need to emulate it while meeting their standards for delivery and communication.
During a quiet moment at your desk, you overhear the sales conversation from the rep next door. He’s called a prospective client to deliver a price. It’s a normal call until the rep says, “In addition to providing a quote, I’d like to offer up an idea; another way to solve this problem. Can we meet?” Sales lessons: Be resourceful. Do more than the minimum. Be extraordinary.
Don’t Take Clients for Granted
Arriving home that night, you sift through the mail to find a bill from your insurance company with a form letter “signed” by your agent. It’s time to pay the annual premium. But rather than cut the check immediately, you decide to listen to a few of those omnipresent insurance ads and check out the competition. Sales lesson: Never assume the repeat order is yours. Constantly bring new ideas to your existing client base to remind them why they buy from you.
Opening your computer, you view websites from various insurance companies. One in particular stands out and you decide to click on the Contact Us button, entering your name and phone number in the process. Almost instantly, your phone rings. Sales lesson: Be responsive. Even if it’s to say that you can’t talk right now, it sends a great message.
You are greeted warmly and by name (Sales lesson!). You are asked if now is a good time to talk (Sales lesson!). The agent then goes on to suggest an agenda for the call but then finishes by asking what specific information you are looking for (Sales lesson!).
When you finally put your head on the pillow, you think about all of the examples of both good and bad salesmanship encountered that day. Learning from both sides of that equation can only make you better. As you lie there with your eyes closed, you think about the future you — that salesperson that you want to be in all the lessons that can help get you there.
Just then, that same cold nose touches your cheek and, opening your eyes, you’re once again greeted by a wagging tail and a dog with a leash in her mouth. You sigh and reach for your robe. Sales lesson: Diligence is omnipotent. You will wear down even the most difficult customers with pleasant persistency.
Be personable. Remember Dale Carnegie. Own the problem. Emulate those who are doing it right, even retailers. Assume nothing. Be resourceful. Be responsive. Be diligent.
Sales mentors abound. The best sales person you’ve ever met can be you. Unlike Matthew McConaughey, you don’t have to wait 10 years to meet. Just pay attention and heed the lessons you come across everywhere and in everyone.
Alright, alright, alright?
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.