Mañana Man in the Pokey --DeWese
Well, my whole damn plan to raise prices in the printing industry blew up in my face. I kidnapped more than 200 print buyers and bankers and held them hostage in what I thought should be a top-secret location. My plan was to hold these yokels until the printing industry raised its prices across the board by 25 percent.
How was I to know that the laundry service deliveryman was an FBI snitch?
Fortunately, I am being detained, without bail, as the charter prisoner in a brand new Federal detention center that has been built for the executives who are alleged to have cooked their books at Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia Cable and Imclone.
My cell is a two-bedroom suite with a Jacuzzi spa, a personal computer with high-speed Internet and 600 cable channels on all three of the big screen digital televisions. I have a few complaints. Oh, there's no room service after midnight; they haven't finished the golf course; and, to top it off, my surround sound systems need more bass.
But, you readers need not worry about me. I am a tough guy and I will survive here quite well. The other inmates won't arrive until they are convicted but, when they do, I will establish myself as Prison Boss. All of those big-shot former CEOs will be shining my shoes.
Of course, I don't plan to be here very long. My attorney tells me that he will have no problem with my defense by proving insanity.
I learned a lot about dysfunctional human behavior while holding my hostages. My lonely incarceration here at the Ritz-Detention Center has given me a lot of time to think about what I learned. A lot of my thinking is relevant to good sales behavior.
No Time to Gossip
For example, the print buyer hostages loved to gossip about one another. This led to more gossip, arguments and a few fistfights. This has led me to conclude that great salespeople never gossip!
Gossip is negative and unproductive behavior. Healthy humans gracefully "walk away" from gossip and never pass it on. The secret is to rise above gossip by showing disinterest. Sell your company and your personal strengths rather than rumor mongering about the competition.
Some of my hostages knew it all and insisted on sharing their "knowledge," mostly when it was not requested. This aberrant behavior can be the kiss of death for a print salesperson. If salespeople dispense unneeded advice or insist on sharing irrelevant knowledge, buyers view them as boors. Nobody wants to spend much time hanging around boors.
On the other hand, if a buyer asks you a question that you can't answer, for goodness sake, say you don't know and will have to get the answer. Admitting you don't know something is integral to integrity, and we all know that honesty is the first characteristic required for print sales. Someone, many years ago, said, "If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember anything."
My print buyer and banker hostages were great gloaters. To hear them tell it, you would think they were single-handedly responsible for whatever success enjoyed by their employers. For that matter, whatever the subject, they were ALWAYS right! People hate that kind of abnormal behavior. It stinks. They were great at saying, "I told you so." I recently read the only time you should say this is when you say, "I told you that you had all the qualities for the success you have enjoyed."
Great salespeople instinctively know how to share the credit. They share it with their customers whenever possible. You might say, for example, "Your project management and responsiveness really made it possible for us to deliver this job on time. Thank you." They share credit with their co-workers by saying things like, "Our pressroom guys worked very hard to deliver what you wanted."
Share-the-credit salespeople also believe that no task is beneath them. No matter how much they make or how far they go, they are always willing to pitch in to help their customers, their co-workers and their companies.
My deviant hostages wanted me to do everything—change their bed linen, replace the toilet paper, clean showers, etc.—for those bunch of arrogant twits.
Of course, since most of them "knew it all," they could never bring themselves to ask for help. Great salespeople know how and when to ask for help. They know when they are in over their heads and are not embarrassed to seek a helping hand. One of my early mentors taught me that it is a mark of maturity to ask for help.
A late summer fly has invaded my suite and keeps circling my head and landing on the keyboard. Why is it that flies come only one at a time? If I'm quick enough to swat this fly, another will appear immediately.
Great salespeople manage to maintain their courtesy in the face of the most offensive behavior. They never let it show when they don't like someone and they never burn bridges. They have learned that just as surely as Mr. Murphy the rule maker was right about everything, what goes 'round, comes 'round. Offensive, bad people eventually get theirs. I have seen it happen in the printing industry over and over again.
For the same reason, great salespeople can "let it go." They don't harbor grudges. They don't ever whine, and they never belabor some offense whether it was real or imagined. They simply "let it go."
Finally, mature people are elegantly silent about their compensation, their stock portfolios, their possessions and their vacation homes. Oh, it's OK to talk about "a little place we've got down south," but you should play it down if it's a penthouse condo with an ocean view in Boca. Unlike my one-upping hostages, mature people listen intently and let others talk about their material possessions.
I have all this reading time and I recently read an article adapted from an article titled, "How to spot and hire top talent, especially in this tight marketplace," in the newsletter Controlling Law Firm Costs. The author was counseling law firms (goodness knows they need the help) on the qualities to seek in job candidates. He said, "Look for people who possess qualities you can't teach: character, integrity, positive attitude, warmth and initiative."
That's great advice for print salespeople to gauge themselves and their behavior. It's also great advice for owners and sales managers who are always seeking salespeople.
Here's a quick, final note and a dose of my own medicine. I faithfully read everything that Dick Vinocur writes. Vinocur is publisher of Footprints, a newsletter for the graphic arts industry. Oh, I know that he can ask hard questions and can be cantankerous. I know because I've made speeches where Dick was in the audience, and I had to try to tap dance around his obstreperous questions in the Q&A session.
Vinocur recently wrote an article that should be must-reading for every printing company owner and salesperson. It is titled, "A Little Customer TLC Goes a Long Way." Dick will get me for this, but I'll bet if you call him at (201) 461-5252 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, he will send you a copy of the article.
Well, it's time for my five-course, executive dinner. I wonder if I should order a French or a domestic wine tonight? While I deal with this prison dilemma, you folks get out there and sell something!
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of Now Get Out There and Sell Something!, published by Nonpareil Books. He is a principal at Compass Capital Partners and is an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies.