Why Aren’t You Selling More?
Before you go any further into this column, grab a pen and pad of paper and answer this question: Why aren’t you selling more? Make a full list of as many things as you can. When you’re done, proceed …
Salespeople who answer this question fall into two categories, Me and You. The “Me” crowd is by far the minority. From them you would hear: “I’m not as diligent as I should be” or “I’m having a hard time getting anyone on the phone” or “I lack the skills necessary.” The vast majority take a different tact. They blame everyone else, especially their employer:
- “My company has no marketing materials; no leave-behind’s.”
- “I am stuck doing all my paperwork myself.”
- “Our prices are way too high. I could sell more if we charged less.”
- “Sales management is nonexistent around here.”
- “Production screws up my orders.”
- “My compensation package is not what you would call motivating.”
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, it’s the newer salespeople who view their sales challenges as due to their own shortcomings, not their company’s. They take responsibility instead of transferring it. They are not victims. It’s the veteran/legacy reps who point the fingers outward. Any lack of sales is never their fault. Perhaps with some truth serum (or tequila, your choice), honest answers might prevail:
- “We don’t have marketing materials but that shouldn’t stop me. I could take a printed piece that I’ve sold and make a story out of it, creating either a video or a mail piece that demonstrates the value I brought to someone else.”
- “Paperwork, while a pain, is part of the job. People with good time management skills find time to sell first and file later. It also helps that I get my specs correct the first time so that, when I pass things off to someone else, they don’t need to come back to me to ask questions. Paperwork is not going away, so the best thing I can do is to write bigger orders and make the paperwork less of an issue.”
- “If I do my job and I solve problems, price is no longer a sales challenge. My clients will buy from me because I’ve come up with the best solution. This creates loyalty and helps build my brand to be one of ideas and resources, not cheap printing. My company doesn’t need a salesperson who complains about price. We are a .com, not a .org and as such rely upon the sales force to learn what the client is trying to do and help by coming up with the best printing solution. To complain about high prices is like saying, ‘Why do they even need salespeople?’”
- “Managing reps is a lot like parenting children in that they don’t come with instruction manuals. Most managers will provide the help needed if they know exactly what kind of help that is. As such, it’s incumbent upon me to tell my manager exactly what I need and, almost as important, how to deliver the information.”
- “Production issues come in batches. I’m sure if truth be told, a significant portion of those issues are due to an error made by … sales. But even when they do occur, there is still a tremendous opportunity to prove to the client that I work for a quality company by handling those issues swiftly. My goal is to come out better in the eyes of the customer because of the issue than if there had never been a problem at all.”
- “Overall, if I don’t like where I work I should quit. Otherwise, I should control what I can control and focus on the keys to sales success - the fundamentals.”
Who’s right and who’s wrong? It is easy to view the “not my fault” crowd with the same disdain that Americans watch soccer when a player writhes in seemingly fatal pain and then is miraculously healed after the penalty kick is awarded. It’s lame behavior but it doesn’t make the reps who blame outside influencers wrong.
Companies can be guilty of all of the things their legacy reps accuse them of and they can indeed be sales-inhibitors. Management should do everything possible to let the sales reps sell. Provide leads. Handle paperwork. Manage. Train.
What about you? What were your answers? Did you take the question “personally” and give a lot of “I”-based answers or were yours more related to the company you work for? It’s okay to comment/complain about your working environment so long as you are not using them as a crutch to explain your lack of sales growth. Control what you can control! So, what is within your control?
First, the companies you choose to call on. While it would be great if leads were provided to you, especially if they were fully-researched leads, you have the ability to call on companies and markets that are best suited to you, your company and your products. You make that choice. By following trends found in the newspaper and staying sales-curious, you can come up with killer-good prospects all by yourself.
Second, you control what you say to get appointments. “Who buys the printing?” is an approach that will result in unreturned voicemail messages at best, and “Sorry, your price is too high” at worst. The single most important skill a printing sales rep can possess is that of doing the work prior to the start of the prospecting process so calls are made at the decision-maker level and have to do with solving problems.
Third, you control what you do to get those appointments. In other words, the process you follow is your choice and, therefore, your responsibility to get right. Any combination of emails, phone calls, visits, samples, etc., is worth a try, so long as it is over a three- to four-week period.
Finally, you control your own effort. The guy who watches TV with a 2-lb. bag of chips by his side and then complains about his weight has no valid argument. Neither does the rep who makes one call and then gives up. The secret in both cases is discipline.
Your answers to the question, “Why aren’t you selling more?” need to take into consideration that the four keys to sales success are yours to control and improve. Only after honest self-examination (perhaps a 1-10 rating scale, for example) and the creation of a plan for change should a sales rep point fingers outward.
As for soccer taking off in America, it’ll never happen until players play “the beautiful game,” sans the fake injuries. Show us you can play through pain - or at bare minimum through a bad hair day — and we’ll give you a serious look.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 salesvault.pro.