My First Sales Manager: Mom
I was very fortunate to be under the tutelage of a great sales manager when I was young. With no formal training in either sales or sales management, it’s hard to imagine anyone being successful in either field but the lessons that I learned way back when are not only some of the best tips I’ve ever heard, I still use them today.
In the early 70s, when I was a teenager, my father was the Treasurer for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, and part of his job was to host meetings at our house just outside of Boston. Outgoing but awkward, I would quickly retreat to the sanctity of my room and wait for the noise to die down. Noting my hesitation to engage with a group of people that was well outside of my target market and therefore my comfort zone, Mom, my first sales manager, knocked on the door of my "office" and handed me a book:
"How to Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie
This simple act changed my world and my life. I became fascinated with human nature and learned techniques for generating conversation with what was, at the time, the market that I was trying to target: girls! Later, I would use those same lessons to launch and maintain a successful sales career.
Think about the lessons that translate from parenting to sales management:
- Apologize when you are wrong—How often are the words, "I’m sorry" all that it takes to overcome a mistake made on an order? People will understand and forgive you if you take responsibility and own what is yours to own.
- People who don’t call you back are rude—Okay, so in today’s business it is not uncommon for a prospect to ignore your voicemails but after four or five such instances, you really have to wonder if someone is sending you a message and that message is, "I don't have the common courtesy to call you back and this is what you can expect if we end up doing business together."
- Call if you are going to be late—Regardless of whether it's you missing a print deadline or being tardy to an appointment, it is good business etiquette to give someone a heads up and inexcusable not to, especially given all of the different forms of communication available to us.
- Oh, and don’t be late—Do whatever it takes to be on time to an appointment, even a conference call. Those who are perennially late are sending the customer a lot of bad messages, everything from, "This is what you’d expect for the orders you place with me" to "I really just don’t care in general."
- Accountability—There was a great article in The Wall Street Journal recently that talked about how parents these days are keen on hiring tutors for their kids and sending them to special sports camps to try and give them an edge. But the article correctly noted that what really makes a difference in developing a young person is assigning them chores and holding them accountable for getting them done.
My first sales manager, Priscilla Farquharson, turned 90 years old at the end of March. Of her three children, two sons went into sales and both did quite well. Those simple lessons of common courtesy that mom gave my brother Andy and me carried us a long, long way.
Happy Mother’s Day to my first and best sales manager, my best friend, biggest fan, and hero. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.
Bill Farquharson is a Vice President at Epicomm. His training programs can drive the sales of print reps and selling owners. Check out sales.epicomm.org and contact him at (781) 934-7036 or firstname.lastname@example.org