Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Salesmen

I am posting a bit later than usual, but my schedule is also a bit more confusing of late and doesn't promise to get better soon. In fact, I will be leaving the country next week (no, not at the request of the government, nor just ahead of their hot pursuit). I will endeavor to keep up my efforts and if you are lucky, I may include some pictures from warmer parts of the world. Meanwhile, please accept my apologies for the delay, as well as for the effort. I have been disconnected from the target-rich environment that is Toledo, and have had little time for editing (something that my writing requires a great deal of). These days, it seems that I am often confronted by representatives of organizations that seem to think that my life would be much more fulfilled if I purchased something from them. (I suspect that it is their own lives that they are more concerned about, but never mind that.) Now having been in sales and marketing for most of what has laughingly been called my career, I can't help but be amused and disappointed by most of this. Amused, because their efforts and and motives are so transparent. Disappointed because these same efforts do not serve what I consider to be a noble purpose.Yes, you heard that right. Selling can be a noble calling and the effort can be fulfilling when it is done properly. In order to determine what that purpose is, let's define the two types of salespeople.
  1. Peddlers: Everything that's bad about selling falls under this category. Every bad story that you've ever heard about selling about used cars, home siding, or vacuum cleaners can be laid at the feet of this group individuals. These are the fast-talking, fast-moving types that have a prepared script that that they need to get out before you close the door or hang up the phone on them. They don't care if you really need the product, want to buy it, or can even afford it. Their goal is to scare and confuse you into the purchase of a product before you can take the time to properly think things through. It is their job to "ask for a close" (get the order) at every opportunity and not to let go of you until they make the sale. The fear is that if you get out of their sight or the sound of their voice, reason and logic might take hold and you would delay or even refuse purchase of their goods or services. They are gnats and mosquitoes whose persistent buzzing drives most to a form of madness that unfortunately often ends with your name on a contract. Once the sale has been made and money is exchanged, you will never see them again (which may be the reason that many of us sign). They collect their commission and are off to buzz around their next potential victim.
  2. Salespeople: These are the people who understand that true selling involves no selling at all. It consists entirely of learning all that you can about a potential customer and the way that they do what they do, explaining the potentials of your own organization along the way. If the fit is a good one, your job then becomes removing anything that would get in the way of that customer buying something from you. The task is not to convince anyone to do anything, but instead to allow them to make an informed decision which is good for their organization. When a sale comes (if it does), the relationship doesn't end; but in fact truly begins, and a partnership is born. Now partnerships like the one formed in this way are bound to present challenges as the process goes along. Those challenges can be faced and dealt with early in the game, more painfully as time goes on, or with anger, frustration, and misery if left to fester until the end of a project. The salesperson 's job is therefore to see that they are identified and resolved as quickly as possible, and to everyone's satisfaction. Additionally, the true salesperson realizes that they have become their customer's advocate with their own company, fighting as hard to make the deal right for their customer after the order as they fought to get the order in the first place. Is there money to be made in this process, of course. Anyone in sales that tells you that they are not a "greedy bastard" is either lying or a fool. This is not the primary motivation for the sales person in the process though. The real reason for the true salesperson is to compete (and hopefully to win), but always to see the job done right. The money is the simply only way that anyone can keep score. (The fact that scoring well can significantly affect the lifestyle of the seller means nothing ... yeah right.)
So take this as fair warning, both those of you are companies building a sales and marketing department and those of you out there with your order books in hand. Many of us out here are forewarned as to your methods and tricks. Attempt to work your wiles on us and we will treat you like the illegitimate, red-haired, stepchild that you deserve to be (no offense to any of those groups intended). Treat us with respect and you might have a chance. If you want to do business with us, learn who we are, learn about what we do, and learn what serves the interest of the people who pay our salaries. Don't try to impress us with a free lunch or a shirt, impress us with being there when we need you. Your livelihood will ultimately depend on it.

3 comments:

theirishtwin said...

As a redhead, I do take offense. However, since we both have had a tough couple of weeks, I will give you dispensation just this once. Instead of chastising you, I will open a bottle of wine and toast you in your ignorance .... and in honor of red hair and Ireland!

Tim Higgins said...

Since I am a gentlemen, I will not mention that your red hair comes out of a bottle, and not the one you just opened.

... oops, did I say that out loud?

theirishtwin said...

Hmmmmmm........Perhaps the reason nobody mistakes me for Santa Claus!