Jim Rohn was a business philosopher who brought insight to ordinary events, people and principles. According to Mr. Rohn 90% of the people on the planet are not worth following. So, what exactly does that mean? I think Jim and I are on the same page so here is my version of the 90% you do not want to follow. Since I’m weary of looking for the percent sign let’s just say the majority.
The majority of people will say “I should do it” instead of “I’ll make that happen”. No, I am not splitting hairs. Should and will are as different as night is from day. Should implies perhaps I will or it’s on my to-do list or I have to quit procrastinating and get that done; it is by its nature wishy-washy. The word “will” is assertive, it’s can-do, it’s immediate, it’s confident, it’s brimming with “completion”. People who use the word will are people worth following. The will-users sense that time is not on their side, they know that they have priorities in their life, they realize that if they don’t do ______ someone else will get to it first and that will really piss them off! Some people want to excel and they are disappointed when they do not achieve that, for whatever reason.
So, how do you know which person is in a perpetual position of striving and which person is waiting for the moons to align before they make their move? Listen to how they say things. When my daughter and son-in-law had a one pound ten ounce baby boy she turned to her husband and said “we will be Jackson’s advocates”. There was an exclamation point after that statement! Every doctor and nurse in the NICU knew that Jackson’s parents and in particular his mother were to be reckoned with. In other words, do not screw with our kid or there will be hell to pay.
Our son interviewed for a job with a company that he was returning to after an employment misadventure. The CEO asked how badly he wanted to come back. Our son said, “I’ll do anything and if that means cleaning bathrooms I’ll do it”. That is commitment! The point here is not to paint glowing pictures of our kids. The point is these are prime examples of people who you would like to follow, they are the ten percenters who instinctively know what they have to do and say to move toward a goal.
Also watch how people say things. Do they look you in the eye while they talk with conviction? People who look you in the eye while they speak are good people to follow. They are confident but not arrogant, chances are good they want to get a read from your eyes relative to what they are saying, they understand how to communicate and they do not have fear. I’m not going to waffle on these two characteristics. People who have them are the people who lead others, they assume responsibility and in fact they cherish responsibility. They are worth following!
Jim Rohn’s suggestion was to “walk away from the 90% who don’t and join the 10% who do”. There is a lot of room under the don’t umbrella but not much under the do umbrella. Find the “dos”.
I don’t know about you but I believe that the title of this post will be repeated thousands of times this week! I also believe that the size of the company will not make a difference as to whether that line is used. It might sound different, like maybe “our sales are flat” or “we are not consistent, one month we’re up the next month flat…”. Per usual this has a lot to do with sales or the lack thereof.
Sales is kind of funny. You own a company or are the CEO of the company and you make the assumption that the sales organization is in decent shape. The VP of sales or sales manager seems to know what they’re doing. He or she has been in the industry and/or with the company for a number of years and growth has been OK. If the company is smaller then the owner manages the salespeople he or she inherited. Maybe the owner has even hired several sales reps and things have moved along decently. Regardless of the situation the sales are flat lining.
So, what do you do? For sure one thing not to do is panic and jump into drastic changes. Oh brother, that happens a lot. Why? Because whomever has the power needs to look like they are doing something about the problem. Like my battalion commander once said to me after I had royally screwed up during a people problem I witnessed. He delivered his advice loudly enough so brigade headquarters heard it “take action even if it’s not the right action”. Good advice but will the advice work for the leader? Not necessarily if the actions are drastic. The theory that “for every action there is a reaction” applies. The more drastic the action the more emotional and haphazard the reaction.
K.I.S.S. Do you have the right salesperson or salespeople? Do they really know how to sell? Are they seeing the right people? Do they have a territory plan? Are they doing the right sales behaviors? Do they have a sales process? How are they being managed? Are they mentally and emotionally tough?
There are many questions within those questions that need answers but the answers are available if the owner/CEO/leader pursues the answers in a constructive and organized manner. And each of those questions can be fixed if they are broken.
This is one of those frustrating events that drive small business owners nuts! Picture this. You own a company and you are the main salesperson. Of course you also do the books, clean the bathroom, take orders and anything else that keeps the company moving forward. And you have had it! Your doctor says that another year of this and you’ll be pushing up daisies. Your wife and kids would like to see you more often than Xmas, New Years, and major holidays.
So you decide to take the leap. You’ve never hired a salesperson before so where do you start? Part of this decision depends on the type of industry and product(s) you have. Do you get an order from a customer and hardly ever see them again? Do you get an order and the process demands constant follow-up on that order and future ones? Should the rep have X number of years of sale experience and/or experience in the industry? Is the sale technical? What can you afford? Do you provide a salary and commission or commission only?
As a sales manager I routinely hired people but it was still challenging to find the right people. One of the problems is that owners don’t prepare for the hiring process. It’s like the thought process from I’m overworked to I need a rep to hiring happens over a two-week period. Don’t rush into hiring even though your brain is screaming at you to get someone on board.
I’d look at the these as a to-do list:
- What are the qualities that make you successful as a salesperson?
- What do your customers expect from the person representing your company?
- Research comp plans in your industry.
- Should you hire the highest quality rep for the money or hire one that has experience in your industry?
- Age has a way of fine tuning skill sets. Should you hire someone in their 30’s or 40’s or go after the mid-twenty rep?
- Prepare how you want to interview candidates.
- Document what you will need in order for the rep to be prepared to sell.
One final bit of wisdom. Never just settle for anyone because you’re flat-out tired and bored with the process. If you hire someone because you want to get it done that rep will not last more than 3 months.
The fourth in this series seems like a no-brainer but small companies sometimes rush into choosing a distributor without first determining if the distributor has a proven track record of creating sales.
Distributor sales organizations are an interesting breed. They are usually started by one or two people who have had success in the industry and are fed up with the large corporate life and want the freedom of working on their own. They have developed a solid base of customers who are committed to them. These salespeople may have a non-compete with their company, which means they can sell to their current customers but they may have limitations on products they can sell them. Regardless, these distributor owners will find other products to sell because they are committed to being on their own.
So begins a distributorship. The key to organizations like these is that they continue to bring new products into the mix of ones they already sell. The better the mix of products the deeper they sell into the existing customer base. And this is where the proven sales track record is key for a company when they choose a distributor for their products.
A proven sales track record includes these factors:
- Three to four years of continued sales increases.
- A broad product mix, which allows the distributor to sell a variety of products to the same customer, which in turn builds loyalty to the distributor.
- A large enough geography allowing the distributor to broaden the base of customers, which again makes the organization attractive to companies that don’t want to hire direct salespeople.
- The distributor understands how to hire high quality sales staff.
- A high level of service to their customers.
Quality distributor organizations are not easy to find but when you do find them they stick out. Their support staff is easy to get along with, there are high levels of organization from CRM’s to product inventory systems, leadership is strong and have a growth vision.
How do you find these diamonds in the rough? The same place you find quality salespeople-their customers.
An eon ago a comic by the name of George Carlin had a stand-up bit called “the 7 words you can’t say on TV”. It’s worth the time to locate this because it is truly side-splitting humor. I can’t rival Carlin but I can adapt the 7-word format to small business. Here are the most pathetic words a small business owner can say, “I assumed he (she) knew how to sell”.
The third key factor in growing a small company is that the direct salesperson understands selling concepts and is not an order taker. Case in point. Several years ago I interviewed a salesperson for a client. Based on a short meeting with the salesperson I told the client to hire the person. He knew the business my client was in and had solid contacts in the vacant sales territory. Regardless of all that, the salesperson struggled! I traveled with this gentleman on several occasions and I discovered that he was an order taker and not a salesperson. My client blew 18 months before letting the person go.
This scenario is repeated often in the world of small business. Can you imagine how this impacts revenue and expenses for these businesses? It’s scary! The majority of small business owners are not skilled interviewers, they don’t know how to read between resume lines, they don’t have the time to do extensive reference checks, and they for sure don’t travel with salespeople to determine if they really can sell. In the world of small business, hiring is a crap shoot but it does not have to be.
Here are several thoughts on how to hire more effectively:
- Use an assessment tool to evaluate salespeople before you hire them. (I have used both DISC and Profiles International.)
- Work with an experienced HR consultant who can flush out the poor salespeople from the keepers. (You can also use a “sales manager for hire” to help in the process.)
- When you interview the salesperson have them “sell” something to you during the interview. Ball point pen? Paper cup? Tablet of paper? Any of them will do.
- Make certain that the salesperson has some experience with the type of product you sell. If the rep sold only tangible products and your company sells intangible products there could be an issue.
- Have other people in the company interview the rep and have him or her travel with one of your salespeople for a days worth of sales calls.
The key to hiring a salesperson is to be patient and thorough. Time spent early in the hiring process will probably eliminate the pain of hiring another rep six months down the road.
I wish I had heard these words of wisdom when our kids were in those pesky teen years. I tended to be one of those parents who offered guidance on a fairly regular basis. Our kids were patient with these outpourings of knowledge but they also got tired of the lengthy nature of them. Hence my nickname-preacher!
Then there is wisdom. I never knew this at the time but some of my best parenting came when I didn’t say a damn thing! Listening is an art that few people understand or practice with any regularity. Here is one reason why. Most people past the age of 40 (very arbitrary number!) have enough experiences that allow them to offer knowledge to others about how to solve a problem and/or give perspective on some of life’s more posing issues. Information or advise comes flowing out almost faster than people can form the words. The foremost thought of the advise giver is, “this person needs my help”. Ergo, off we go into the “lecture”, “preaching”, “advise giving”.
Take your average salesperson for instance. What do companies provide salespeople? Product knowledge and lots of it-features, benefits, advantages, reasons why prospects should buy. And what do so many salespeople do with that information? They give it!
Why? It is easier providing knowledge than listening to people talk about their issues or probing other people to determine why they do what they do, buy what they buy, decide how they decide. Wisdom is listening and asking respectful questions that ultimately lead to more information. Wisdom is offering neutral comments that practically beg the prospect, child, neighbor, boss, employee, spouse to explain more about whatever the issue is.
A friend of mine visited a psychologist for several sessions. He told me that the shrink made an awful lot of money asking just one question over and over and over. “How did that make you feel”? Try it. You’ll be shocked at the results.
I have not written about sales managers in a long, long time other than the few comments I made about sales managers and small businesses. But this thought occurred to me this morning in the shower. (Why there I have no idea!) I do think that this topic has value.
There is one interesting qualifier here, which most so-called experts on sales management never consider. What size company is the sales manager working in? This does make a difference. In smaller companies where the owner is the sales manager (God rest his or her soul) the success of the owner/sales manager should be assessed by the following:
- Does the owner know enough to create a sales process or method?
- Does the owner know when the need for more sales will require the addition of the first salesperson?
- Does the owner/manager know whom he or she should hire? The variables in this decision deserve another post.
- Does the owner/manager understand how to bring a new sales rep up to speed on product knowledge?
- Does the O/M have a sense for how big the sales staff will have to be so hiring becomes part of a long-range plan vs. the typical stop-gap hire?
- Does the O/M know how to manage the salesperson? (Chances are slim the owner does.)
- Has the O/M set performance expectations for the new salesperson?
I could go on here for more bullet points than you have patience to read. There is a lot to consider when you are evaluating a sales manager’s performance in a small company.
Tomorrow we’ll add some comments about the mid-size company and sales manager effectiveness.