Exactly what kinds of experiences award an individual entrance into the wisdom club? Now there’s a question that stops the creative process with the finality of the word end on the last page of a book. So, where to from here? According to Wikipedia wisdom in the Western tradition is one of the cardinal virtues. As a virtue, it is a habit or disposition to perform the right action under given circumstances. This translation I like better. Wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to right actions. A decent synonym is insight. (According to this my 7-year-old grandson has wisdom. He looked at me the other day and said, “Grandpa you have big ears”! Thanks kid. Always good to have the ego stroked. 😉

Usually, parents have wisdom. My father did not necessarily prove that out. In all the years I knew him he gave me one bit of sage advice, which was ‘go into sales’. As it turned out that was a brilliant bit of truth that came at the right time. But that was it. Apparently, Harry decided that he wasn’t going to offer any other truths; he wanted to offer one humdinger of a truth and then rest on his laurels. Harry was also a shy individual who did not want to impose his will on anyone. My mother would disagree but that’s for another day and venue.

Whatever shortage of wisdom my father offered I made up for in spades by offering more than people needed. That’s where ego and wisdom intersect. If people think they are wise and they have a larger than required ego they believe that they need to dispense their wisdom freely to everyone. Really a bad idea! I don’t think that I fell into that category although my kids and wife may disagree. How you deliver wisdom, when you do it and to whom are the real keys to this virtue.

I freely dispensed (some might say dictated) suggestions under the guise of wisdom. There was a better way to do it. Making a query as in “Mind if I share an opinion on….” is better. My intentions were good but the delivery sucked. When you offer wisdom (if it really is that) non-stop people get really annoyed and before you know it they tune you out. Kids tend to model their parents anyway so if the modeling is good then how much ‘wisdom’ needs to be dispensed? Probably not as much as most parents think.

One of my bosses offered this pearl to me when I became a first time manager. “If you need help or have questions give me a call”. Okay. The sign on his desk could have read Wisdom will be dispensed upon request. His theory was that if I had a problem or question I was smart enough to know that I needed help and that he was a phone call away. Either that or he didn’t know what to tell me because no one had ever taught him how to manage. He basically winged life anyway and I suspect that’s how he handled sales management.

Past the age of 16 (my own very arbitrary number) wisdom should be delivered with some finesse as in a tactful, diplomatic maneuver. Why the touchy feely approach? Maybe the person already knows the best way to approach a problem. Maybe they have already proven they can handle tough situations. Maybe they enjoy the process of learning from their own mistakes. Maybe they’re stubborn SOB’s. Maybe they’re tired of listening to you. Regardless, not everyone is anxiously awaiting the next pearl to escape your frontal lobe. Offering wisdom that might actually have a lasting impact on a person or situation should be offered upon request, humorously, in a metaphor mixed with humor, with permission or to sell a book. 😉 And isn’t wisdom akin to advice?

George Carlin was one of the funniest humans on the planet. He had a classic one liner jam-packed with wisdom. Don’t let your ego write a check your body can’t cash! Or something like that. Not a bad bit of wisdom.


Hiring Your First Sales Rep

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.

Sales Management Issue: How Do You Motivate A Lazy Salesperson?

Maybe the better question is, can you motivate a salesperson who has a lousy work ethic? And then, where do you start the coaching process? From experience I can tell you that the hard-nosed approach will not miraculously cure the sales rep that likes to quit at 2:30PM and head for the driving range. Discovering why a salesperson is lazy is a decent first step. Why are some salespeople lazy:

  1. It’s in the gene pool or they never saw or learned from anyone what hard work looks like.
  2. They are satisfied at a certain income level and don’t see any reason to work any harder or smarter.
  3. They’re working two jobs or double-dipping.
  4. No one ever taught the rep how to write a plan and work it.
  5. The rep should not be in sales.
  6. The sales culture is lousy and the rep fits that culture. (Hard to believe but it could be true.)

The sales management position requires a fair amount of psychoanalyzing. People think and act based on certain triggers in their brain. If you can figure out the triggers then you have gone a long way in finding out what motivates people. When I managed salespeople I believed in having  “off the record”  one-on-ones. These conversations and what came from them did not make it on the annual review nor did they make it up the chain of command. There are times  in managing when “come to Jesus” meetings should stay between just two people.

I’ll follow up this post with a second installment later this week.

The Final Thought: LAZINESS, n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.” Ambrose Bierce

The Lighter Side of Sales & Sales Management

I just had to depart from the usual Thursday Sales Management Corner. I was having breakfast the other day with a guy I’ve known for ages; we were reminiscing about some of the follies we were a part of as salespeople or sales managers. This is a potpourri of several that deserve honorable mention.

I worked as a pharmaceutical rep in my first job out of the Army. I was travelling in northern Minnesota, having dinner and reading the paper. There happened to be a fairly tall candle in the middle of the table. All of a sudden I smelled smoke and when I looked up the front page of the Minneapolis Trib was burning out of control! I got up, my chair went flying back knocking over a tray of food and I proceeded to stomp out the burning paper. Nobody in the restaurant batted an eye! Gotta love those unflappable Minnesotans.

As a “detail” man we did a lot of waiting to see physicians. I was on one of those butt flattening episodes in a clinic where the heat was hovering at about eighty five degrees. I had one leg crossed over the other knee when I fell asleep and I mean sound asleep. The nurse came out and had to shake me awake to tell me that the doc would see me. My shirt was soaked with drool and my left leg was completely asleep. I got up from the chair, put weight on the leg and fell over. All the pregnant women were practically hysterical! One of the best sales calls I ever had though.

I was on a sales call with a rep and the doctor we were calling on asked a question about a measurement for a part of the heart catheter we were selling. Neither I nor the rep had a clue of the answer but without taking more than a breath the rep said, “About a quarter of a grommet.” (I’m not sure if that was the exact word but the point is it was a nonsense word.) The doctor looked at the rep for a few seconds, I’m about ready to explode and the doc says absolutely nothing. We walked out with business we never had. Honest to God neither of us could make a sales call for the rest of the day.

Then there was the ex Woody Hayes football player, standing 6’5″ and tipping at about 255 lbs. BIG MAN! I was field training him and we were observing a heart catheterization, which means that we were in scrubs wearing a 35lb lead vest to protect the, ah, well you know. The doc incises the leg artery, which means there is a nice arc of very red arterial blood coming out. The HULK takes one look at that and does a perfect, utterly exquisite face plant. If it had been an Olympic competition he would have gotten 10’s from the Communist judges. It took three of us to drag the nimrod out and put him on a gurney. The last I heard was the dental repairs ran about $3K. He never did get a job with us.

Last but far from least. We were in Hawaii for our national sales meeting and it was the awards dinner evening. These award dinners were a combo of recognition ($$$$$) and humor. The event was outside and the awards, skits and stories took place on a huge stage. Unbeknown to us we had an audience of people standing on their balconies of two adjoining hotels. This was not a group of salespeople who shied away from enhancing bizarre, true stories with a little bit of blue humor. We finished up and en-masse our “audience” broke out into applause. They also wanted an encore of the “horrow tube” story, which I gave. Can’t do it here though because it is thoroughly politically incorrect. If you want the story let me know and I’ll pass it along. I will say, however that ss a result of that true story we did sell a lot of catheters overseas.

I had to share this last story because there is a tendency for the all of us to blast companies that spend money on salespeople and incentive/sales meeting trips. As usual, the media does not always tell the whole story. We do have a right to blast companies that spend ridiculous amounts of money on a few high ranking, over paid, corner office types. You can’t blast a company that rewards their best salespeople and spouses by taking them to a lavish resort. These folks earned their money working hard and generating “honest” revenue for themselves and the company.

The Final Thought: “Nothing is better than the unintended humor of reality” Steve Allen