Friday, July 1, 2016

Salespeople have feelings too…

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a blog called “We need more sales calls, but it’s not happening.”  The basic premise was this, sales people struggle to produce enough calls because they lack skills, have developed poor habits or just don’t think about how they schedule their time.  I went out of my way to say this…
"…before I rattle off the reasons, allow me to say I don’t believe sloth has anything to do with the situation.  Lack of skill, sometimes.  Bad habits, probably.  Deliberate laziness, no way."

I had hoped the article would spark controversy and conversation.  And it did. 

Since I value the opinion of others and would like the whole of the distributor landscape to give the issue some deeper thought, I am publishing a few of the better stated comments here.

First, I love the pithiness of this comment…
“Speaking on behalf of sales people everywhere. I want a supervisor’s advice on sales calls about as much as I want a tax audit.”

Here’s one that I hear often…
“I am always amazed how soon after someone moves up from a straight sales role to anything in management they forget what it is like out there on the streets.  All of a sudden they forget all of the totally unreasonable expectations and burdens that their managers put on them and start dumping them on their people.  The best managers I have worked for recognized this and worked hard to keep the level of BS to a minimum.”

One writer (name withheld to protect the innocent) went on to repudiate a number of my thoughts.  Here they are with very little editing.

Speaking on the topic of scheduling….
“Today for example, I had a full day planned 100 miles from my office. One of the counter people even took my premier parking spot. After an hour in a tire shop parking lot talking to my first sales call and fixing some structural issues with his service, my largest customer emails me on what he needs. This is business we have not previously had and will increase market share with him. Best laid plans down the tube.”

Counting calls to the guard shack as a sales call…
“I have done those guard shack sales calls. This is what I learned. Who has visited in my industry, the person’s name I need to see, the protocol to get into the gate, visiting hours. One of the most important allies a salesperson can have is the gatekeeper, be it a security guard or receptionist. You have to set up the knock out shot with a jab once in a while.”

The value of setting appointments…
“Technical Sales are the best kind of sales. They are asking your advice on what they need. This gives you the ability to customize the BOM to exactly what you have. Technical sales border on design/build and generally have higher margins than standard selling. Sometimes it's just better to freelance than having structured rigidity of scheduling all of your appointments. A little like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when you go impromptu you do not know where you will end up.”

A note from Frank:  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was one of my
favorite movies.  For some sick reason I related more to Mr. Rooney, the Dean of Students, who spent his time trying to track down Ferris Bueller.  I hate salespeople who play hooky from work.  Someday ask me about the guy who lost his pager while making sales calls in a remote territory yet his pager turned up on the 11th hole of a local golf course.  My suspicions on him were right.

Comments about lazy salespeople…
“I have seen even "Lazy" Salespeople succeed. Much of the time the last person you see is the next person you order from. Some "lazy" salespeople just show up, nothing in hand, no sales pitch, and no plan. They will still succeed at some level.”

I stand by my original statements.  I believe sellers need to put process into their game.  I totally buy into the sentiment, some sales managers try to micromanage.  However, I also believe some very good journeymen sellers (comment not intended to be sexist), struggle with bad habits, sales slumps and variations in sales activity. 

I don’t believe in micromanagement, yet many consider even the smallest addition of process to be “dictatorial”.  There are sloppy managers and managers who aren’t operating at the top of their game.  There are even a few sales managers who could serve as poster boys for Dr. Lawrence Peter’s famous principle.  That’s another topic.  However, my advice to distributor leadership has always been to expect heated pushback from your sales team on any change. 

I believe pushback and resistance from sales teams is a good thing.  Debate is a key ingredient to the development of long term strategy.  Expect it, encourage it.  But once the debate is done, the strategy must be played out with fierce resolve.

Finally, here is a very important point brought by one of the respondents… I could not agree more.
 “….little of what we do today as sales people affects tomorrow. If your sales are sliding or are flat, that started long before it showed up on any numbers sheet.”



Fred M said...


Successful salespeople only have one feeling that matters, and that is hubris. We compete for limited resources (customers) against many other people just like us. We all for the most part sell the same stuff at the same price and with the same service. When winning is in the "margins" and it comes down to me versus you in a bare knuckle bout, the customer usually chooses the one with the most confidence to give him what he needs.

If numbers never lie than I was a much greater in 2007 than I am today. We have to ask ourselves two questions because what worked yesterday many, many times will not work today. Ask yourself why and where did the money go.

Salespeople do not play hookie they simple work remotely. We are not judged by hours worked, or customers seen. Would you rather have an average guy working 50 hours a week or an all star that wins everything. We are judged by gross margin and the new business we bring in.

In our business the job title says it all. Drivers drive, warehouse guys work, managers manage, salespeople sell, and operations people complain (usually about salespeople) I once told one of the VP's I worked for "I know the second you know my customers as well as I know my customers, my job gets outsourced to India" Let the salespeople sell.

Sherman Erickson said...

I have been in both Sales and Management (40 Years). I find that Time Management is the most important tool. Scheduling everybody or events around your time and manage the schedule as best you can.

Under scheduling and over management gets better results vs over scheduling and under management.

How often have you experienced customer service that over promise and under deliver...ouch.

Free on-line training at Help others.

Sherman Erickson

Anonymous said...

I began my sales career in electrical distribution in 2001. I read through some of your blog regarding 'sales people need to make more sales calls'. I have witnessed and suspected many of the same attitudes and behavior through my years. My frustration has sometimes got the best of me when I was in a position where I depended on sales people to efficiently perform my duties. When I have been in the position of account manager I have generally been able to ignore my counterparts.