In business, nothing happens until there are sales. This is a simple statement that summarizes the essence of our capitalist economy. I have great respect for honest, informed, skilled and hardworking salespeople. Over the years, I have encountered many salespeople with different selling styles and abilities. I have trained some; other OCS firms have trained many, and there are those who gained their sales experience in other industries.
This article will give you a brief critique of some of the sales personalities that I have encountered over the years. You may recognize some of your own salespeople.
Salesperson A had prior sales experience in water service. He left the sector due to the lack of an extended product mix, which hampered his chances of making more income. He is upbeat, witty and loves people. When "A" enters an office, his sense of humor takes over and he gains the attention of his audience. He then wins over the entire staff with his dynamic selling skills and product knowledge. "A" is an innovator willing to share ideas with the entire sales team, and he goes out on sales calls with salespeople who are less skilled and confident, or new to selling OCS. He is well-organized and respected by all of his colleagues. His efforts have won him numerous sales awards. "A" makes for a great sales manager.
Salesperson B had worked for a well-known coffee service company for many years and left because of being mistreated (sometimes the greed of management takes over when the income of a top sales earner becomes too high, and they either cut commissions or try to make the overachiever quit). "B" is articulate, worldly, well-groomed and dressed for success. His outlook on life is extremely positive, and he looks forward to creating new selling relationships. He strives to cultivate sales with the larger companies, rather than sell the smaller ones. Clients adore his warm personality and people skills. In fact, some of his very large clients have given him a desk to work from when he was selling in New York City. "B" is the gold standard for any sales team.
Salesperson C also had OCS experience with another company. His firm wanted desperately to gain market share and, therefore, instructed him to win new customers from his old company and to generate new ones on his own. "C" was told to sell at almost any price to get customers; later on, prices would be raised to restore profitability. "C" was not monitored to control his time, territory, expenses and profitability on equipment placements (no training). When the company was sold, the new owners kept "C" onboard. When he started selling for his new employer, he was very hard to manage; his aggression was getting out of hand. He would make promises that could not be kept. He would set prices near cost. "C" was repeatedly warned about his tactics, and was given an ultimatum to straighten out or leave the company. He was taken under the wing of another seasoned salesperson who worked with him and replaced or modified some of his poor skills. He slowly turned his attitude around and became productive and profitable by selling value-added services and avoiding offers of lower prices.
Salesperson D is a very attractive young woman who is a working mother. She arrives at her first sales call about 10 a.m., after getting her child off to school. Her work ethics are very good and she services each of her accounts as though she only had one customer. "D" is never shy about calling her sales manager for assistance; she uses this technique to show her potential customers that she will admit that she does not always have the answer, but will ask for the correct solution to a situation. Her favorite expression to a prospect is, "If I can get permission from my manager to do this, will you then take our service?" This question has worked well for her to land many new clients. "D" purposely carries her coffee weighing scale and tape measure on her calls to demonstrate her professionalism.
Salesperson E is not typical-looking for the profession. He is short and stout, and his appearance and dress code are slack. However, "E" usually has a big smile on his face and makes the Energizer Bunny look tired. He goes from early morning to late afternoon, looking for the smaller prospects, which have been ignored by many of his competitors. His pricing is within the norm (48%-52%) and as time goes on and as the economy gets stronger, these accounts grow into better customers. "E" knows that the equipment he will be providing is going to be used but in good condition. His formula for success is first to get the brewer into the location, and then upsell allied products.
Salesperson F, with a record of several million dollars in sales, is one of the best reps in the industry. "F" pursues her leads with a vengeance, and she is considered a shark. If a potential prospect looks profitable and she fails to land the account, she follows up six months later and will continue to follow up until she gets her foot in the door. "F" has a "trademark" that most prospects and her accounts remember -- her outrageous hats. She is a true seasoned professional, and demands that all personnel in the company with whom she works treat all of the salespeople's clients as though they were their own.
The group that I've described here does not include the large number of salespeople who have failed over the years. The cost of assembling and training a sales team is high, so when you find a gem, be sure to treat him or her very well. Remember that the customer is king, but don't forget who put the customer on the throne. Happy selling!
Please contact me about any of your salespeople who have made a major impact in your company. I would love to consider writing an article about sales successes. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or OCSconsultant@aol.com.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and later merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million. He also founded the Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage & Products Association. He is a speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing, and is the author of two OCS training programs.