Riddell: “But can you sell it to me?” (column)
Special to Sky-Hi
As an entrepreneurial owner/manager you’ve decided that you want to rapidly grow your company. You feel very strongly that you have the right product or service at the right time for your targeted market. You also know that the right person is the key to making all this happen. You also intuitively know that your personal skill sets are not the best suited for this task. You need a professional salesperson. Then you shudder, realizing that even thinking the words “professional salesperson” causes you a high degree of heartburn.
Unfortunately, the business world in which we all deal is populated by a tremendous number of salespeople and, equally unfortunate, the vast majority of these salespeople are rank amateurs. The amateurs with their transparent tactics of manipulation, obfuscation, and perhaps even intimidation can cause even the best of us to want to avoid anybody with the term “sales” in their title. Indeed, this aversion has given rise to the explosion of positions such as “account representative,” “account manager,” “customer representative,” and a myriad of other aliases all tied to having a customer buy something.
Yet a true professional brings a level of enjoyment to every transaction. A true professional avoids manipulative tactics and is committed to a goal of satisfaction of expectations as the measure of success and his or her professionalism. Most importantly, the true professional has achieved this goal of satisfaction of expectations not just once, but every time. The companies that can attract and retain these true professionals are the ones that are successful in their markets. Second and third rate salespeople are just not employed by companies committed to market leadership and success. So, accepting this need, how do you, the head of an entrepreneurial organization, find this strategic requirement for your business?
First off, it is imperative that you accept that these “pearls” of the business world are not standing around on street corners waving signs that say “Here I am!” Second, you would be well served to remember that the marketplace rewards success and successful, professional salespeople will not be interested in working for you as part of their charitable giving program.
So now let’s assume that you don’t know any professional salespeople and, if you did, you probably couldn’t afford to compete in the compensation arena. So, what do you do? Obviously, the critical need still exists and the normal supply can’t be tapped so you have to tap the abnormal supply. I am, of course, referring to that great fountain of energy, optimism, and confidence aka the freshly minted/graduated college senior.
So often many of these individuals already have significant sales experience in the jobs they held while in school. You know they are bright because they have a sheepskin that certifies their brightness. You just need to find out whether their unique balance of brightness and sales experience can be matched up with your individual product or service to produce a significant opportunity for success. How do you do this? In the interview, explain or show them your product/service and then ask them to sell it to you. This type of pressure brings out the selling creativity necessary and allows you to see first hand the bridge building between their selling skills, their brightness, and your product/service. This is exactly the picture a customer will see. If they can sell you in this first meeting think about what they could after a little training.
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