Trading Places

By Bill Farquharson, Sales Vault – Read Bill’s Sales Tip or scroll down to watch the video
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As a sales professional, what opinion do you have of yourself? If you’re any good at what you do, the same confidence/cockiness that has made you successful carries with it a dark side; a downside. In other words, you probably think that you are all that and a bag of chips. Why else would people buy from you? Yup, clients love you. Your CSR believes the sun rises on one side of you and sets on the other. Production? They see you as one of them and not like those other suits. As for the boss, he knows what you know: This place would fall apart without you.

But what if those in your wake were able to express their opinions? What’s the wake? In his brilliant book, Integrity,  Dr. Henry Cloud gives an analogy that the people in our lives are either spectacularly waterskiing behind our boat or they are drowning. Often times, we see ourselves as a Chris-Craft, elegantly gliding across the water with friends drinking cocktails and laughing while others jump the waves while doing exotic flips without spilling their martini. In reality, well, let’s find out…

Your CSR

“He is an amazing salesman. I will give him that. The guy knows how to look the part and land the big accounts. But as tenacious as he can be in following up with the prospect, I see three key areas for improvement:

  1. Be more thorough— It would also help if the specs of a job were more complete. Perhaps I enable him, but very often I have to track down the customer because he did not get all the information necessary. Like most salespeople, his attention to detail is not great. But I figure it this way: He is not being paid for his perfection. He is there to open doors and close orders.
  2. Dig deeper—He quickly loses interest once they become a customer. It’s like he has Sales ADD or something. I find it surprising, actually. Here he’s gone and spent all that time landing an account but gives practically no consideration to expanding his business by selling more to the same client.
  3. Share the spotlight—What I wish he do more often is to include me in the glory. That is, when a customer thanks him for a job well done, I would like my part in it recognized as well.”

Your Production Team

“If product knowledge were oxygen, he’d suffocate. And the shame of it is that he really doesn’t seem to care. If he did, he’d be back here asking us questions. Not only would that make him better at what he does, it would increase his Q rating with those of us in the plant. It’s very clear that he believes himself to be superior. That, ‘You have jobs because of me’ attitude is apparent every day. What would be nice is if he demonstrated some respect. Barking at us that he needs a job quicker does more to slow us down than anything else. If he thinks that we don’t have the final say in expediting in order, he’s wrong. Another rep here is the polar opposite. She knows our names and even asks about our spouses and our kids. She writes personal notes of thanks when we rush a job and shares emails from customers who express gratitude. Those little things really mean a lot. This is our domain and we are just as important as a sales rep.”

Your Boss

“If I were to lose him, I would be completely screwed. That said, there are days that I dream of showing him to his car. It’s no longer 1985. Customers are more sacred, especially the big ones. They don’t want to be wined and dined. They want a great price and prompt service. Relationships are less important than before. He still important, but less and less so each year. What I really wish is that he would pay more attention to new business development. The problem is, he is making all the money he wants and even if his sales slip a little year-to-year, it does not affect him enough to necessitate change. I, on the other hand, need growth. My costs are going up in my profit margin is shrinking. He has accounts that could be further developed but he owns them, not me. I am in the difficult position of supporting him but not pushing too hard. He sees a smile on my face but the thoughts in my head are completely different.”

Your Customer

“The other day, I got a call from his competitor. This woman has been banging on my door for as long as I can remember I’ve held her off because I’ve never been given a reason to do otherwise. But this rep said something that really got me thinking. She asked, ‘When is the last time your existing vendor came to you with a new idea? It’s great that he is reprinting jobs on time and at a fair price but if he’s stopped challenging every solution, then he has stopped working for you.’ Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I got a phone call prior to a reorder coming up where the rep asked to ensure that we were printing the right piece. Don’t get me wrong, I like this guy. He is on time and professional and a pleasure to do business with. But I suddenly feel like I’m a given. I’d like to see him call me more often with new ideas or to let me know what else his company does that might help me. I’d like him to understand my business more than he does. I’d like his boss to reach out from time to time, too. Hey, anyone can print the piece. Making ink or toner stick to paper is not magical. Helping me to achieve my business needs through his print solutions? Now that’s magical.”

Well, then. Contrary to popular (read: your) belief, it would appear that your biggest fan stares back at you in the mirror every morning. The others like you but aren’t enthralled as much as you believe them to be. You, my friend, are vulnerable. The assumptions that you are making will be your undoing if you continue down this path. The reality is that you are only as good as last job you shipped in. You need to continually prove yourself to your client. Back at the plant, your CSR is yearning for some recognition. The Production Team would like to see some humility. And the boss wants to remind you that part of your job is to generate new business. Other than that, you’re right: You damn-near perfect.

“I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes. You’d know what a drag it is to see you.”

Bob Dylan


Sales Tip of the Week | The Sales Vault

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