Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Love Sales

I enjoy my job most of the time. I manage a small company with multiple locations. We utilize a very lean business model with many of the "overhead" functions being outsourced. Not only am I responsible for general management, I also am the primary sales force for our company. Each week I allocate my time between the various functions that I must perform for our business to operate effectively and continue to grow. I have been fortunate in being able to hire good people who for the most part do not require close supervision. This allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility in my scheduling. Today was fully devoted to business development/sales.

Many companies -- especially small ones -- have difficulty differentiating between the sales function and the marketing function. The best way that I know to look at the difference is that marketing sets the stage, or creates the environment for sales. Sales is the actual transaction which includes the offer, the negotiation, overcoming objections, and closing the deal. A successful sales call is any customer contact in which there is progress made in any of these areas. In other words, if in my first contact with a prospective customer I am able to introduce myself, my company and my product or service and schedule a next contact with that prospect, then I have had a successful sales call. Successful marketing on the other hand is more difficult to measure. Essentially, a marketing campaign is successful if it raises awareness of your product or service to the point that the prospect knows what you are about before you ever walk in their door as a salesperson. Marketing also is the function of providing support material and research for sales. In many ways the two functions are inseparable, but they are two different functions.

Today was a successful sales day. I have to admit that no deals were closed, but out of six calls on prospects, there were three that produced significant movement toward a close. In addition, at lunch I was able to visit briefly with two additional prospects. Now, prospect is another term that needs some definition. To me, a prospect is a qualified potential buyer. Until you know that someone is definitely in the market for what you wish to sell, they are only suspects.

Our business is one in which a sale typically creates a long-term customer relationship. It is not a single transaction. It is establishing a non-contractual agreement to provide an ongoing service. The volume of business that relationship creates is a direct function of the size of business that I am working with. In the three successful calls today, the potential volume is extremely large. One of the prospects would be similar to getting the contract to supply all plastic bags to every Walmart in the Dallas-Ft Worth metroplex. That is a lot of plastic bags. No, I don't sell plastic bags. What we provide is a service.

I love sales call days. One of my greatest joys in business is meeting and visiting with my customers, prospects, and suspects. In fact, the thing that typical salespeople fear the most is the thing that I most enjoy -- the "cold" call. A cold call is showing up at a potential customer's place of business without an appointment, introducing yourself and your product, and attempting to establish a relationship that will ultimately lead to a sale, or will help you to determine whether that individual is truly a potential customer. It is extremely intimidating to new salesmen because of their fear of rejection. Across most industries, it takes approximately 9 customer contacts before a transaction occurs. Most young salesmen never get to contact number 2. They become discouraged if the potential customer doesn't immediately purchase from them. They typically see it as a personal rejection instead of a step in the right direction.

I may decide to post more on this in the future, I don't know. I don't normally go on about what I do for a living in this blog. I guess that I'm still a little pumped up from the success of the day. I hope it didn't bore you too much! Tomorrow will be another sales day. Let's hope I'm still as fired up tomorrow night as I am tonight.


Janie said...

I loved it! Keep going!!

(Okay, you know that's one salesperson to another...)

But I enjoyed it, really.

I love cold calling as well.

WomanHonorThyself said...

well good to see someone who enjoys what they do for a living Poet!

Anonymous said...

I could never work in sales. It seems like to me, you'd have to be pleasant to people you don't particularly like. I have a hard enough time being nice to people I DO like. It sounds like you get out a lot, though, and that's good. I mostly am inside in the same office when I go to work.

Panhandle Poet said...

Hermit: I have customers all over the country. Some are out in your neck of the woods -- the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky -- it's always interesting talking to them.

Ranando said...

As we have talked about before, there's nothing like it.

Taking a idea, turning it into a product and having people want it.

We are getting ready to launch a new product line into the marketplace, 15 years in the making.

One advantage we have is that we already have retail clients Worldwide that are just waiting for this product.

It's not only a business, it's a great deal of fun.

Panhandle Poet said...

Ranando: It's great when what you do for a living is fun too. Our business utilizes new technology and requires a great deal of education of potential customers. The sales process is sometimes lengthy. We are quickly gaining market momentum and enjoying tremendous acceptance from our customers who are willing to provide testimonials. Referrals from existing customers is unbeatable.

Incognito said...

I hate the 'sales' aspect of my biz.. which is selling myself.

Interesting! in the arts, marketing takes on a very important role in the success of a production. I'm not sure what the % of the budget should be for marketing, but it's large. If people don't know about the theatre, show or in your case your services how can they purchase.

Panhandle Poet said...

Incognito: I'm not sure people realize how much sales is involved in everything we do. Business of any kind would not exist without sales. No jobs would exist without sales in a capitalist society. When we rise in the morning, we have to sell ourselves on facing another day. When you perform, you are selling your audience on the character that you are portraying. When we are dating, we are selling ourselves to a potential mate. Sales drives everything and every organization. An organization that says it doesn't need sales will die.