I’ve been in Sales most of my life, and in spite of that “handicap” I believe I can be quite objective in addressing the question. I have also worked in Service, Administration, Maintenance, Management and owned a few businesses over the years so I’ve had the opportunity to see the Sales Staff from a variety of angles.
Good Sales Staff are some of the most important people in a company – GREAT Sales Staff ARE the most important people in a company. But there are all types in Sales; there’s the greedy, the desperate, the hungry, the Me First, the lazy, the dumb, the know nothing, the know everything, the pushy, the relentless, the lousy, the not bad, the impatient, the half-way-decent, the good, the really good, and the GREAT.
So with all the variety one has to begin questioning – Do ALL those people really belong in Sales in the first place? And I would have to say NO, they don’t, and like the reputation insurance salespeople and used car salespeople have we would have to say that MOST of those people need to find a different line of work because they’re making others look bad!
What is the solemn duty of a Salesperson? It is to be an entirely neutral liaison to BOTH parties while simultaneously looking out for the best interest of both. A Salesperson is the FACE of the company – unfortunately a good many of them don’t know that. It is the Salesperson’s obligation to be knowledgeable about their company’s product/service and policies. A Salesperson should be an expert at relationships (or at least always working on their doctoral thesis). And a Salesperson should ALWAYS, WITHOUT FAIL make the customer his/her TOP PRIORITY – placing their needs well ahead of his/her own realizing it’s the customer who ultimately signs his/her paycheck… NOT the company he/she represents! It is the job of the Salesperson to be a great listener and ultimately the problem solver.
Who is responsible for training the Sales Staff? Management is. A good Manager is like a movie director – they can take a so-so script and turn it into an instant classic, or they can take a tremendous script and turn it into this year’s box office bomb. Like a master sculptor the Manager must realize the potential of the Sales Staff and shape them, looking for that Masterpiece in a chunk of marble.
Don’t get me wrong – the Salesperson is still a responsible party however, a Salesperson is like an incredible horse; able to run fast, jump, do tricks, fancy walking, chase foxes, whatever, BUT the Manager is like the Jockey taking the reins, guiding and directing the movements – it’s fine teamwork. But if Management looks at Sales Staff as “a dime a dozen” and hasn’t the inclination that Sales IS the face of the company then we’re off to a bad day at the races! Management that looks at the Sales Staff with disdain feeling they’re all prima donna’s, or that has no clue how to handle a “Thoroughbred” and doesn’t feel they should invest in the Sales Staff is no better qualified than the guy sweeping the parking lot for minimum wage… in fact, might even be able to learn something from HIM!
Too many Managers have the notion that it’s a Salesperson’s job to “show me the money” and don’t believe they have a responsibility toward them – stupid! These Managers will hand the Sales Staff their numbers for the month and walk away, as if it’s somehow the Sales Department’s job to make the Manager look good – they couldn’t be more wrong. No training, guiding or leading leaves a Salesperson out on the fringe, it’s kind of like having a German Shepherd on a short chain with little food or water while the nasty neighbor kids poke sticks at him… it’s not long and he/she’s looking to break free and hoping for greener grass elsewhere, somewhere where there’s a Manager with a clue as to his/her duties.
Other Managers who are stuffed full of themselves think the reason Sales Staff leave is because they can’t take the heat, so these same clods hire a Sales Team and repeat the problems all over again. No training, no materials, no role playing, no communication, no investment of any kind. How foolish, they have taken the most important position in the company and reduced it to minimum wage, commission or pay for performance, trusting their customers to untrained individuals who are “making it up as they go” in order to hopefully make a paycheck. For this reason the company will experience higher than average returns, lost customers/clients, angry customers, buyer’s remorse, etc. These Managers either have no clue how to hire an expert Sales Rep, or don’t know what to do with one if/when they get one.
And then again there are the Managers with insecurity issues. They have an extremely good Salesperson on their team and the only thing they can think about is how the Salesperson is probably out to get their job – honestly, where do these people come from and HOW ON EARTH have they been promoted to Manager to begin with?! Any INTELLIGENT Manager knows the BEST thing he/she can do is to hire above themselves, get the very best they can and take care of them well with base + commission, bonuses, incentives and PTO. A great Salesperson SHOULD make more money than the Manager – you WANT them to so that they continue to do what they do best and have NO INTEREST in taking a lower paying position… thereby solidifying the Manager’s job security!
I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying to yourself the article is supposed to be about the Sales Staff – not roasting Management, I get it, but hang on and you’ll see. I think I like the example of the Thoroughbred and the Jockey the best for comparison to Sales & Management, it really fits well. A Thoroughbred is a nervous and giddy animal, ready to go at a moment’s notice and will go until it drops dead so long as it’s pushed. It’s beautiful, people want to see it, it works incredibly hard and is very loyal – faithful to do as commanded and it brings in the money. A Jockey on the other hand knows this isn’t a plow-horse, he treats it well, pampers it, gives it room to run and play, he grooms it and makes sure its needs are met… and he respects it. He knows how to work it hard without breaking it, he knows it will do exactly as it’s been trained to do so long as they have a relationship and communication, and he knows when it’s time to take the reins and the saddle off and let it run or rest – they’re dedicated to each other. A Thoroughbred left to run on his own will become wild and unmanageable, on the other hand a Jockey can’t run 40mph or jump over obstacles 5 feet high… like I said earlier, it’s fine teamwork! And if a Thoroughbred could read and write and count you can bet your bottom dollar he’d be paid more than the Jockey.
How important are your customers/clients? Let’s face it, without them there’s really no reason to open the doors, is there? If your business has Sales Staff it’s their duty to meet and greet, wine and dine, listen and learn… right? That job is rarely filled by the Owner or Management or the Office Staff – yet the Sales Staff is the only one getting the “Pay for Performance” pay plan. I’m sorry, but that’s messed up – the top paid people, with the most “comfortable” (I hate to use that term) jobs can’t run 40mph or jump 5 foot high obstacles, they don’t possess the personality to deal face to face with the customer/client, nor do they have the smooth/reassuring speech of the Sales Staff, and truth be told MOST of them don’t know how to properly fill out the paperwork for the job! Those on salary or hourly don’t have the sense of urgency or importance of the sales deal – after all, they get paid the same regardless of whether the sale goes through or not. Owners and Managers not answering Sales Staff’s questions accurately and timely, Office Staff not preparing documents or docking commissions based on spelling errors – SERIOUSLY?! Again, I’m sorry, but who the heck are THESE people?! Let’s put EVERYONE on Pay for Performance and base it on mutual accountability, one thing’s for sure, if that happened either everyone’s wages would increase because they’d learn to work as a team, or everyone’s wages would decrease because their performance was lack lustre!
This article is not about getting more money for Salespeople or bashing Management, it’s about equity. After all, we still have the greedy, the desperate, the hungry, the Me First, the lazy, the dumb, the know nothing, the know everything, the pushy, the relentless, the lousy, the not bad, the impatient, the half-way-decent, the good, the really good, and the GREAT meeting and greeting your clientele. As Management you have a LOT to expect from these individuals, you are entrusting them with your MOST important business asset – your customer/client. They should not only be capable and qualified for the position – they should want and desire to SERVE the customer/client, it should be their passion. If you’re doing YOUR job, they’ll do THEIRS!
So, what about:
1. the greedy?
a. He’s put his commission ahead of everything, his only care is for himself
2. the desperate?
a. If he doesn’t make this sale he could lose his home, he’ll try anything to make a sale
3. the hungry?
a. He can’t seem to buy enough junk for himself, the cottage, the boat, the car, the stereo, etc
4. the Me First?
a. No matter who’s sale it should be this person will attempt to take it for any number of reasons
5. the lazy?
a. You do everything right and they still don’t apply themselves to be their best for the customer/client
6. the dumb?
a. You can’t train this person, the air’s too thin, their undies are on too tight, the slept in curlers…
7. the know nothing?
a. No effort, don’t know anything and don’t care, “Oh, let me ask Bill real quick”
8. the know everything?
a. They don’t understand – sometimes LESS is MORE! Give the customer/client what they need and shut up!
9. the pushy?
a. The price is going up tomorrow so you’d better make a decision now, it’s the LAST one we have in stock
10. the relentless?
a. After the 32nd phone call the customer/client calls you and asks you to do something about it before they sue you for harassment
11. the lousy?
a. Seriously?! This person would be a goldmine – if they worked for your competitor!
12. the not bad?
a. Well, they got the job done is the only “nice” thing you can say
13. the impatient?
a. “Can I help you find something?... How about now?... How about now?... How about now?...”
14. the half-way-decent?
a. Ok, this Salesperson got the job done fairly quick and efficient without any help
15. the good?
a. Ooohhh, that was good, can they do it again?
16. the really good?
a. OK, we can get used to this, does he/she have any friends looking for work?
17. and the GREAT
a. You want to cry it was so-o-o-o smooth, this person should own their own company, WOW!!!
Of all these examples there’s really only a few who should be fired immediately, most of the rest of them just need management, training, guidance, direction, role-playing, information, materials – that’s your job, don’t complain about them until you get your own stuff together! And the last three – if they work for you give them a raise, tell them you understand their value to your company, see if they need any time off or if there’s anything you can do to encourage them.
So to answer the original question: How valuable are Sales
Staff? They’re as valuable as you make them, they’re your most valuable
asset, and the only asset you have that might be considered less valuable than your customer/client.