I sat in a meeting the other day with some top executives who had been instrumental in bringing their company back from a lean financial period. Actually, that's putting it nicely. The executives had gone through a period of lost opportunities and sales resulting from their failure to keep their eyes on the ball. They had diversified into areas they had no business getting into. Compounding their problems was the company's recent merger. Virtually all those involved had lost their focus because they had so much to worry about-much of it not even involving the company's core business. Some customers didn't get the service they deserved while others were either ignored or taken for granted. The inevitable happened: Sales and profits started to slide at an alarming rate. As I listened to the executives, a familiar phrase was uttered to explain where the company was headed: "back to basics."
In short, management was saying the company had returned to doing what it knows best.
But there's an even more basic side to this. What happens to a sales organization when it loses its focus? What happens when salespeople forget what their jobs are and get preoccupied with matters inconsequential to selling? Or worse still, what happens to a salesperson who gets bored with the job and sits in the office worrying about everything but taking care of customers? We all know what happens. Sales are lost, and so are commission checks. It's the road to failure, and it happens far too often.
Over the years I've watched individual salespeople who somehow find ways to rise above their peers. They have many traits that are consistent with success, but one habit that stands out far above anything else is the fact that they're constantly making calls on customers. There's no mystery here, but some salespeople spend so much time "working smart" they forget that making as many calls as you can in a given day makes the percentages work for you. There's nothing wrong with working smart, but too often it means the person just doesn't like spending time with customers. People like that seem to be saying it's a little beneath them. If that's the case, they don't belong in sales.
Successful salespeople pay close attention to the fundamentals. They always have calling cards with them. When they visit a company they offer their credentials to the receptionist so she doesn't have to stumble around with spelling their name and the company they represent. They dress professionally and look organized. And when they visit a client or prospect, they listen more than they talk. They listen to the client's problems and needs, as well as for new product ideas. You'd be surprised what you can learn when you really concentrate and listen.
Top salespeople also exude humility. They're always talking to colleagues and learning from them. And they look to their bosses for help and advice. In other words, they use all the resources available within their organizations to make a sale. Bringing their bosses along to close a sale or make a good impression on a top account is something that seems to be a common practice with the top performers in sales.
Above all, the stars in sales know what their job is all about-getting out in the field and selling-and they love doing it. But they know they must pay the price of discipline, organization and team play. The best salespeople I know are consummate team players because they not only enjoy their profession, but they're proud of their colleagues and the organizations they work for.
It's all so basic,
Charles S. Lauer