Monday, December 24, 2012

How to be a good Salesman ?

Every day around the World there must be people who work as salesmen selling some or the other kind of product or service. In some societies such vocations are looked down upon and in the more refined they are subject of praise and recognition. Nevertheless Selling and Sales would be in increasing demand by the day and the power of this job all too conspicuous in various spheres and domains.

Look at the Computer hardware industry of India of today. What a metamorphosis and strategic shift. Salesmen and selling has proved the World wrong on myriad of occasions to be taken lightly. Study the early 1980's when primitive computer desktops were sold by companies around the country. This is possibly an era where only few Mainframe computers existed and Sales men had a very tough time negotiating through impregnable barriers and many of them did so like warriors trying to sell a seemingly unwanted piece of equipment. This was an era when the Banks of the Country were rebellious against Computerization and seeing it as a job killer - but thanks to the skill of these people and their verve and application their efforts were not totally misplaced. today banking institutions are one of the key application domains of Computerization. A full software sector emerges in India riding piggy-back on the hardware revolution and note the dynamics of the electronic industry per-se  stand alone systems gave rise to networking and thence came the internet and the global village as we see today.

The profession of selling has changed drastically over the past few years. two fundamental changes have emerged..the diminishing necessity to travel long distances for a rendezvous ..and the medium of mobile phone and the web cutting down transaction cycle time of selling and both these changes casting their spell on selling. The sales mans job of today is swinging more towards servicing orders and servicing is an activity demanding a specialized set of skills.

Forget the Computer Industry ..there are several industries that thrive on the selling
phenomena..Insurance...Private banking......Credit cards.... leisure travel and the like just to name a few and organizations face increasing challenges to maintain a good selling team that performs from time to time. I have seen salesmen who create short bursts of success and not able to retain the success for long..and many who start too slowly to make steady contributions and many things depending on what the organization is looking for ..or stands for...or its strategic orientation. I have seen too many sales managers who only abuse their salesmen and sometimes removing them from service to recall them after some time..I have seen many such confusions or idiosyncrasies and randomness on the part of organizations..but I firmly believe a healthy selling organization can be created and endured. I have seen sales managers who are guilty of criminal conduct and go un-punished for too long..and I have also at many places seen untrained salesmen who have only know their work through experience sometimes perform better than the trained ones.

Somewhere it is difficult to answer the question...How to be a good Salesman?  somewhere the fundamental point is for any salesman to find out what he likes to sell or enjoys selling from the bottom of his heart and there is no scope for any dis-honest answer. Sometimes to arrive at a right answer a person has to try selling many things to find out what he is good at. It needs a period of apprenticeship. But there can be no dubious answer to this question..and there can be no more than one product a person is very comfortable selling. However there are two broad kinds of salemen that likes to sell concepts and the other that likes to sell is chimerical and the other is physical and any person must try to upfront define which of these domains he is comfortable with.I still believe every one can be a good sales man the only difference is the product and it is an activity of high risk if anyone tries to sell something which he is not comfortable with and this relationship and misfit cannot be for ad-infinitum and will break sooner than expected. Such situations are all too common with sales men around the world sometimes lured by high earnings trying to sell something which he is not very comfortable with only to land up in an irreparable mess needing years to correct and rectify.

How is Sales different from others forms of promotion is in its targets. A salesman primarily works with targets. Sometimes these targets are ill-conceived and burdened on the sales man upfront creating something unethical and illegal..and these targets might be irrational..and yet there might be some who achieve it and many who have mastered the task of portraying they have achieved  it. Everything said and done there is a selling skill that largely revolves around closing orders, some have it in abundance and thrive in selling..but this is a continuum of various activities and a proper organization of the various components become essential for maintaining a good sales organization that can resist the long run.

In my view point every sales organization must monitor the conduct of its Sales Mangers..largely scanning for continuous unethical behavior no matter how highly qualified he or she might be. Unethical behavior can start from small misconducts like being partisan to the more serious kinds of jeopardizing orders.There can be no two ways about it and a matter that has to be attended to with rigor and severity by top management or the organizational promoters.This is a very serious issue and a prime one which needs engagement and intervention at the right juncture. No salesman would ever enjoy and continue doing a good job if he is mismanaged or abused..and this must not be permitted and has legal ramifications. Moreover SalesManagers must create a weighted average method revolving around more than two parameters around which sales men performance is measured and validated.

Every sales man must understand Sales is dependent on two customer factors namely 1. The latent  need for a product and 2. The purchasing power of the customer. In any territory he operates he must look very cautiously for these two factors to become successful. If he is not looking at these factors he is working like a business-developer and must understand it and position himself so. Note that no business developer ever works with targets. If a salesman does not look at the above factors he will fall short of targets. There might be another factor that influences selling situations namely customer behavior. But customer behavior is secondary in sales situations and the above two factors rule the roost.

Never take very large issue in territory management as it will dilute concentration of effort. Always ask for an optimal territory say having some hundred accounts and anything more than this would mean 'shooting in the dark' . This is always the hall mark of an experienced sales man...he knows the optimal territory around which he can successfully operate.

Once the sales man has made an initial survey around the above two issues..the next step is to talk to the clients. Do this always with right kind of preparation and to the right people. Use the mobile phone and the internet for this purpose but nothing can replace personal contact. 

Many of the prospects who come through the above procedure will be  ready for closing..the penultimate and the most crucial stage of the selling process very often with the Terminal buyer also called the financial decision maker of the organization.There is zero tolerance at this stage for errors or contradictions. Take another person who is sincere to the cause and at the same time knowledgeable about the history of the order to act as a prop or support. Never forget to service orders professionally after receiving orders and note that it is well serviced orders that beget more orders.

Hopefully what I have written above would help organizations and salesmen around the world alike. though I don't believe there is any one who could be branded an 'Unsuccessful salesman"..and if by any chance you are one use your experience to handle 'Sales Operations' ; 'Business Development' or move into another organization for a selling function.

According to me Sales and Selling  is a priceless experience which develops individuals into cutting edge personalities..and if any one around the world has selling difficulties please contact me for a possible analysis and remedy.

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