Distributors, independent manufacturers' reps and manufacturers in the electrical business come in many different stripes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: They employ field salespeople who live to serve customers' needs and seal the deal.
For many of their co-workers, road warriors have a somewhat glamorous image. They see these salespeople as the sweet-talking men and women with the company cars and expense accounts who are unshackled by nine-to-five desk jobs and free to roam the open road. What these other employees don't always see is the pressure of a paycheck depending wholly or in part on hitting monthly quotas and the dawn-to-dusk demands of a job requiring salespeople to be assertive, upbeat, knowledgeable and helpful even on those days when they don't feel like pressuring a customer for an order or dealing with an irate customer going ballistic because someone in the warehouse forgot to pack a critical replacement part in an order.
You may be the “outside guy” for a recent start-up with a handful of employees or a cog in a national sales machine with hundreds of salespeople. Perhaps you are a new outside salesperson who just finished the traditional industry internship of working in the warehouse, making deliveries and working the counter. Even if you are a veteran salesperson who could sell a box of pink locknuts before you roll out of bed in the morning, you can still learn a few new tricks of the trade from the pros. This article is loaded with ideas for salespeople — rookies and veterans alike. Some of these sales tips have been previously published in Electrical Wholesaling over the past 15 years, but they have never appeared together in the same article. It's a massive resource.
Check out these 99 sales tips and see if we have missed anything. Send along your suggestions for the 100th sales tip. The magazine's editors will publish the best sales tip we receive along with a photo of the contributor. That person will also receive a $100 American Express gift certificate for the idea. E-mail your sales tips to Jim Lucy, Electrical Wholesaling's chief editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The package of products that electrical distributors, independent manufacturers' reps and electrical manufacturers sell has changed over the years, with voice-data-video (VDV) products, a new generation of energy-efficient lighting products and ever-more-electronic industrial controls taking on more prominence. Sales-support tools such as the Web, personal data assistants (PDAs) such as Blackberries, two-way pagers, cell phones and other electronic devices have also certainly made an impact. But basic selling skills really haven't changed much over the years. The “Ten Commandments Of Electrical Sales,” did a nice job of summarizing the 10 most important sales basics.
1. Sell thyself. The basics of any customer-salesperson relationship is trust. If you lose a customer's confidence, it's very hard to regain.
2. Know thy stuff. Customers expect distributors to know more about products than ever before. Basic product information is just a few clicks away for any customer. It's no longer good enough for a salesperson to drop off a few product brochures with customers and expect them to find the information they need. What customers really want from today's salespeople is assistance in applying the product to their particular applications.
3. Know thy customer. Salespeople must know customers' buying influences, which brands they prefer, how they install them and in the case of an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), how they use them in the products they manufacture. In his book, “Thinking Outside the Bulb,” Mike Dandridge, a former Rexel salesperson who now runs HighVoltagePerfomance.com, a sales training and consulting firm based in Temple, Texas, urges distributor salespeople to research their customers' business challenges and problems. “Earn a reputation as a solution supplier, and not a product pusher,” he says. “Customize a solution for an individual client, and you could have a customer for life.”
4. Listen when thy customer speaks. You can learn more from customers by listening to what they have to say about applications or problems than by dominating a conversation on a sale call with a product's features and benefits. If you are doing more talking than listening on a sales call, you are not doing it right. “Leave yourself out of it, and don't try to mind read by anticipating what the customer is going to say,” says Dandridge. “Pretend as if your livelihood depends upon what your customer says. It does.”
5. Sell thy value. One strategy that helps when a customer asks you to beat or match a quote is to sell him or her on the concept of “least total cost.” To do this, you must be able to prove how the value-added services your company offers actually save the customer money in the long run. Examples of these services might include your company's credit and return policies, knowledgeable inside salespeople, a 24-hour hot line, emergency delivery, application assistance and expediting.
6. Focus on fast response to thy customer's questions. With the fast pace in today's I-need-it-now business world, you will be judged by how quickly you get back to customers with information such as pricing, delivery dates and answers to technical questions. It's best to under-promise and over-deliver with your responses. One of the easiest ways to put smiles on the faces of customers is when you tell them you will get back to them with the information they need by noon, and you call back within the hour.
7. Use more than thy gift of gab to seal a deal. Salespeople too often rely on their silver tongues to sell products and don't back up their sales pitches with product samples, customized literature, applications videos and other sales tools. In sales, seeing is believing, and providing sales support materials or product samples makes it easier for customers to visualize the sales solutions a salesperson offers.
Before Dick Noel founded the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), Tarrytown, N.Y., and Equity Electrical Associates, Bluffton, S.C., he spent many of his 50-plus years in the electrical business selling electrical products as a distributor, rep and manufacturer. As a lifelong salesperson in the electrical industry who enjoys studying the sales dynamics in the manufacturer-rep-distributor-end-user relationship, he says that one of the most effective selling strategies is using product samples. When selling fittings for Gedney Co. (before it became OZ/Gedney and that company's subsequent purchase by Emerson Electric's EGS Electrical Group), Noel always called on distributors and end users with a four-inch fitting in hand because of the impression that the super-sized product made on customers. After all, if his company manufactured oddball fittings of that size, then it would surely offer all of the most common products, too. “I never made a sales call without a product,” he says.
8. Know the difference between a profitable order and a dog. Not all orders are good orders, and salespeople must know when they are making or losing money for their companies. A good salesperson always takes the total cost of a transaction into account before agreeing to a price with customers.
9. Don't underestimate the value of networking. Electrical distributors' salespeople should tap into every available resource that can provide insight into a customer. It's surprising how much you can learn about a company from noncompeting salespeople who sell software, shelving or office supplies to your customer; town officials who deal with the company on business matters; and other contacts in a local community who you meet at civic activities, school or church.
10. Sell thy customer hard as hell. There are no shortcuts to success, and the outside salespeople who can still get by on a smile, joke and a good golf game are few and far between.
EW Contributing Author Bob Finley spent his entire business career in the electrical business with Glasco Electric Co., St. Louis, and was a field salesperson for that company before becoming Glasco's president. He says salespeople can usually be categorized into several tiers, and that the very best salespeople are also usually the hardest workers.
“There is a select group of people who will always be the big hitters, and there is a middle group who will always perform pretty well,” he says. “Then there are those salespeople on the bottom who are always moving around, looking for that great job where they don't have to work too hard. If you are going to be a top producer, you are not going to do it sitting at home on your computer half the day. You have to get out and make contact with people. People want to look you in the face. You have Blackberries and all kinds of things these days, but I don't think anything will replace face-to-face selling.”
The electrical wholesaling industry is full of sales mentors who loved their electrical selling careers “back in the day” and now pass that knowledge and enthusiasm to a new generation of salespeople. Not long after Bob Finley retired as Glasco Electric's president, Electrical Wholesaling “recruited” him as a writer to help teach sales basics to the magazine's readers. You will never meet someone who enjoyed his days as a salesperson more, or who can more clearly communicate the basics of what it takes to sell electrical products. “I loved sales so much,” Finley says. “I am so glad that I had the privilege of spending my entire career in sales. I can't think of anything I would have rather been. Being a salesperson fit me like a glove on my hand.”
11. Don't talk religion or politics with customers. Although the subjects might be fine when chatting with your clone, no one else will agree with you on all issues. Avoid the subjects of religion and politics in business.
12. Do invite a customer to lunch when you end a sales call at noon and are headed to the restaurant across the street. Although many customers will pass on the offer, it's polite to extend the invitation. By not extending the offer, you run the risk of offending a customer who may happen to go to the restaurant that day.
13. Think long-term. One new salesman refused to take back surplus lamps from an industrial account. The new salesman's predecessor had sold the lamps to the customer, and the salesperson thought returning the products would unfairly reduce his commission. Instead of using the return as a chance to build a new relationship, the salesperson lost the account to a competitor.
14. Take a genuine interest in the customer's business. Subscribe to the trade magazines that cover the customer's industry, and occasionally send copies of articles you think may be of interest to the customer — along with a handwritten note.
15. Take initiative in helping customers solve problems. Whether it be bundling products or seeking better pricing from manufacturers, customers will always appreciate steps a salesperson takes to make the job simpler and more cost effective.
16. Be positive. People like to be around positive people. “When you come into your customer's place of business, they don't want to hear your kids are sick or about your aches and pains,” says Finley. “They have plenty of problems themselves. Salespeople should put on a positive front.”
17. Don't underestimate the profit potential of getting an electrical contractor's first call. The electrical distributor who regularly gets the first call from a customer will probably get the bulk of the order, while distributors who get the second or third call usually get the part of the order that the first-call distributor doesn't want. These are usually back-order items that require a lot of care and handling but don't always produce enough profit for the extra trouble.
18. Never disclose confidential information about an account to competitors. Professional salespeople never discuss confidential business outside a customer's office. Your customers know you call on their competitors, and they expect you to keep their business private.
19. Develop relationships with people from all different departments within a customer's company. Don't put all your eggs in one basket by just calling on your buddy. If or when that person leaves, you will have to scramble to keep the business if you haven't developed other business relationships. For instance, at an electrical contractor, make sure you know the personnel in the estimating and purchasing departments. You must also meet the field supervisors, electricians, credit managers and other people who may have a say on a buying decision.
20. Don't neglect the importance of your inside personnel. An outside salesperson can do a great job landing a new account, but the inside sales folks will help keep the relationship flourishing by ensuring that orders are flowing through the system error-free.
21. Introduce customers to new market niches such as residential structured wiring or lighting retrofits. An electrical contractor might enjoy the opportunity to get away from the rock-bottom pricing of bid work, and they will appreciate learning about a potentially profitable market niche.
22. Use your company's business smarts to help electrical contractors run their own businesses more profitably. Electrical contractors have plenty of technical knowledge, but they often lack basic business skills. Running a profitable business is a lot different than pulling wire, and most electrical contractors will readily admit that they can use some advice on bookkeeping, accounting, personnel management and work flow. Introduce them to the people at your company who can offer this assistance.
23. Keep current on changes in the National Electrical Code (NEC). Changes in the NEC create sales opportunities, and salespeople must know how they affect their products.
24. Be confident. Customers like to be around winners, and salespeople that project an air of confidence are more likely to get an order than gloom-and-doom salespeople who always mope around and gripe.
25. Work closely with independent manufacturers' reps and factory salespeople. Field salespeople may think of themselves as lone cowboys out in the market, but they need support from vendors and reps. Knowledgeable reps or factory salespeople are some of the distributor salesperson's best allies.
One of the most down-to-earth sales books that Electrical Wholesaling's editors have discovered over the past few years is Mike Dandridge's “Thinking Outside the Bulb.” A quick read, the book is loaded with practical sales tips. You can immediately tell it's written by an electrical-industry salesperson, and not by a former Fortune-500-salesperson-turned-business-consultant who wants to make a few bucks passing off old war stories as successful selling strategies. A bargain at $15, the book is available at www.highvoltageperfomance.com. Dandridge graciously agreed to share the following tips from his book for this article.
26. Make one more sales call. Commit to see one customer per week beyond what's on your call schedule. Unless it throws you behind schedule, make the call while you're in the area. Keep a record of these calls, but make it simple. Make a check mark in your planner if you get an order, jot down a “P” if the call was productive and write in a “B” if the whole thing was a bust.
27. Don't underestimate the importance of first impressions. People usually decide within the first 15 seconds whether or not they like a new acquaintance.
28. Take a risk on you. Spend some time and money on your education. Highly successful salespeople don't wait for their company to provide training.
29. Be trustworthy. Long-term relationships result from long-term trust. You must produce evidence of your trustworthiness early in a business relationship. That means displaying trustworthy qualities such as dependability, punctuality and accountability. Over time, consistency supports the evidence. Be dependable in the small things as well as the large. Follow through, keep promises and take ownership of every interaction with your customer.
30. Ask the right questions. Always ask for the order. Many salespeople are afraid of being pushy. They think they're asking when they say, “You don't need anything today, do you?” or “Guess I can't talk you into buying something.” This attempt at homespun charm may have worked in Mayberry, but if you use it in the real world, you'll starve to death. Use simple open-ended questions. “What do you need today?”
31. Act enthusiastic, and you'll be enthusiastic. Many skilled salespeople fail because they don't have any spark or excitement in their performance.
32. Go the extra mile. Many salespeople talk about great customer service, but few deliver. The extra mile is about action, not words. Exceeding your customers' expectations is a sure way to earn their loyalty.
33. Make a list of your top 30 customers and contact each one of them every 30 days. Dandridge says the ideas from Mark LeBlanc's book, “Growing Your Business” listed below really work and will cost you less than $5 per customer. That's not bad for a year-long marketing campaign.
- January. Make a “Happy New Year” phone call.
- February. Send an info sheet about your business.
- March. Mail an advertisement.
- April. Forward an article from a trade magazine.
- May. Send a postcard.
- June. E-mail a note.
- July. Make a face-to-face visit.
- August. Fax a note.
- September. Send a company newsletter.
- October. Mail an early holiday card.
- November. Call again.
- December. Your choice from this list.
34. Leave the complacency zone. Aim high, and pursue opportunities that you think are beyond you. Take a risk on the long shot. Even if you reach for something and miss, you have at least begun to stretch and grow. Go outside your business, your circle of friends and your regular contacts to explore new worlds. New friends often lead to new opportunities. One of the best ways is to get ideas from other industries.
35. Ask customers what they want from you. Ask your customer what services they would like to see in a supplier. Is it shorter delivery time, more diverse product line or deeper inventory? Don't assume you know what your customer values.
36. Never take a customer's business for granted. Dandridge learned this important lesson from a customer. After calling on a customer for several years, he finally got the business. That customer told him, “If you work as hard to keep my business as you did to get my business, then you will always have my business.”
37. Learn from difficult customers. You can learn more from your most difficult customer than you can ever learn from your most loyal customer. If you listen to them, they may tell you what is missing from your business and maybe what you can do about it. Their feedback can be the most honest gauge of your success.
38. Never argue with a customer. You may win a battle, but you could lose the war. Even if you win the argument, you may lose the business for good.
39. Listen between the lines. Is there an underlying message to your customer's complaint? Does he feel cheated, ignored or underappreciated?
40. Appeal to your customers' sense of fair play. Let the customer know that you trust him or her enough to do what's fair and right. Ask, “What would you have me do to make this right?”
41. Let your customer save face. When customers are definitely wrong, try to give them an out so they won't look bad in front of their co-workers or boss.
42. Always focus on what you can do to rectify a situation, not what you cannot do. Telling a customer, “That's against customer policy” won't get you anywhere.
John McCarthy wrote a monthly sales column in Electrical Wholesaling for several decades. Over the years he explored virtually every sales topic imaginable, but several topics stand out: the basic elements of persuasion, using questions as a sales tool, dealing with price objections and understanding a customer's basic psyche. A complete review of all the sales tips he wrote about for Electrical Wholesaling is beyond the scope of this article, but the magazine's editors have gathered a few of his classic tips here. To read some of his articles, type “John McCarthy” in the search engine at www.ewweb.com.
43. Don't underestimate the power of artful questioning. When used intelligently, questions can help a distributor salesperson succeed in any selling situation. Questions can be effective sales tools. Here's how.
44. Questions can change the subject and focus attention on the topic that you want to discuss.
45. Questions can obtain information in the form of facts and opinions.
46. Questions force the reluctant customer to talk.
47. Questions can stop, or at least slow down, the over-talkative customer.
48. Questions provide you with an opportunity to collect your thoughts.
49. If a customer presents you with unsubstantiated charges, questions can demand proof.
50. By asking a customer's views or opinions, questions can flatter the customer.
51. Questions identify the key influence or decision maker in a group.
52. Questions serve as a subtle probe for the customer's reactions.
53. Questions can cut through smoke-screen objections and flush out the customer's real objection.
54. When dealing with price objections, make sure the customer is aware of the full range of values your company offers. Emphasize those values of special interest to the current prospect. When justifying a price, focus on the benefits of buying that product from your company. The key features and benefits include product quality, cost savings, and the delivery and technical expertise that your company offers along with products.
55. Never apologize for your price. An apology will tell the customer that you think the price is too high. Your goal is to justify the price by reviewing the product's features and benefits and the service package your company offers.
56. Put your price into perspective. You must draw comparisons with the prospect's other expenses so he or she isn't fixated on the price. One strategy is to give examples of the savings in energy or maintenance that the product might produce for the customer.
57. Address the prospect's business goals. Show how your company's products and services can help customers meet what they are trying to achieve for their companies. If you do this effectively, then price becomes secondary to the prospect's more critical business needs.
In “Elements of Persuasion,” John McCarthy explored sales strategies that help salespeople negotiate with customers, close deals and understand what makes them tick. Here are several of them.
58. Plan the timing of your call. Think carefully about the best time to make a sales call. A contractor who spends all day in the field may find it easier to meet with you for a quick coffee and bagel before his job starts. Make note of a customer's regular deadlines or production schedules and work around them.
59. Identify the customer's primary psychic need. Find out what motivates customers. Do they want to be rich, powerful and famous? Or are they more concerned with having life easier or feeling secure? If you can help them satisfy their primary psychic need, you can establish a solid working relationship.
60. Seek agreement early in a negotiation. Find a mutual point of agreement and use it as a base upon which to build during the negotiation.
61. Isolate areas of disagreement. Don't let a few problem areas pollute the climate of a negotiating session. Put them aside and move onto areas where it will be easier to come to an agreement. Once you establish some momentum, return to those areas of disagreement.
62. Clarify the customer's stand by restating it. This will help you stay on the same page. Be sure to listen closely to his or her reaction because it may provide some additional clues.
63. Concede minor points; let the customer be partly right. It's always a good idea to obtain minor agreements to produce a good climate. The customer will perceive this as progress.
64. Control the negotiation by breaking down disagreements into manageable pieces. Narrow the areas where the customer's opinion and yours diverge, and always remind the customer how many areas you agree upon. Then focus on the points of contention.
65. Avoid “red flag” words, people and/or subjects. Never use racial slurs or swear words on sales calls. Choose your subjects of conversation carefully. It's way too easy to offend a customer and even harder to repair the damage.
66. Be sure of your facts. Don't ever bluff. If you don't know the answer to a customer's question, say so. Offer to get the information they are looking for as soon as possible.
67. When you are wrong on a point, admit it without equivocation. In the give-and-take of any negotiation, you don't score any points if you don't admit it when you are wrong. Admit your error and move on.
68. Don't demand immediate agreement. Give the customer time to think. Leave the high-pressure sales tactics to used-car salespeople. Give the customer some air when they have to make a decision.
69. Restate and modify your position to reflect your concessions. While negotiating with customers, make sure they know when you have made a concession.
70. Never interrupt a customer. This is basic interpersonal communications, but it's doubly important in a sales situation. Customers hate it when salespeople don't let them finish a sentence. It's a sign of disrespect, too.
71. Make a good idea your customer's idea. Don't insist on getting credit for a good idea. Give it to the customer.
72. Don't forget to politely but firmly ask for the order. It sounds too darn simple, but more than one salesperson has walked out of a customer's office without attempting to get a commitment for a purchase.
73. Quit while you are ahead. When you do get an order, express thanks and leave. Don't overstay your welcome by trying to oversell.
Jarret Golwitzer, sales manager of RB Sales Corp., an independent rep based in Marion, Iowa, says certain sales basics work no matter what the product, company or situation. He calls them “Blocking and Tackling 101.”
74. Know the competition's strengths and weaknesses. Use all the resources at your disposal to keep updated on what's happening in the marketplace. The market grapevine, competitors' Web sites, trade publications and local newspapers will be helpful.
75. Know the product's strengths and weaknesses. Sell a product's benefits hard, but never knowingly misrepresent its weaknesses. Says Golwitzer, “A great salesperson would not risk the long-term reputation of himself or his company to make the short-term big sales with a misapplied product or service.”
76. Know the sales climate that may affect a customer's decision. Golwitzer says salespeople must always know whether the customer has a strong relationship or commitment with another company's salesperson; whether or not the product is part of a package that the customer buys and therefore cannot be separated; and if the customer has the reason to switch product lines due to shipping or quality issues.
77. Think through product launches. For an independent rep, Golwitzer says a good launch with materials, products and a marketing plan make it an easy choice for the customer. He says NEMRA's recently-issued guidelines for product launches and marketing programs can help salespeople maximize product launches. “If we are prepared, then it makes it tougher for the customer to decide to answer ‘no’ to our proposal,” he says. “Make sure customers know your plans to drive sales in the market place.”
Jim Newton always said he was a student of the sales game. He gave himself the title of “trainee” when he founded his sales training company, Sales Tech Corp., Holyoke, Mass. Newton worked for many years as a salesperson and manager for his family's business, Oakes Electrical Supply, Holyoke. He conducted dozens of sales training seminars for distributors, reps and manufacturers and developed the Electrical Products Education Course (EPEC) for the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), St. Louis. Happily retired, he spends much of his time these days with the John M. Newton Museum of Electrical History, which will showcase the early history of the electrical wholesaling industry, and the important role his family's 121-year-old company played in it.
78. Never forget “WIFM.” WIFM stands for “What's in it for me?” Everyone has their own WIFM. Says Newton, “Whether the guy is the purchasing agent, treasurer or chief electrical engineer, he still wants to do better. You have to figure out how to present what your company is offering in ways that makes them think, ‘This would be good for me.’”
79. Focus on integrated product knowledge. Salespeople must understand how a product integrates with all of the other products the customer uses in a particular system. “The great thing about the electrical business is that there are not many products that operate in isolation,” says Newton. “They are all intertwined.”
80. Uncover the customer's basic needs. Is the customer looking for a promotion, raise or pat on the back? Or are they just punching a clock? Once salespeople understand customers' motivational influences, they can develop their sales strategies accordingly.
81. Never forget that a person will always be in charge of the purchasing decision. Despite all of the technology changes, don't forget that ultimately, people are in charge.
82. Teach customers that the price of a product is not the same as the cost of a product. Newton says as customers become more aware of their true costs of doing business, they don't knowingly buy low priced products that are costly to own and utilize. Distributor salespeople need to understand price is not cost. “Those sophisticated customers that appreciate the value of these services are very likely skilled negotiators. They won't accept just any price without a spirited round or two of negotiations,” he says. “Be prepared.”
83. Always remind customers about the basic role the electrical distributor plays in the market. Newton says the old saying, “You can do without the distributor, but you can't do without their services,” still rings true. Services such as product selection, inventory, delivery and education have to be performed by the manufacturer, the customer or the distributor. The party that can execute them most efficiently should do so and be compensated for it, Newton says.
“Distribution as an industry provides an incredible array of services,” he says. “It's not likely any individual could, or would need to, perform all these services for their customer base. Each distributor needs to develop a profile of their strengths.”
The Web can help you unearth more selling tips than you could ever imagine. Sales and Marketing Management and SellingPower magazines offer terrific online resources for salespeople on their Web sites, www.salesandmarketing.com and www.sellingpower.com. You may also want to check out some of the Web blogs for salespeople. One interesting blog run by Bill Snyder at www.37signals.com includes several sales tips. Here are a few of the postings on Snyder's blog.
84. Get your “elevator speech” down pat. You should be able to explain your unique selling proposition (USP) for the customer in the time it takes to ride five floors on an elevator. Always practice your USP in front of the mirror before you leave your home for the sales call or in front of a willing family member, friend or co-worker.
85. Don't be an ass. This may sound obvious, but people like doing business with nice people. If you're friendly and kind, it's way more likely people will become repeat customers (not to mention the fact it's just a better way to live).
86. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Treat your customers like you want to be treated.
87. Use a CRM tool. A great way to keep in touch with your customers and encourage repeat business is to use a customer relationship manager (CRM) tool. If you want to give a customer a call and can't remember what you spoke about during your most recent visit, a CRM tool is invaluable.
88. Set realistic goals. There's nothing worse than making crazy optimistic goals and then crashing back down to reality when you don't achieve them. Start off with realistic, achievable sales goals. When you hit them, congratulate yourself and increase them.
89. Get the hard stuff done first. If you know you hate a certain task, get it done first. After it's completed, you'll feel exhilarated the rest of the day. If you put it off until the end of the day, you'll spend the whole day dreading it.
90. Don't take rejection personally. A large percentage of potential customers will say no. Some will even be nasty about it. Just remind yourself that it's totally normal and that they're not rejecting you personally.
Other Sales Basics
91. Learn from the best. List two or three salespeople you admire for their excellent sales skills. Now write down one thing you can adapt from their sales approach that will enhance yours.
92. Know a customer's birthday and special occasions. Does this sound too simple? It is. But it will make a difference for some customers.
93. Ask about someone's family members by name. Long before ACT databases and other contact-management software came into vogue, savvy salespeople would make handwritten notes in their Rolodexes about a customer's hobbies, names of their family members and other personal data. When this interest is genuine, your customers will appreciate the extra attention.
94. Don't underestimate the power of a handwritten note. E-mails, voice mails and text messages have all but replaced the simple handwritten note. That's a shame. Whenever you want to break through all of this electronic clutter, a handwritten note always works best.
95. Let the customer spew. When things go wrong on a sale, let the customer vent. After he or she gets out their aggravation, start correcting the mistake and rebuilding the relationship.
BONUS SALES TIPS
96. Tell the truth about what really happened. Salespeople have no moral or productive alternative but to tell the truth when they or their companies screwed up.
97. Work together with the customer to develop a plan so the problem does not occur again. Once the customer calms down, work with him or her to remedy the situation.
98. Learn from the Boy Scout Law. The Boy Scout Law was written 99 years ago, but it still applies to everyday life. It's amazing how much salespeople can learn from it if they take it to heart. A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
99. Rate yourself on EW's “10 traits that make a great salesperson.” It all boils down to the basics. Do you and your company's salespeople possess these traits?
Integrity. A core belief that honesty is the foundation of all relationships.
Outgoing personality. A 24-hours-a-day love of people.
Leadership. The ability to lead, inspire and motivate people.
Energy. The energy to make that extra sales call.
Confidence. A belief that you have what it takes to get the order.
Interpersonal skills. The ability to listen to customers' needs and to communicate your ability to provide the solutions that best meets these needs.
Self-discipline. The inner drive to motivate yourself to do the job right.
Open-mindedness. The ability to accept new ideas.
Optimism. A core perspective that allows you to see problems as challenges, not as insurmountable obstacles.
Competitiveness. The competitive edge that hates to lose an order.
Do you have the 100th Sales Tip? Did we forget any surefire sales strategies? Electrical Wholesaling is offering a $100 American Express check for the best 100th sales tip that's submitted. Send it by e-mail to Jim Lucy, Electrical Wholesaling's chief editor, at email@example.com. We will publish that sales tip in a future issue.
Sounding off on Sales
ARE GREAT SALESPEOPLE BORN AND NOT MADE?
Jarret Golwitzer: Salespeople are not born, but the way they develop in their lifetime through their environments is what separates them and their talents. They need to have a talent for relationship building. It's a very hard talent to teach and one that is typically developed by someone who has had to sell themselves their entire lives to get recognition. One example is a military child who has had to make new friends as a parent was transferred from base to base.
Mike Dandridge: There are born salespeople, but I don't think they can make it without being trained. Certain personalities might be more natural as a salesperson, but they still have to be nurtured. You do have to have that basic temperament.
Bob Finley: You can “coach up” good salespeople to be great salespeople if they have the potential. Most top salespeople are pretty sociable. There is a certain magic that certain salespeople have when they interface with top customers.
HOW OFTEN DO THE BEST SALESPEOPLE BECOME THE BEST SALES MANAGERS?
Mike Dandridge: The traits that make them good salespeople are often counterproductive as managers.
Jarret Golwitzer: There is a separation between the very best salespeople and the very best sales managers. What makes an extremely good salesperson is the same thing that separates them from being the best sales manager: competitiveness in the field. A great salesperson is oftentimes so competitive that he or she isn't always willing to assist others to succeed. It's not in their nature. Great sales managers are oftentimes just as competitive, but they derive pleasure from their salespeople's growth and successes.
HOW MUCH OF A SUCCESSFUL SALE IS THE SALESPERSON'S SELLING SKILLS, AND HOW MUCH OF IT IS THE COMBINATION OF PRODUCT, A COMPANY'S REPUTATION, BRAND EQUITY, ETC.?
Mike Dandridge: Product, brand equity and a company's reputation were all established by salespeople. The company's brand didn't all of sudden emerge as wonderful. Somebody had to sell that. It's at least 50 percent of that. A friend of mine always says, “Selling is a transfer of confidence.” The person buying must have confidence in the product and the salesperson must deliver that. The salesman sells the company's reputation and brand equity and product.
Bob Finley: If you are selling a quality product, the salesperson may contribute 35 percent to 40 percent. If you have an inferior product, you really have to be a good salesman.