From the outstanding musical, “The Music Man” to the hilarious movie, “Used Cars,” people in the sales profession have long been saddled with an unfair stereotype. Yet, without sales, few businesses would succeed.
Our economy relies on hundreds of thousands of salespeople that most of us never see, but their skills are responsible for our high standard of living. They call on the buyers who produce and sell the products we all buy.
Salespeople provide buyers with the choices and information that result in the ever-improving products and services we enjoy daily.
Some big companies entertain a culture that demeans sales people to the point that they are given products to sell and pitches to use without any say in the product development or marketing. Because many sales take place outside the office and production plant, the sales division is treated if it was somehow separate from the rest of the company. In many cases, it’s the office vs. the sales people. This attitude can give the marketing division too much power over the development of sales materials. Likewise, the production division can have too much say over product development.
The sales division should be advising production and marketing on a regular basis to ensure that your company’s products remain relevant, competitive, and affordable. Because of the sales division’s direct relationship with the customer, sharing their insight and experience is crucial to the success of your company. Regular feedback from Sales on changes in the marketplace, the features and benefits their buyers are demanding, and the effectiveness of your company’s marketing materials makes dollars and sense.
No one knows the marketplace better than the professional salesperson. Their livelihood depends on it. Progressive companies recognize their special skills and capitalize on their unique position. But of all the skills that these sales specialists must utilize, none is more essential to success than relationship building.
Most buyers make purchasing decisions based on the sales person first, and the product second. We know of buyers who have actually changed the products they carry just to stay with a salesperson they know and trust. It takes years to establish this kind of credibility. Buyers don’t want to start all over “training” a new salesperson about their particular concerns and buying style. The salesperson they know has become an “assistant buyer” to them, and makes their job much easier.
Like they say in “The Music Man,” “Ya gotta know the territory.” But they also have to know so much more. The experienced salesperson knows how his product satisfies the buyers needs better than the competition. He stays on top of his buyer’s inventory. He understands his buyer’s limitations of shelf space and holding capacity. He assists his buyer with promotional calendars and point of sale materials. He makes sure the buyer’s purchases result in the best possible prices.
Over time, salespeople establish a positive track record with buyers with dependable customer service, including delivery, added value, pricing, and follow through. Above all, sales professionals have the people skills and the history to demonstrate they have the buyer’s best interest at heart.
Sales is a specialty skill and the backbone of our economy. Without sales professionals, most of us would be out of a job! Isn’t it time we gave the sales professionals the respect they deserve? Cheers to the salespeople, our unsung heroes!