“The fact is, everyone is in sales. Whatever area you work in, you do have clients and you do need to sell.” – Jay Abraham
Of all the skills you can have – the ability to speak like Winston Churchill, the talent to paint like Rembrandt, whatever it takes to calculate like Albert Einstein – none will help you achieve wealth as well as knowing how to sell things.
Every private enterprise functions the same way. To keep doing what it wants to do (and make a profit from it), it has to (1) attract customers at a reasonable cost and (2) convert them into repeat buyers. Learn how to do one or both of these things, and you will help your company grow. And you’ll find that your income grows right along with it.
Selling is, by necessity, a priority for every business. As a result, the concerns of employees who aren’t in sales are sometimes ignored. Bruce James, an ETR reader from Dallas, has just such a problem.
Bruce started out in sales for the business he works for – a company selling a type of expensive home-improvement equipment – but has now “made the change to operations management.” (“I was quite successful in business-to-business selling,” he says, “yet I tanked badly in direct selling to consumers.”) Bruce’s transition happened, he says, “mostly by default” because “nobody else wanted to be responsible for the operations side of the business.”
Bruce’s company is growing and profitable, but he has noticed a serious issue developing. Due to a “looming problem with follow-up service calls – most of them to explain how to maintain the equipment that, quite frankly, may be oversold as being maintenance free,” he feels that he “very much need[s] to set up a department to handle these calls.”
“The boss, who I describe affectionately as a minimalist, thinks we can just ‘swing by’ on the way to tomorrow’s job and clean up the situation and go on to the next installation,” Bruce explains. “This approach is not very successful. The numbers on callbacks are growing like interest on a bad car loan. We are always behind. There are no resources for service calls. I believe I can set up a service department that can double as a lead generator and complement the sales efforts. How would you advise this operations guy?”
I am very sympathetic to Bruce’s situation. My first two mentors had a similar attitude toward customer service problems: Don’t pay attention to them and maybe they will go away. This is a big mistake – a fatal mistake.
So that is the first thing Bruce needs to know. If he doesn’t succeed in changing his boss’s attitude toward customer service, the company will gradually deteriorate. Problems will mount. Complaints will increase. Legal action will be taken. And eventually the business will have to spend millions of dollars trying to rectify matters. But it will probably be too little, too late.
If Bruce accepts this view of the future, he will have accomplished something important. He will have realized that he should leave the company if he can’t accomplish his goal. He should use his talents and connections to join another company, perhaps one of his boss’s competitors. Or he can start a competing business himself.
There is obviously a demand for the equipment they are selling. If Bruce can supply that demand and add good customer service to the offer, he will be successful.
But that is Plan B. Plan A is to make the changes.
The first step is to convince his boss. The only way he can do that is by making the case that they will grow faster and eventually reap higher profits if they are more honest about the maintenance requirements of their product and provide better customer service. Bruce should make this case theoretically, but he should back that up with financial projections – i.e., a spreadsheet that shows profits going up as operational issues are smoothed out.
This may be easier to do if Bruce comes up with an add-on product to sell to new customers after the first sale is made. The obvious choice is some sort of maintenance insurance or service contract. It doesn’t have to sell for a lot of money, but it has to be enough to cover the company’s cost of doing the maintenance, provide a nice commission for the salespeople who sell it, and include some profit for the company.
While Bruce is figuring out how this add-on product would work, he will likely think of other supplemental back-end products that could be helpful for their new customers. By putting together an attractively priced group of such products that the company’s service people could offer to new customers when they install the equipment – and coming up with a sample sales script for them to use – he will have done his business (and its customers) a lot of good.
Another thing to consider is to make the team that installs problematic equipment responsible for fixing the problem on their own time. They would be willing to do this only if they have both positive and negative incentives for doing so. The positive incentive would be the commission they’d make on the bundled, back-end product offering. The negative incentive would be the absolute requirement that they have to keep their customers satisfied or else they will be fired.
The most important thing that Bruce must do, however, is to change his role. He gave up being on the cash side of the business to take over operations – and if he’d read any of my business books he would have known why he shouldn’t have done that. In Seven Years to Seven Figures, for example, I explained why this is the wrong direction to go in if you want to make a lot of money quickly. And in Automatic Wealth for Grads, I talked about how there are only a few positions in any company that can rapidly increase your income. These are positions that directly impact the company’s bottom line – jobs in sales, marketing, product creation, and profit management.
Basically, the best way to make a super-high income – and have the power to influence your boss’s decisions – is to become a significant contributor to your company’s profits. Since Bruce already has some experience in sales, it seems obvious that he should get back into selling. But he shouldn’t leave operations entirely.
Bruce should tell his boss that he wants to be in charge of growing the business. He should come up with a growth plan – one that will make his boss salivate – and confidently state that if he is allowed to be in charge of both sales and operations (in other words, to play the role of acting CEO, under his boss), then he will make those beautiful spreadsheet numbers come to life.
If he makes such a presentation, his boss will want specifics. He will want to believe in Bruce, but he will be skeptical. Bruce should come into the presentation with those specifics in mind. Included among them would be the back-end sales ideas I spoke about earlier.
Once Bruce’s boss sees him as a growth guy – and not as an operational busybody – he will get the power and respect he needs to fix the business. After he fixes it and produces profitable growth, he will become the effective CEO and will start making lots more money.[Ed. Note: Get dozens of proven business-building strategies and sales-boosting techniques from Michael Masterson and a group of the world’s leading Internet marketing experts this fall at ETR’s Info Marketing Bootcamp: Making a Fast Fortune on the “Other Side” of the Internet.] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]