Salespeople Who Don’t Sell

Recently when I was in Phoenix, I went to a cowboy boot store. To buy boots. I have a pair of ostrich boots I’ve had for quite a few years. Re-soled them a few times. They have a lot of miles on ’em, but I’m very reluctant to give them up because they are so comfortable … and because I have a jacket, wallet, and portfolio to match.

But they are finally wearing out at the stitching points, and re-stitching ostrich is a losing battle. So I went to the boot store.

Let me point out that this is a big store, but independently owned. Not a chain. At 4:45 p.m., its parking lot is empty. I’m the only customer. While my boots are not incredibly expensive, they are not cheap. Which makes this enough of a sale that a store’s owner would presumably be happy to have it.

I pointed to my foot, and asked the clerk for an identical pair, 11D. The befuddled young lady took me to the boot area, where we were unable to find such a thing. “But,” she said, “we have the Tony Lama catalog and can special order.” Fine by me. And, hey, that’s helpful. She’s showing some initiative … and I am briefly encouraged.

Off I go to the catalog (which is chained to the desk). Unfortunately, still no identical pair, but a close facsimile. Being the decisive soul that I am, I decide to get the current pair repaired, go ahead and buy the next best thing, and later, elsewhere, continue to hunt for the identical boot. I point and say “I’ll take those.”

And here’s her reply:

“The only person who knows how to write up a special order isn’t here. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

No, I’m not kidding. And she made no attempt to get my name, phone number, set an appointment, bribe me to come back with a gift. Nothing. She’s gone … and I’m standing there open-mouthed, like a doofus. As you can guess, I leave steamed. But, dammit, I need the stinking boots.

So the next morning at 9:30 a.m., a half-hour after the store opens, I dutifully report. The only person capable of writing up my order still isn’t there, but I’m told she could arrive any minute. Believe it or not, I wait. Fifteen minutes later, the rocket scientist required to handle the Herculean task of taking my money walks in the door.

If she’s older than 20, I’ll eat the boots. Pleasant, but not exactly a Harvard graduate in order writing. As I observe the procedure, it looks like something any chimpanzee could be easily trained to do … but maybe I’m missing something. Next, there’s a problem because I want to pay in full rather than just put down a deposit. That causes a three-headed huddle.

They got this sale in spite of the major effort they made not to – and only because I am so determined to spend my money. They didn’t deserve it. But harken unto me, that’s the sort of thing happening everywhere. Including your store or office or clinic. Of course, you will vehemently deny it. And you are wrong!

If you employ human beings who have contact with your customers, clients, or patients – face to face or via the telephone – I ironclad guarantee you that if you eavesdropped on a dozen of their encounters, you’d vomit.

For a certain kind of employee, sales training is like a bath. Daily’s ideal. Once a week is mandatory.

I’m not talking about all employees – and I hope I’m not talking about any of your employees who are in a management position. As Michael Masterson has drummed into your head, you’re making a huge mistake if you don’t hire the best of the best for those jobs. But what about the people on the bottom rung of your company ladder? That’s where you’ll find the kind of people I’m talking about.

These people are likely to come to work Monday having forgotten everything useful or important about their jobs from the previous week. Heck, it’s a miracle they remember where they work let alone what they’re supposed to do there. They also think you are an idiot, a gasbag, and a giant pain in the heinie. So don’t expect them to voluntarily adhere to your procedures and stick with your sales script.

If you want it said or done a certain way, you’d better role-play it, drill it, practice it, “mystery shopper” it CONSTANTLY.

Bringing in an outsider to do sales training can be helpful. Just for the record, I occasionally do that. A “hired gun” trainer can have some immediate and short-term impact. Certainly worth the cost. But then you or somebody internally has to pick up that ball and run with it daily.

Oh, and by the way, most of the salespeople floating around under the age of 40 are woefully devoid of exposure to good sales training and sales fundamentals. And if you have salespeople who aren’t reading, listening to tapes, working on both their skills and their attitudes … fix that. Or replace them. Salespeople need to be taught that, in the absence of their having and using a SYSTEM for selling, they are at the mercy of their prospect’s system for buying or not buying.

Remember that there are three aspects to wringing productivity out of salespeople: (1) leadership, (2) management, and (3) supervision. And when I say “salespeople,” I mean your receptionist and front desk staff as well as the guy in the sunglasses.

Anyway, here’s the short course.

LEADERSHIP is the warm, fuzzy, happy stuff. Motivation. The vision. The mission statement. Lots of recognition for jobs well done. Providing good selling tools.

MANAGEMENT is establishing the plan. How the selling is to be done. Policies, procedures, scripts, offers, as well as means of measurement, such as quotas or ratios.

I’ll never forget Chuck Sekeres, founder of the Physicians Weight Loss chain, describing his simple way of managing the folks handling inbound calls: “We play baseball. Three strikes and you’re out.” Take three calls, zero appointments, you’re gone. Somebody new has the headset.

SUPERVISION is police work plus coaching. Detection and enforcement. Checking to see if what’s supposed to happen is actually happening. In most businesses and most sales environments, supervision is sloppy, erratic, and inadequate.

“It was always my practice to train salespeople under my direct supervision, and to treat children with the utmost consideration.”- J.C. Penney

(Ed. Note: Dan Kennedy is the author of nine business books, a busy entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, and direct-response advertising strategist. For a limited time, you can take advantage of ” The MOST INCREDIBLE GIFT EVER” ($798.89 worth of Dan’s money-making information).)