I was wrong about Pete Travis.
When I interviewed him for a spot on our sales force he persuaded me of his determination to start a sales career with our company. He seemed motivated and eager to prove himself. Yet, following a short burst of activity, his sales were mediocre.
After months of attempts to improve Pete's performance, I was forced to fire him. He was the most disorganized sales representative I have ever worked with. He was never prepared.
No matter what I did, nothing seemed to help the situation. It was frustrating for me whenever I traveled with him.
To begin with, I was embarrassed to ride in his car. It was a mess. Notes and rubber bands covered the visors, papers and samples were piled on the back seat, and most disgusting of all were the empty Styrofoam coffee cups on the floor. His briefcase and sales catalogs were worn, dog-eared, and covered with coffee stains.
During sales calls, he was at a loss to find what he needed. His inventory of sales aids was a disaster.
In as much as I attempted to help him become organized, any success was short-lived. We worked hard to create sales and promotional materials to help our customers sell our product; but most of his customers never saw the material, as it usually remained stuffed in his car trunk.
Finally, with no choice, I flew to Atlanta on a Monday morning to fire him. I felt bad, as he did not understand why we placed such importance on organization and preparation.
If you ask an actor what makes a successful performance, you will hear, "Preparation, preparation, preparation." If you ask what makes a successful sales person, you will hear the same answer.
How do you prepare for success? An actor studies the play, understands the character, and memorizes the lines. In the same manner, a sales person learns about the company, understands the benefits of the product, and finds the best way to present it.
Acting and selling are much the same. Think of a sales presentation as a performance to an audience of one.
We applaud an actor's performance if it is realistic and convincing. Is not a successful sales presentation the same? Real and convincing.
To be convincing, an actor must believe in the character and play the part with realism. Selling is the same; only when your sales person believes in your company and your product or service will he or she be believable.
You are the playwright. You created the product or service and the script to sell it.
Preparing your sales people to play the sales role is like rehearsal; it requires hard work and repetition. Successful improvisation is short-lived. You are wise to leave little to chance.
Red Motely, a noted sales trainer, believes in the value of preparation. He is well known for his statement; "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Or in other words, sell the benefits, not the product.
To create that sizzle, your sales representatives will need selling aids, such as samples, catalogs, and price sheets. Do not rely on the sole skills of sales person to get your message to your customers; dramatize the presentations with sales tools.
Furthermore, make sure everyone is aware of all your sales materials, especially if you have recently issued new catalogs, price sheets, ad mats, or any other goodies. If you want an efficient sales force, you have a responsibility to be sure they are informed.
If your business has a sales force, hold a "bag inspection." Ask to see their presentation material. You will quickly discover how organized and prepared your employees or agents are.
If you find that your representatives are missing catalogs, sell sheets, or the latest price sheets, find out why. Who is at fault? Your office, or your sales agents? Remember so much of success is "being prepared!"