December 2003
Leadership in salespeople
The right attitude can transform you from sales rep to sales leader

Good salespeople do more than just bring work into their plants. They see themselves as a conduit between the customer and the plant. They know and understand that if the there is a better exchange of information between those for whom the work is being done and those who have the responsibility of providing data and the finished product to the customer, superior results will occur. The best salespeople provide clear, accurate specifications and requests to the various departments involved. This results in a better workflow, fewer mistakes and the possibility of making more money.

I think that the truly great salespeople see their role within their company as something much greater than coordinating work through their plants. Exceptional salespeople bring vision, energy and a sense of team work that benefits all involved. It is probably worth remembering that for approximately every $175,000 of printing billed to customers, one person is employed. It is easy to calculate the importance of those salespeople who generate millions of dollars worth of revenue for their companies as well as the numbers of jobs created by their work.

This is not for one moment to diminish the efforts of everyone else on the team or to underestimate the value of each and every employee. My goal is to show the other attributes and skills that very successful salespeople use and the positive impact they have within their own organizations as well as those of their customers.

Good salespeople are generally positive in their outlook. I believe that they see the bottle half full rather than half empty. It is hard to imagine that someone with a terribly negative attitude or outlook could enjoy much success as a sales professional. This up beat outlook is not reserved for customer meetings and presentations but is contagious with everyone that a salesperson deals with, especially those within her own plant.

Exceptional sales people bring vision, energy and a sense of team work that benefits all involved

Regardless of how challenging or difficult business conditions may be, good salespeople can still find something positive that has occurred within their organization. Just imagine how different this appears in the eyes of the customer as opposed to the moaning and groaning often seen by so many salespeople in our industry. Customers want to deal with winners. People committed to helping solve problems and who bring printed samples and ideas that could be of some benefit to the buyer.
Just as the salesperson gives positive input to the customer, she does the same with her estimators, C.S.R.s, production managers and everyone else she comes in contact with. One of the most frequent complaints heard within a printing organization is that those responsible for estimating, planning, coordinating and producing the work never receive any feedback as to how their ideas or recommendations were received. Good salespeople keep their team in the loop for both the positive and negative issues and share the accolades with everyone when something good occurs.

Good salespeople help create a positive image of their organization with their customers and among their fellow employees. They have an ability to get excited when describing a new piece of equipment and how it will be a huge benefit in producing the customer’s work, as well as the efficiency it creates for those involved on the inside. She has a positive outlook and this mind set is quite contagious. (It is important to understand that I am not referring to the purchase of a new ten-colour press, but something more modest such as a new piece of software—something that will benefit the customer and assist the production personnel in doing their best work faster, better and more efficiently.)

Good salespeople create interest in their organizations by discussing new business that their firm has earned and how this may benefit present clients. Greater revenue generally leads to expansion, which might mean more shifts, more skilled employees, or the purchase of better equipment. Please remember that customers will have little or no interest in what is occurring at your plant if you do not make it perfectly clear that in each and every instance, these changes will have direct benefit to them and their organizations.

The hiring of additional personnel in an organization is generally viewed as a positive indicator that the business is expanding and moving forward. As I have mentioned frequently, customers want to know that they are dealing with “winners,” and not with companies that are downsizing or ones that are losing market share. Salespeople should make their customers aware of this expansion in your company’s development because the customer can often provide first class leads—colleagues they hold in high regard who just might be interested in joining a progressive organization such as yours. In our company, we found that by placing an advertisement for new sales personnel in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business we not only received resumés from a wider, more diverse group of prospects, we also had the huge advantage of being seen by our corporate clients as being progressive and professional. It seems fairly obvious that salespeople are viewed in a more positive manner if their employer is seen as aware and smart.

In today’s business environment, it is often quite difficult to be very positive of what is occurring in the marketplace. I continually hear from printers about the ongoing pressure on price and how this seems to be the only factor that a customer considers when placing an order. While it would be naive to say that competitive pricing is not an issue, price is generally seen by buyers as fourth or fifth in the decision making process. Salespeople are on the “front lines” daily as they attempt to bring work into their plants and at the same time develop new customers. The “attitude” that the salesperson exhibits, before both the existing and potential customer, as well as her fellow employees, is very important. Anything less than a positive, helpful sharing approach will have little chance of enjoying any success and will be very harmful in maintaining existing business, let alone creating any new opportunities with prospective customers.
Duncan McGregor was president of the former Arthurs-Jones Inc., a Toronto-based, award-winning commercial printer. He led the $5 million-a-year firm to a five-fold increase in sales. He is now a consultant to the printing industry and can be reached at (416) 487-7666.
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