Jeff Chadwick is a new breed of salesman – or should I say non–salesman. For years he worked for Classic Graphics, one of Charlotte's premier printers.
Chadwick was in production, and he had about reached the top of his earnings potential at the plant position he was in. He gave all the shop tours. He loved it. People would say "He's the best salesman you've got." One day Chadwick sold a surplus printing press. His boss, Bill Gardner told him he should go into sales. So Chadwick decided to go into sales. Commission sales.
"If you ask me what the alternative of choice close or the sharp angle close is, I don't have a clue," Chadwick says, "but if you ask me can you gatefold (double fold) this piece of paper, I can sure tell you that – and that's what the customer wants to know. I love sales. It's a lot of work. Fast paced – no one who needs printing ever says take your time. Everyone needs it yesterday."
I asked Chadwick to define his sales assets and attributes. "Enthusiasm. Persistence. Pride. Personal pride. I have Classic Graphics posters on my walls at home. I love being around my peers so I can tell them who I work for," he said. "I find my best sales asset is my ability to help the customer select things that will work. I rely heavily on my product knowledge."
Product knowledge is also the sales foundation for Clarkson Jones. The company he works for, Carolina Asphalt, is a 11–year old firm specializing in quality parking lot repair and maintenance. Jones spent seven years supervising jobs and heavy equipment operation. During that time he gained incredible product knowledge. He began developing great relationships with customers, because he had the ability to solve problems and he always gave straight answers (a characteristic shared by 99% of the new breed).
Two years ago Jones realized that people were calling him to place orders rather than going through the companies sales people. Why? "I guess I was non–threatening to them," Jones said, "I was the guy who got the job done, gave great service, and knew how to solve their problems. Customers just naturally gravitated to me." Life as a salesperson is different for Jones. "I don't miss my old day to day grind in the field," he said, "but I could not be in the position I am today without that hands on experience."
Last year was a banner year for Carolina Asphalt. This year Jones' personal sales are on track to exceed the sales of the companies best salesman/estimator.
Sales volume will also be important for Nelson McSwain. He works for Wireway Husky, a leading pallet rack and wire cage manufacturer in Denver, NC. For years Nelson worked in the factory supervising production, and was later promoted to head of purchasing. He saw a parade of salesmen come into his office every day. Now he is going out on the road to sell for his company.
"I'm perfecting my sales call based on the hundreds of salespeople who have called on me over the years. Some did it right, but the vast majority had it all wrong," said McSwain, "My sales presentation will be just what the buyer wants to hear; I know because I used to listen for it when I bought. The company has also hired a personal trainer for me and he is incredible. He is helping me gain the sales knowledge I need to compliment my product knowledge."
Chadwick, Jones, McSwain and thousands like them are beginning to emerge as a new type of salesperson. Steeped in product knowledge and practical problem solving capability.
Here are some of the characteristics that are prevalent in the new breed:
- Non–manipulative selling at its purest – they get to the sale by being truthful.
- Non threatening – they are not perceived as "salespeople" therefore the customer isn't as on–guard.
- Helpful – they are not pushy.
- Consultative – they can make meaningful recommendations and suggestions based on knowledge of what actually works from their personal experience.
- Total product knowledge – they have what a customer needs to make an informed decision or solve a problem.
- Error prevention – their experience can spot a POTENTIAL error and prevent it.
- On top of the job – the job goes smoother because they start it right and are on top of it all the way – just like they were in the shop.
Work in the office or factory and wonder if sales is for you? Answer yes to these questions and report to your sales manager in the morning:
- Do you have great technical or product knowledge?
- Have you hit the pay ceiling?
- Do you get along well with customers or have good people skills?
If you think you can do it, you are probably right. But you must be willing to risk.
And, hey! Salesperson without hands–on inside experience – Get some! Devote some time to working in every area of your business. Your inside team will respect you more, you will have a better understanding of your product and co–workers, and your customers will benefit from your new–found product knowledge. So will your wallet.
The new breed of salespeople... they rely on truth and product knowledge,
with a minor in sales skills.
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