Many thanks to all the salespeople who keep our fragile economy moving. Theirs is the toughest, least noticed, and most underrated position on the business battlefield. They are the unsung heroes, without whom all the flashy maneuverings of high -priced executives would end up as losses. Digging daily in the trenches, absorbing all the front line abuse, and knowing full well that it’s either him or the competition, the salesman is the lynchpin, the hinge, on which hangs any business’s run for success.
And why is it so? Clearly, nothing happens until the sale is made. Without the constant, day-in, day-out grind of the sales professional, maintaining existing clients, pushing into new frontiers, and tackling the competition, even the best laid plans of the boardroom will have been in vain.
So who is he? This sales professional? And what makes him so great? What motivates him? And why is the great salesman such a difficult thing to find? To answer this question it will be important to consider what exactly it is the salesman does.
Before anything, the effective salesman is the individual who is capable of building successful relationships. To do this he must create a good first impression, must explain effectively the benefit of the product or service he is offering, must deliver that product or service on time and in the appropriate quantity, must see to it that any problems, large and small, are tended to, and must ensure that the all of the above are maintained over time while concurrently deepening the personal relationship that exists between himself and his client. This last item is crucial, and is the factor that will divide the great ones from the also-rans. It is far easier said than done, too, for it requires more than anything an ability to adapt to the various personalities and character idiosyncrasies that the salesman will daily encounter. Some customers prefer to be coddled. Others like to feel as though they are in command of great armies. Others, still, require great amounts of time to make their decisions. And another type might only do what his competitor is doing. So, what is required beyond all else, to be able to meet the needs of every one of these types? Surely, it is a shrewd and thorough understanding of human psychology.
In simpler terms, the salesman must know people. Regardless of whether he represents a large conglomerate or a small start-up outfit, an understanding of people–he included! –And an ability to relate to these people on terms that will get the job done, are the key ingredients in the making of a successful salesman. A lifetime worth of experience is required for this. A lifetime of both victories and defeats. A lifetime worth of listening to people–listening to what they say and to what they often leave unsaid. Weighing it all and making good judgments in what often amounts to a very brief period of time, and then acting on it.
And that’s the easy part.
The real test–the true determinant–in deciding whether one has the right stuff to become a salesman comes long before the opportunity arrives to meet customers. By that point there will be those who succeed in varying degrees, depending on how well they have honed their ability to relate. Before then there remains the hurdle of rejection to overcome.
The salesman is familiar with rejection. In fact, if he is a great salesman, it is likely the experience he has encountered most often during his career. He is not fazed by it, nor does he speak much of it. It is quite simply part of his job. The truly great thrive on it, knowing full well that every ‘no’ brings him closer to the ‘yes’ he seeks. For sales is a numbers game. And every good salesman realizes that with fortitude and courage to endure the manifold rejections he daily encounters, that test his mettle and chip away at his patience, will eventually arrive the lead that will flower into a prospect that will ultimately become a customer. He is relentless in his pursuit of this. He is tireless. He is focused and he will not be swayed by the ‘noise’ that often washes about him. If he can overcome this obstacle and build for himself a base of clients, against the odds, at war with his own self-doubts, the beginner in the trade will have earned himself the right to join the ranks of that indomitable elite known as the ‘sales professional’.
The great salesman walks a tightrope between the demands of his employer and the needs of his clients. Both often view him with suspicion. He endures abuse and maintains his composure. He alone knows the loneliness of the burden he carries. If he has a family, there are of course obligations to spouse and children.
Part bulldog, part bartender, he is actor, administrator, psychologist, and entrepreneur. Entrepreneur, because he only gets paid for the close.
It is time we called for a National Salesperson Day. These people deserve the honour associated with their efforts.
By: Mark Borkowski is president of Toronto based Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corporation, Mercantile has specialized in selling mid market companies to large international strategic buyers and Private Equity firms since 1986. He can be contacted at (416) 368-8466 ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.mercantilemergersacquisitions.com