Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000
Subject: AMS-Forum Selling
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Tuesday, February 22, 2000

Normally I am a lurker, but I am compelled to post a few words about selling.

I am sure that some salespeople are "lazy" and I'm sure that some don't understand the cost involved with making a profit in this business. I am aware that many will offer the largest discount possible, without ever trying to "sell" a higher price first. It bothers me that a number of these salespeople can make a career in this business operating this way.

I have been a salesperson for many years and I work for UVL's largest agent. I am not their biggest booker but my numbers are respectable and I manage to keep my job.

The point I want to make is that salespeople, like van operator and agency owners, want to survive and hopefully prosper. The key is that you have to survive long enough to prosper. I do not condone selling at the largest available discount. This is not good for the agency, the van lines or the customer. The problem is that from the day you are hired as a salesperson you know that your job depends on bringing in sales numbers. If you don't hit your goals or don't cover your draw you are without a job or, in some cases, can even end up owing the agency money.

THIS IS A MANAGEMENT PROBLEM! I don't mean to say that there are no "bad apples" in the sales ranks, but I have seen many salespeople prosper, profitably, at one agency after failing at another.

There is an old saying that sales people are like mud pies. You throw them against the wall and see which ones stick. This is an expensive way to build a sales force. Salespeople need management help. They need to be informed and they need to understand their role in the success of the organization. Too often a salesperson is taught much too little to be on the street meeting with customers.

I am blessed with strong management. This does not mean that I agree with everything that is done but I am never left in the dark as to what goals need to be met. I don't mean just my sales goals. I understand the services we provide and which services are profitable for the company. Our sales force is kept informed as to where we, as an agency, stand. We have several offices and I know how I compare to each of over 50 salespeople. I am kept informed about where we stand in other areas of the company as well. We are informed about our hauling goals and revenue goals for our branches as well as the corporation. I am informed of the type of business we want to book and the type of business we want to haul. I never have to guess if a storage shipment or a distribution job will make a profit.

I have seen too many good salespeople pushed into very deep water without management teaching them how to swim. It isn't just new rookies either. Even experienced sales professionals need to understand the dynamics of the agency. They also have to have access to the information that helps them understand the financial picture of the company. I am not suggesting that you open your books to every salesperson but every salesperson needs to understand what services and pricing make money for the company and which don't make money.

When anyone is left to survive with little information they will make decisions based on that lack of information. I know of agents that never have sales meetings, never let their salespeople know how they compare to others in their agency or in the industry. Some agency owners feel that their only responsibility is to threaten you when you haven't covered your draw. An informed member of management needs to analyze your book of work constantly and make you aware of successes and failures and how you fit into the whole agency picture. This needs to be done before you are called in to pick up your pink slip.

I worked for a sales manager once that said my only goal was to cover my draw. I lost my job because I was booking work that they couldn't handle. He told me that they were a full service agency and could handle anything because they represented a major van line. He was wrong!

I guess what I want to say is that most salespeople want to be successful. They want to be an important part of the agency's success. Not keeping them informed, not training them and updating that training is a major mistake. When people are left to find their own way they will take the path of least resistance. They need to be led down the path of guided enlightenment. Most will follow the proper path when they understand their is a specific destination.

Sorry for being so long winded.

Joe Turpin

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