I’ve performed a good deal of sales in my time… I’m still doing it in a very soft way, because PR is sales… It falls under the category of Sales and Marketing.
I’ve done winery sales, too, so I feel like I can address this one pretty well.
Proprietors, it’s great that you think your customers are buying your products, because they love your products, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret… They like your sale rep, to be quite honest. Your sales rep’s doing the relationship building necessary to bridge your brand and what the wholesaler (in the wine business) will be buying. If a sales person is good at what she or he does, expect to move your wine. If you send in someone they find – boring – for instance, expect your sales to plummet. And, in today’s competitive market, if you’ve got a great rep, think about that hug. If you get in there and burn any bridges, your sales person is going to be your only saving grace. (You can begin to see why this hug yours sales person has legs, right?)
Here’s a scenario. I worked for one company as a communications coordinator. This wine company was running $3 Million in the red at the time. I was given the state of Oregon for sales management, just because no one could serve it. At the time, the sales manager I was working with was Todd Bacon, and he was at Admiralty Beverage. Todd and I immediately clicked and we had great times together selling wine. Having been in radio with Jose before the wine business, I had gone to a lot of dinners with record company reps, as Jose’s partner. I was always invited, and became great friends with all of the record company people (to this day). So, it was second nature for me to say to Todd, “Let’s do dinner and please bring your wife with you.” That bond developed so deeply, that I eventually went to their home for dinner, too.
Sales in Oregon went through the roof. They eclipsed Washington Sate sales. I was told that that shouldn’t have happened… And, when it became time for the national sales meeting, Oregon was one of the Top Ten Selling States. Hum… My boss called out each of his brokers, but just happened to mention Oregon as he listed who had done a great job. (No pat on the back, no hug your sales rep day. I was taking notes.)
My boss had inherited me, so he had never reviewed my skills or looked even at my resume. And, he was really bothered my enthusiasm. (He actually thought that I was manic.. I’m not and never have been. I’m just enthusiastic, as many of you might know.) Not knowing me, he always wanted to replace me, but the sales manager “got me,” having arrived before this new CEO. And, she kept saving me… every time my boss thought he could part with me, she’d step in. In three years time, I had gone from being the communications coordinator to balancing that with sales duties in Oregon, Washington State, Northern California, Northern Nevada, Idaho, Minnesota, Iowa, and Puerto Rico. I also visited New England a lot to work with our broker. And… three years later, the company that was in the red when I began sales, was now running in the black.
My boss got brave. He thought that all of his deals on the golf course had had him rescue the wine company, so he first let my sales manager (another woman) go. I asked him if I was done, too. He said, “No,” chuckling, “You’re in sales, I can’t do that. Trust me.” He had already broken one trust, so I was still nervous. He then hired, let’s call him “Desmond,” giving him some of my states, but not clarifying with me; so, I could see where he was going. I was in Oregon when I got the phone call one Friday, “Jo, meet me first thing on Monday morning.” I knew what he was going to do, and I told Todd that it was all over. Todd said, “Oh, no, why would your boss replace the best cheerleader that that winery has ever had?” Because he doesn’t like women, Todd, was all I could think of to say. I went into the winery over the weekend and cleaned out my desk, met him on Monday, told him I was already checked out, and he told me I was very intuitive.
Actually, he had always been very transparent, so it wasn’t really intuition, although I’ve got plenty of that, too.
Within a very short amount of time, an accounting insider told my former sales manager that the winery was back in the red. Our support people followed us within a week of also being let go, then Desmond went, and by five months the CEO got the boot… all within five months. He had done himself and the winery in.
People who are meeting sales reps everyday know the difference between who is genuine and who’s not. When people are good at sales, and by “good” I mean very intuitive, they can sell anything… from toothpaste, to paper clips, wine, or even cars… They can SELL… It’s the sales rep that people are buying, the product is incidental to the process.
The moral to the story is… If it ain’t broke, don’t go trying to fix it. Trust your sales reps; they’ll tell you what the market is doing.
If you’ve got sales reps that your clients adore, just wrap your mind around that, because it’s they who create the salaries for everyone else in your company. And, hug your sales person. Overlook that he or she may be too cheery, too loquacious, or always in a hurry. It’s part of the job and it’s what sells in the outside world, genuine caring.