A short treatise on operations employees and salespeople; and, who’s in sales anyway? (AKA, nothing happens until something gets sold.)

OK – by show of hands – how many people feel comfortable being sold something – even something you want?

How many of you like salespeople?

How many of you get a good feeling knowing someone with the title “Account Manager,” “Regional Sales Manager,” and so on, calls you on the phone or is coming in for a meeting?

How many of you feel that salespeople are lying, manipulative, low-integrity self-centered jerks, only interested in cheating you, or taking your (or your employer’s) money?

I completely understand all the above emotions. There are a lot of those out there that have foisted that opinion into the marketplace at large.

But there are also many that are simply trying to help new customers understand the value of their product in the environment of their target market. Because the good ones have to ask so many questions, sometimes it’s hard to see the difference.

Now, how many of you have ever tried to be a professional salesperson?

That’s what I thought. Walk a mile before you judge. (Salespeople, you know what I mean, and you probably don’t need to read any further, although I’d be interested in your thoughts).

Remember this – people like to buy from other people they know, like, and trust. And trust is earned.

But first…

Before we get too deep into this, let’s take a quick step backwards. Let’s understand one very important thing: nothing happens until something gets sold.

Without sales, there is no need for marketing, manufacturing, engineering, programmers (if it’s a software/hybrid tech firm), financial departments, shipping/receiving, warehousing, customer service, or whatever. If you are not in sales, you are not part of the solution in growing (or protecting) revenues at your company.

But you should also understand that, if you talk to the public (ie: any customer interaction at any level – receptionist, customer service, etc.) in the name of your company in any sense and at any time, then you are in sales, whether or not you like salespeople, or whether or not you have “sales” as part of your title.

Wait… What? I’m in SALES?

Think of it this way. The last time you had a complaint about a product, you called the company that made that product, right? Now, did you talk to a person that gave you their name, and actually helped you out, and did the job quickly? Or did you get a rather faceless, nameless corporate person that didn’t seem to care a whit about you or your issue?

If the former, congratulations to that company – their management understands what it means to take care of their customers, and that person helped sell you on your next purchase with that company.

If you experienced the latter, then they don’t, and they may have lost a renewal or a future sale. Worse yet, if you become really angry, you’re likely to tell 7 of your friends about how poorly you were treated by that company. Now there are 7 more people that won’t buy from your company.

I’ll use a personal experience to back up my contention here. When my son was about 12, he scrimped and saved his allowance, odd-job money, and birthday money, and so on, until he had roughly $79. He wanted to buy himself a boombox from a major manufacturer. He was very proud he’d earned that boombox.

When the boombox was about 4 months old (just a tad out of the 90-day warranty), the radio portion broke. The cassette player still worked, but the radio was broken. I said, “let’s try to call the help line, to see if they’ll make an exception for you, since it’s just a bit out of warranty.” So, he found the number in the manual, and he called. The (very nice) woman that answered told him that he was out of luck. Next, I got on the phone and tried to explain that the warranty had only expired about 2 weeks earlier (which she verified by serial number), and told her about how he scrimped and saved and was very excited about the product when he purchased it – are you sure there’s nothing you can do for this young man?

She still told us “no.”

Feeling beaten, we hung up.

Now, that woman – again, she was very nice about the whole thing – was probably following a script that her management team had created. “Lines are lines.” I’m sure they said. “We cannot give away the store!” I’m sure they said.

The upshot is, my son is now close to 30, and has never purchased another product of that brand. Nor have I. A few friends we shared the story with tell us they’ve stopped purchasing their products as well.

So – the woman won the battle – she did her job. But the company lost some formerly (at least my son and myself) loyal customers. Being a former employee of a consumer-electronics firm myself, let’s say it would have cost that company about $25 to fix the boombox for my son (and probably much less).

Again – they saved themselves $25 and only spent some time of a customer service rep. But they lost at least 5 customers, who may have purchased how many thousands of dollars worth of devices from them over the course of their lifetimes?

Back to some “research…” and observations

Since we’re tossing about research (anecdotal and real) topics and the number 7, some marketing research says it costs 7 times as much to sell something to a new customer than it does to sell something new to an existing customer.

How professional are your customer service reps? Your installers? Your “Customer Success” reps? Your trainers?

If these teams are not successful, you won’t be successful over the long haul.

Do the math. It’s as simple as that. People have long memories.

My point is simple – everyone at your company is in sales at some level.

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