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Value of a Good Salesman
Using the Tools of the Trade
That string trimmer or chain saw you sold to the homeowner or commercial account wasn't sold without instructions; instructions on how to care for the equipment, instructions for using the equipment, and instructions on how to assemble the equipment. Rarely is there an occasion where you sold the chain saw, and within a short period of time, that person became a masterful and very profitable landscape business. To create such a person/business takes time and a lot of effort on the part of both the landscaper and a teacher.
The point we are making is to suggest that there is a need for education in our industry. Some of the most valuable lessons can often be taught by the sales representatives that walk through the front door of your store, or that you have met at a trade show or a dealer conference.
An informal poll of dealers shows that many find sales representatives to be more of a problem than they are of value. While the circumstances surrounding this are understandable, it is also unfortunate that dealers are unable to take advantage of the more knowledgeable representatives.
Think about how many dealer operations a sales representative gets to see; how many great stores, and how many ideas that are working for other dealers. The sales representative is also attending sales meetings where he or she is exposed to many business building ideas.
For the open minded dealer, it would be such an advantage to be able to tap into this source of profitable information; ideas for displays, promotions, product lines, and words of caution for pitfalls to be avoided.
During the years this writer spent as a dealer, our business was both blessed and spoiled by quality sales representatives. It is however, in looking back, that we can see that having quality sales representatives was a two way street.
Our experience began with the sales person that first called on us in 1971. During the initial visit, we made a point to sit with him and ask questions for an hour. The product line that he represented was primarily a staple group of products which required a monthly review of quantity on hand; you know the items like plugs, blades, and various repair items. We would be glad to continue to buy from his company, but we also wanted the benefit of his knowledge.
We explained to him what we expected in regards to the quantity of items on hand, but also our expectation of being informed of the products that we should carry that we currently did not. Of course, the products that we were stocking that we should not be, usually highlighted themselves with their yellowed and worn packaging.
The relationship grew to the point that as he would attend his company sales meeting and see new products, he would anticipate our needs and place an appropriate order immediately for us.
The second sales representative of special remembrance made a habit of calling us and asking for an appointment at least one week in advance. He would tell us about the information that was going to be sent to us in advance of his visit. He would suggest that we prepare computer reports of certain product categories, and would then ask if there were any problems we were experiencing with his company.
If there was a problem, he would ask us to send information to him so that he would be able to walk into our business with the resolution in hand. During his visit, we would hear of success stories that other dealers were having. Wanting to be a progressive dealer, we would adapt many of the success stories to our business.
One lesson that was quickly learned from these great sales representatives, was that with more of their suggestions being tried in our business, the more suggestions they would bring to us. When asked about this, the response from them was to explain their disappointment with the number of businesses that would listen to their ideas and then try none of them. "Why try to help them, when they won't listen?", was the essence of their message.
Of course, during the visit, decisions were made in regards to products and quantities ordered. Oddly enough, there were occasions when the sales representative would want to talk us out of ordering a new product, and occasions when we were trying to talk the sales representative into letting us order a new product. Both parties knew that the success of our business was the one and only goal.
From these two sales representatives that became close friends and unpaid business partners, we began to share our experiences with other sales representatives. We asked to see photos of other businesses and their best displays. We asked them to explore how they could become more involved in our business so that we could direct more of our purchases to their company.
This team effort began to duplicate the situation we want to create for each customer; provide service, knowledge, and quality so that the price becomes the least important ingredient of the value formula. There became such a bond that a competitor of one of the representatives asked what he could do to get his products in our store.
The answer was "nothing". We explained that the first sales representative had called on our business for 25 years. While the second company had a more attractive display, we felt that nothing could replace the personal attention that we received from our favorite sales representative.
It is not amazing to see that the relationship that we cherished with a sales representative was the same that most every independent dealer wants to establish with their customers. Through experiences with skilled sales representatives we found that we already knew how to play; now we were learning how to properly tune the equipment, our business.
This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.