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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Sales - the Myths 

Many people have the wrong idea about Sales People. We kind of get a bad rap. In the good ol' days, sales was a bit slimy. Especially corporate sales. You had the 3 martini lunches, high pressure tactics, gifts and "special attention". I can say for the most part - those practices will only get you fired now.

I've been in Corporate sales for over 15 years now. I started out in the good old boy network of steel sales - focusing on automotive. You talk about a tough bunch of fellas! And I was one of the few female sales reps at that time. Lucky for me, I don't intimidate easily.

I refuse to participate in high pressure tactics. You want it, fine. My job is to show you why you want it, and why you want to pay a lot of money for it.

I don't give gifts. No little trinkets or anything. Never have. In steel sales, that was just stupid. How was a clock or a pen going to make a bit of difference on the line? My position has always been - I'm gonna help you make more money. From the guy on the line, who I will provide better steel that is processed in a way that will make his line run smoother and faster, to the plant manager who will have better inventory levels and better production time. Can you say bigger bonuses?!?

Now I do go out socializing with my customers. We do have to buy the dinners occasionally. But most of the time it is brought into the plant or store and provided to the entire crew. This is the only part that gets a bit touchy. I have to be careful when I socialize. I know that I have a warped sense of humor and I tend to think of myself as one of the guys. Some people misconstrue that as being open for other options. And the worst offenders think it's part of the package deal. I deal with that quickly. I simply thank them for the "compliment?" and let them know that is not a part of who I am or how I do business. Believe it or not, that has always worked. With no hard feelings afterwards. I don't make a big deal of it - just address the issue and move on. It seems to take care of the situation.

The other stereotype of sales is that we are slackers. Part of that is the freedom that we have. The thing to keep in mind is that our paychecks are directly tied to the amount of work we do. Plus, things go in a cycle.

For months we will work 13-18 hour days, often away from home for weeks on end. Then things will slack off a bit and we can regroup and focus ourselves. Right now I'm in the regroup and focus stage. Part of that is because I'm preparing to move and the other part is just that the last 3 months have been go go go none stop.

I do have a lot of freedom in my job. If I want to take a day off, as long as I have a cell phone I'm good to go. However, if I do too much of that, my customers start to feel slighted and I miss some of the small issues on the floors - next thing you know I got fires popping up everywhere. So, if I like a good steady paycheck, I better get my ass out on the road.

I'll admit there are some real slime balls out there - so do your homework before you make any major purchase. People say that all a sales person wants is to take your money. Want to know a secret - they are right. But a good sales person wants you to be happy so you'll buy again.


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