Zig Ziglar was a master of explaining the key aspects of being a complete sales professional. He would break these points down into small digestible pieces and, to really drive home his points, he utilized inventive visual examples. I clearly remember his explanation of the importance of keeping your pipeline full. His stage set would include an old hand-powered water pump. He would pump it up and down and as the water began to flow he would state: “This is your pipeline, doesn’t it look grand when it is flowing? The harder you work it the more it flows” (as he would pump the handle faster). Then dramatically he would stop and stand and look at the spout as the water began to slow and diminish. He would then say, “This is what happens when you quit filling your pipeline and do not do the work to keep it flowing.” This was about as clear as I have ever seen a sales pipeline explained and part of his genius with connecting and educating with so many sales professionals.
What Ziglar was so elegantly stating is the simple fact that you get out of your sales career exactly what you put into it. If you are in parts sales and you simply stand behind the counter and wait to take orders, you are simply an order taker. The same is true if you are in outside sales and just walk into the dealer with no plan and just take what they have waiting for you today. In both cases, the really sad point is you are not honing your own skillset and becoming the professional each and everyone in sales has the opportunity to be. Not for the sake of the paycheck you are currently earning but rather what your earning potential is if you work at it and become a true sales professional. It is easier to build your reputation and be sought after than to hope someone notices your potential. It is also a lot more rewarding personally and financially.
Consider these questions: If you are working the counter, do you know the latest and greatest they are talking about in the forums, in print, digital magazines and blogs? Do you know the motorcycle your store sells intimately and do you try to create a fun and purposeful interaction between yourself and the customer? Are you the person that customers come to see as a trusted source of information for the parts and accessories for their bike, ATV or UTV? Do you continually read, learn and improve your skillset? Do you look at the business aspects of your job to ensure you department is not just selling but increasing turnover and profit?
A friend of mine from a major oil supplier recently hired a regional sales rep into a very nice position. When I asked him why they hired him I was told that he was the only parts employee they had actually come out to meet them and intelligently discuss oil properties and brands in a week’s worth of dealer visits. They had an opening in this salesperson’s area and he became sought after, was recruited and then hired.
I spent ten years on the road doing outside sales in powersports and during that time I competed with some very seasoned sales reps. I looked for every angle to gain an advantage. I became an expert at merchandising and displaying products on the dealer’s floor. I went after every product that no one else wanted to deal with: counting jets, cables, spark plugs, sprockets on down to nuts and bolts. I worked hard. It wasn’t until I finally changed companies and went to work with one of these wily veterans that I began to learn to work smarter. As good as I thought this rep was, I soon found he was much better than anticipated and moreover he put in the work every day to be this way.
His day started at 5 a.m. as he went through sales reports of the dealers he would visit that day to plan what he was going to sell them, not just hope sales happened. He reviewed purchases and turnover reports. Most importantly, he checked stocking levels of inventory so he could offer alternative products if the ones that were hot sellers were not available. He applied the sales and specials that mattered in a file for each dealer readying his presentations.
He had a plan for success every day and he defined being a sales professional. He did not expect success based on a catalog full of parts or better product delivery, as other distributors offered this. He was successful because he had a plan and executed it. He was successful because he could recognize trends the dealer had not yet and he partnered this expertise with the business to improve both their bottom line and his monthly income. He was a valued business partner and was a top ten sales rep for his company for the better part of his career. He didn’t wait to get noticed, and his work ethic and planning ensured his expertise was sought after.
In sales, you essentially reap what you sow. In a time where there are so many doing the minimum it is easier than ever to become sought after by simply investing in yourself, your knowledge and your expertise, as the cost is minimal. With all of the resources online today the cost is really your willingness to invest the time and effort in improving yourself.
More than ever this industry needs expert sales professionals. Dealers and customers are seeking great buying experiences from knowledgeable sources. While you may not be able to master everything you sell, master what matters, what is relevant and what will make you sought after. At the end of the day, we sell fun in this industry. In most cases, we sell wants not needs, and the more skilled you are in offering a better purchasing experience and creating value to your customer, the more successful you will be (sought after).
The most amazing part of having a sales career is you are able to write your own script, I hope you make your story legendary.
Tim Calhoun is the president of SpeedMob Inc., a boutique distributor and brand management company that offers personalized service, expert technical advice and solid after sales support for quality brands. As a recognized powersports leader with over 30 years experience in dealership management, sales management, business development, distribution management, brand building and marketing, Tim has worked with or for the three largest distributors in Powersports (WPS, TR, PU) in an outside sales role, as a national sales manager and as a manufacturer/vendor. With experience in the aftermarket, dealer and the OEM sector he has a well rounded perspective on the interactive roles and impact each of these sectors has with one another.