March 2018
The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
Secrets of a Sales Rep - Episode 1


Secrets of a Sales Rep - Episode 1

The following article was written by Mike Wicks; he is currently an author and ghostwriter, but in his early career he was a professional salesman. He has developed dozens of sales and marketing courses and delivered hundreds of hours of sales and marketing training during his career. He is also an adviser with University of Victoria's Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship. This is the first in a series of articles where he shares with readers his secrets for sales success.

This is the first in my series on the secrets of selling learned during my career as a sales representative in my twenties and thirties. I worked for a book publishing company so a lot of it was relationship selling rather than cold calling. The company would publish a new list of books every month and the sales team would visit bookshops and wholesalers in their territories on a regular sales cycle, to sell the new titles and also pick up reorders for stock items.

We were encouraged to do some cold calling if a new bookshop opened, or if we were particularly ambitious, to look for new markets for specialist books. More about that in future articles in this series.

On the face of it, selling to the same people several times a year seems like an easy sales job, but like all sales jobs it required special skills. First, there were dozens of other book publishers selling to these same customers and each had only so much to spend per month. Not only that, but space on shelves was limited, so not only were you competing for a bigger share of a buyer's budget but also space.

The key to selling in a situation like this is to understand the strength of your product is only part of the value proposition. Sure, if I had the most exciting books that month I was sure to get decent orders, but would I get the quantities I needed to reach my targets? Would I get a window, or in-store displays?

I discovered early on in my sales career that the better my relationship was with a customer the more buy-in I would get and the more they would trust me.

I also began to realize that each buyer was different; some enjoyed a joke, others wanted to get down to business immediately, others wanted to be taken for coffee. Some liked a lot of information, others less. The key was that every single buyer was different and if I treated them all the same then I would only be truly 'reaching' a small percentage of them.

So, I became a chameleon; I related to each and every buyer differently - I sold to them in a way that made them feel comfortable, in a way they understood, in a way that made them look forward to my visits, in a way that was special to them.

Of course, you can't be best friends with everyone and I had a few buyers where there was little love lost between us, but I can honestly say that I had a phenomenal relationship with 95 percent of my customers.

In future articles, I'll provide some specific examples of how I managed to build honest relationships with every type of buyer from much older, very conservative ladies and gentlemen to young buyers my own age.

Secrets of a Sales Rep - Episode 1


Seven Dynamics of Change

There are two realities in life - change is inevitable, and most people hate change. The same is true of business - the economy is in a state of continual flux, customer's preferences and attitudes change constantly; technology, distribution, markets, industries are dynamic. Competition is, well, competitive - marketing that worked yesterday may not work today.

But, employees are not so keen on change. Routine is good - it makes life easier. Change means adapting and adapting is usually hard work. For the most part people like things the way they are. So, dealing with change in your business comes with many difficulties, not least dealing with all those affected by it.

Ken Blanchard, management consultant and author of the international best-seller, The One-Minute Manager, identified seven dynamics of change.

1. People will feel awkward, ill-at-ease and self-conscious

Ask yourself whether fear is holding you back from making the change. Explore those fears and recognize their capacity to hold your business back from future success. If you've got staff, acknowledge their feelings and create opportunities that make it safe for people to be successful on their own terms. Establish an environment where it's okay to make mistakes and where your team learns from each other.

2. People initially focus on what they have to give up

Be honest about what you're giving up and how you're feeling about it. Trying to ignore those feelings and pushing through them will only make you resentful and you won't be able to fully embrace the new ways and methods. If you've got staff, let them grieve for a short while about what they perceive they have lost. Then guide them towards positive acceptance of the new.

3. People often feel alone, even if everyone else is going through the same change

Be proactive about finding others who have gone through something similar. Hang out with them, learn from them, and open your eyes to what they have to offer from their experiences. If you have employees, find ways to bring them together and unite them in their experiences. If you can get people to feel empathy toward others, and recognize they are not alone, you'll be a lot further ahead in achieving team buy-in.

4. People can only handle so much change

Be honest about how much you can handle. Whenever possible, try to implement change in small steps so that you can be on top of things each step of the way. If you have staff, bring in changes one or two at a time. Giving people the opportunity to become successful at managing them will help them be more confident and open as changes continue to occur. If the amount or size of the change is beyond your control and is radical, you may find it helpful to seek the counsel of and/or hire someone who has managed organizational changes like yours to assist with implementation.

5. People are at different levels of readiness for change

Some people thrive on change and find it exciting. Others are threatened by even the smallest change. Any change will have "early adopters" (those people who buy-in right away); "opportunity groups" (those people who could be influenced), and "resisters" (those who will fight it). If you're an early adopter, you'll have no problem going for it. If you need to be convinced, gather the evidence you need to help you accept the change and move forward. If you're a natural resister, ask yourself what's at stake if you don't find a way to implement the change. If you've got staff, get your early adopters onside and use them to help you sell the change to your team. Your largest group will likely be your opportunity group, so create positive strategies that will win them over rather than push them toward the resisters. Be patient with your resisters, but let them know that their resistance will not impact the fact that the change is there to stay.

6. People will be concerned they don't have enough resources

People might fear they aren't smart enough, computer savvy enough, quick enough, or otherwise unprepared to meet the challenge successfully. What resources do you need to make the changes most effectively? What do you need to do to get those resources in place? If you've got staff, make sure you offer the necessary resources people need in terms of training, safe opportunities to practice, mentoring and ongoing support so that they can take on the new tasks with greater confidence and less fear.

7. If you take the pressure off, people will revert to their old behaviours

Find a way to keep yourself accountable. Ask a business colleague, good friend, or mentor to do this for you. It's important to have someone on board who will alert you if you're falling back into your old ways. If you've got staff, stay on top of where people are in managing the change. Deal with "backsliders" quickly and decisively, reiterating the fact that you are moving forward with this change, and give them the tools to climb back on board.

Managing change isn't easy, but it can be done effectively if you understand the natural responses to change and are proactive about strategically managing those responses. The ability to lead effectively through change is a "make or break" skill that will impact how effectively your business moves into the future.

Secrets of a Sales Rep - Episode 1


Coach's Corner - Changing Others, Change Ourselves

"Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have of changing others." Jacob M. Braudo, Author

Too often we enter business or personal relationships with goals that may involve changing others. We decide that although things are going in the right direction, the other person needs to change their way of thinking or way of doing something. We end up trying to manipulate or force them to change.

At these times, we come up against a resistance, a defensiveness or an outright refusal. Here is where the cycle continues, where we feel forced to apply even more pressure and the resistance builds or the other person outwardly agrees to whatever change is desired. The question becomes what are they feeling inwardly? Are they truly committed to a change? How often do we see a situation arising in which the other person says they are committed to change while quietly throwing up roadblocks to our successful desires?

Sometimes the ongoing pressure even results in a serious breakdown or break up in the relationship with both sides stubbornly sticking to their resolve. What has been truly accomplished in this scenario?

What can we do to end this frustrating cycle? What do we need to do when a relationship is not working for us and we blame the other person for the situation? It is at times like this that we need to shift our thinking and change how we are looking at this "problem" with the other person or persons. As psychotherapist and marriage counsellor, Mel Schwartz wrote, "If I change myself, your relationship with me must be affected, for now you are in a relationship with a different person."

How do we become this "different person"? It is when we truly question ourselves and become aware of how our reactions and approaches are exacerbating this cycle. It is when we view a situation through a different lens by shifting our focus from the blaming of others to changing our approach and reactions that the relationship moves forward without the hidden agendas and resistance.

In business or personal relationships, we can influence behaviours leading to change when others have a respect and trust. Forcing change leads to hidden resistance, unsuccessful or unsatisfactory results, dysfunction, and unhappiness.

"If you don't like something change it. If you can't change it, try to change the way you think about it."  Mary Englebreit

Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach, Motivated Coaching and Development


Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation
109 Durand Street, SARNIA, Ontario, N7T 5A1
Phone: 519-383-1371 | Fax: 519-383-8115