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One needs an entire company of sales reps

  • Article by: HARVEY MACKAY
  • December 12, 2010 - 1:10 PM

"How many salespeople do you have?" I'm often asked that question, and I reply that we have 450. "Wow!" is the usual response, followed by "How many employees do you have?" My answer is the same: "450."

To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.

We manufacture a product that's been around in a similar form for hundreds of years. Nobody stops me on the street and says, "Gee, what a great envelope you guys make." The truth is much of our product line is a commodity with very competitive pricing. We have differentiated ourselves over the years as high-quality, direct-mail envelope manufacturers, but sometimes it is not enough.

Our employees understand that whether or not they interact with customers, they have to put their best foot forward all the time. Regardless of the job description, each and every employee represents the company and has a keen interest in seeing it succeed: No business equals no jobs.

This concept is not really news to employees. After all, they are customers somewhere, too. They know how they like to be treated. They know what inspires their loyalty, and what makes them move their business to another vendor.

For example, a super salesperson sells a family a car at a great price with an extended warranty. But when the customer comes back for service, the technician is cranky, the cashier can't find the paperwork and the service manager is impatient when answering their questions about the work that was performed.

The experience causes those customers to rethink their decision to do business with that dealership, not because of the original salesperson, but the support after the sale. What the service department must realize is that they are already selling the next car to this family. In other words, the sale begins when the customer says yes.

This example translates to just about any company that depends on repeat business for its existence.

Our success depends on sales at every level of our company. We encourage all our employees to bring any sales ideas to members of the sales force. Interesting direct-mail pieces, innovative uses for envelopes, catchy shapes and colors - we're open to any possibility.

We also depend on staff to bring suggestions about potential customers. The sales staff is grateful for leads, and employees have bragging rights about the new accounts they helped to land.

Recently I spoke to a large sports memorabilia business in New York, and they told me they feel strongly about the very same thing. Whether people in their operation touch the sales process directly or indirectly, each has the potential to make or break the next deal.

Make it easy for your employees to present a consistently positive message. Christopher Thompson, president of Catch 22 Solutions, recommends that companies create an "elevator pitch" -- what your employee would tell a potential customer if they were stuck in an elevator for half a minute. It's a 30-second commercial that introduces your company, explains what your company sells and contains a question that helps continue the dialogue. He contends that every single employee should know exactly what to say.

I couldn't agree more. This approach reinforces the notion that everyone must be prepared to promote their company -- because they should be proud of what they produce and where they work.

A very simple sign that guides my sales philosophy hangs on the door to my office. When the door is closed, you come eyeball-to-eyeball with it. It says, "If you know where you can get us some business, come on in." And that applies to every employee at every level in our company.

My door is always open to anyone who can help improve our sales.

Mackay's Moral: Sales drive our ability to survive and thrive.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or send e-mail to harvey@mackay.com. His column is distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

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