A Great Salesperson Can Sell Anything! Really?? Part 3

By Bernie O’Donnell

There is absolutely no basis for the adage that “great salespeople can sell anything.” Nor is there a basis for the unqualified premise that “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.” It all depends on the degree to which your environment mirrors that in which the salesperson has been most successful.

As a manager with IBM quite a few years back, I had people from two sales divisions on my team. One group sold copiers and office equipment in a tough, price-sensitive, low-loyalty market where decisions tended to be made relatively quickly. The other sold complex, multi-million dollar computer systems with a long sell cycle.

Both teams were highly successful, but if they swapped territories, I would have been out of business.

Forget about finding that great salesperson who can sell anything to anyone. Focus on finding a salesperson who will be great at selling your products and services to your target market using your sales process, all while projecting the image you want to create in the marketplace.

That means exploring Expertise, Traits and Character. The 9 Territory Casting Factors™ will help you assess the Expertise piece of the human puzzle.

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A Great Salesperson Can Sell Anything! Really??

By Bernie O’Donnell

There is absolutely no basis for the adage that “great salespeople can sell anything.” Nor is there a basis for the unqualified premise that “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.” It all depends on the degree to which your environment mirrors that in which the salesperson has been most successful.

We’ve identified 9 Territory Casting Factors™ that are essential to understand if you wish to outmaneuver your competition in the race to increase average sales per rep.

1. Target Market (buyer profile)
2. Relational vs. Transactional (ongoing vs. one-time deal)
3. New vs. Established Customer (hunter vs. builder)
4. Straightforward vs. Technical/Complex Product
5. Tangible Product vs. Intangible Service
6. Long vs. Short Sell Cycle
7. Big Ticket vs. Small Ticket (price)
8. Selling Methodology (consultative vs. product, etc.)
9. Brand Expectation (reputation and image)

Each of these needs to be described for your business. Then relevant questions and scenarios can be developed to see how well the applicant’s experience compares. If you happen to be a salesperson seeking a new position, you should do this exercise so you can identify those opportunities in which you are likely to be most successful.

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Passion with Vision – Howard Schultz

coffee

Who can resist the aroma of a well-roasted coffee bean? Mention Starbucks and everyone knows the distinctive coffee outlets. But the Starbucks Coffee Co. leader was undoubtedly the first to turn that reverie into a billion dollar retail operation.

Schultz was born in 1952 and raised in a Brooklyn, N.Y., housing project. A football scholarship to Northern Michigan University was his ticket out, and after graduating he worked a variety of jobs until becoming manager of U.S. operations for Hammarplast.   Little did everyone know that this young man would start up one of the greatest global brands of our times…

Schultz’s adventure started in 1981 when he traveled from New York to Seattle to check out a popular coffee bean store called Starbucks that had been buying many of the Hammarplast Swedish drip coffeemakers he was selling. There was that great smell, sure, but what caused him to fall in love with the business was the care the Starbucks owners put into choosing and roasting the beans. He also was impressed with the owners’ dedication to educating the public about the wonders of coffee connoisseurship.   It took Schultz a year to convince the Starbucks owners to hire him. When they finally made him director of marketing and operations in 1982, he had another epiphany. This one occurred in Italy, when Schultz took note of the coffee bars that existed on practically every block. He learned that they not only served excellent espresso, they also served as meeting places or public squares; they were a big part of Italy’s societal glue, and there were 200,000 of them in the country.

But back in Seattle, the Starbucks owners resisted Schultz’s plans to serve coffee in the stores, saying they didn’t want to get into the restaurant business. Frustrated, Schultz quit and started his own coffee-bar business, called Il Giornale. It was successful, and a year later Schultz bought Starbucks for $3.8 million.

As the company began to expand rapidly in the ’90s, Schultz always said that the main goal was “to serve a great cup of coffee.” But attached to this goal was a principle: Schultz said he wanted “to build a company with soul.”

This led to a series of practices that were unprecedented in retail. Schultz insisted that all employees working at least 20 hours a week get comprehensive health coverage — including coverage for unmarried spouses. Then he introduced an employee stock-option plan. These moves boosted loyalty and led to extremely low worker turnover, even though employee salaries were fairly low.

Why was Schultz so generous? He remembers his father, who struggled mightily at low-paying jobs with little to show for it when he died.

Schultz has said that his model for expanding Starbucks is McDonald’s, with a few key differences. One is that Starbucks owns most of its stores, while McDonald’s franchises. Schultz doesn’t believe it’s possible to build a strong brand around franchises — although McDonald’s is an obvious exception. Another difference is that Starbucks managed to blossom without national advertising. Finally, Starbucks sells premium products to a fairly upscale, urban clientele.

Starbucks experienced astronomical expansion during the go-go ’90s, going public in 1992. The company has almost 4,000 stores in 25 countries, serving 15 million people a week, and new outlets are opening so fast it has Wall Street’s head spinning. The company seems to be immune to market vagaries as well, gaining 25 percent in stock value last year while the Dow Jones Industrial Index lost 10 percent and the Nasdaq 60 percent.

Schultz indulged his love of basketball by buying the Seattle Supersonics for $250 million. He also handed over CEO chores to Orin Smith so that Schultz can focus on global strategy. He believes that Starbucks is just getting started. “Despite the success that Starbucks has enjoyed in the U.S., we have a less than 6 percent market share of coffee consumption,” Schultz said. “We are in the infant stages of the growth of the business even in America. And now seeing what we’ve done internationally … we are going to shock people in terms of what Starbucks is going to be.”

Asked the secret of his success, Schultz recounts four principles:

“Don’t be threatened by people smarter than you.

Compromise anything but your core values.

Seek to renew yourself even when you are hitting home runs.

And everything matters.”  

Truly inspiring story of an entrepreneur who didn’t give up at anything he believed in.  He had passion for his vision and was determined and persevered to make his dreams a reality.  

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A Great Salesperson Can Sell Anything! Really??

By Bernie O’Donnell

Despite the likelihood that salespeople are the most studied species among mankind, we continue to hire, incent and coach them based upon an erroneous set of beliefs. The result is missed opportunities, low margins, missed quotas, unacceptable service and — the mortal sin — lost customers.

There is absolutely no basis for the adage that “great salespeople can sell anything.” Nor is there a basis for the unqualified premise that “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.” It all depends on the degree to which your environment mirrors that in which the salesperson has been most successful.

As with any job, the personal drivers of sales success are found within expertise, traits and character – the Competency Trio™. In most jobs, Expertise (skills, knowledge and experience) is the easiest to assess, but not so in sales. Personality, which is formed from elements of traits and character, gets much attention as sales managers seek that non-existent magic salesperson that can “sell anything to anyone.”

Unfortunately, this focus on personality and attitude is often at the expense of two factors that are at least as predictive of future success.

The first is mental acuity. How much business do you think gets left on the table because the salesperson doesn’t think as fast as the buyer or decision maker? The second critical consideration is how well your environment maps to the experience of the sales rep.

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