Archive for May, 2008


Sales Management Abundancy, Sales Strategies, Sales With Purpose No Comments »

Vol. XVI

Dear Manager,

As managers, we have all contemplated the amazing differences in the varied abilities of our sales staff. Be it the end of a week, month, or a given year, the variations in performance is nothing short of perplexing. The analysis can go on and on. We review the nature of each territory, the maturity of the salesperson and their account base. We struggle over the need for further training and /or support. How do we raise the level of the lesser achievers to the level of those associates who consistently carry the organization?

Twenty years ago, very early in my sales career, I learned an invaluable lesson about myself and my own ability to perform at a higher level than I had in the past. I have shared this experience with many an associate. How better to develop a thought process and share a concept than by telling a true story about oneself? Similar to sharing with my son the experience of my first kiss, how can anyone feel threatened?

At this early point in my sales career I had been servicing the states of Oregon and Idaho for two years. My industry was, by today’s standards, in its infancy. I had enjoyed a reasonable level of success, and felt I was coming into my own as a salesperson.

I had learned the thrill and exhilaration of a very successful week, and the disappointment when it was something less. I consciously developed a goal or standard for a weekly sales dollar volume I wished to achieve. While I knew my initial objective of $2500 a week in sales would be a challenge, I also knew how hard I was working. Certainly there were limits to what one person could accomplish!

I soon found myself reaching this goal on a fairly consistent basis. I also found myself becoming a bit complacent if the goal was in sight by mid-Thursday afternoon. Once again I would convince myself how hard I was working, and the obvious limitations of one individual’s ability to perform. I became satisfied with my achievements.

Then came a week when, for a number of reasons, I achieved sales in excess of $5000. In all honesty, I was startled! How was this possible? I realized how good it felt, but I can also remember feeling threatened by my previous set of standards and conclusions. Had my recent success been just a fluke? Was this new standard of performance indeed possible? I enjoyed a second and third week, each time reaching what had previously been an unattainable objective.

Not only had my sales increased dramatically, but I also realized that additional hours were not necessarily required to accomplish this new standard. Now that I knew and accepted its attainability, it was only a matter of developing the work habits to accomplish the task. When the weeks ahead produced similar success, I was fine until my first $10,000 week … I have since realized I was trapped in my own expectations.


We have all seen a very similar scenario over and over in our management careers. How can I possibly convince someone there is more opportunity at hand if they are convinced that what they have accomplished is the best there can be?

We are all guilty of coming to conclusions in life. Our standards of what is the best are based on a current frame of reference and our own experience up until now. When one concludes their current standard for the best is in fact the best, they will never fully know what the best truly is. In essence, the best is always yet to be found. To clarify, the best can be found, yet we will never know for sure if we have experienced it.

This concept of “the best” can apply to all aspects of our life. It applies to wine, relationships, and song. It also applies to management, and the personal expectations of those associated with us. We search for it, we enjoy it, we aspire to it, we expect it and yes, at times, we even take it for granted. I have sometimes been persuaded to believe that my performance, or that of those around me, is the best that it can be. With time, it has been proven to me in every instance that this conclusion was premature.

Do not allow yourself to accept that a current situation cannot be improved upon should the need or opportunity arise. This does not mean that your current environment is not good, or that it shouldn’t be appreciated, protected, and held in very high regard. Is there always the opportunity for improvement? Absolutely!

A few years ago, I decided to create a new territory that had been, for various reasons, a neglected portion of an existing territory. Because of the geography of this region, and its limited population, it received very little attention. It had become a distraction for the current representative; it was logistically and financially outside the territory’s area of emphasis.

In the interviewing process, I approached the new territory very objectively, referring to it as a part time situation. I hired a new associate and was pleased with their initial progress. For a couple of reasons, personal in nature, two very capable representatives came and left their position in this region within the first year. I began to second-guess the territory’s dynamics and my initial decision, wondering how this region was going to support a capable sales associate.

Because of the transitions, the potential of the territory had been diminished further than when I had begun the process. I’m sure we have all been there. With some reluctance, I proceeded in hiring a third individual for this region. Once again I was pleased with the selection and, in fact, had followed a hunch and hired an individual without any previous sales experience.

BOOM! I struck gold. Their impact was immediate and nothing short of startling. Within thirty days their sales doubled my most realistic expectations. Within sixty days this associate contacted me suggesting this territory was more suited for two associates, and that she had an acquaintance with sales experience that wished to apply!

This is a recent and true story. Management often sees accomplishments in sales and performance that cannot be explained. At both ends of the scale it’s as if on occasion all of the standards that have been set no longer apply. These dynamics are very real. Learn from them, and maintain high standards for yourself and all those you are associated with.

Management relies on realistic and reasonable objectives. In this case I had allowed myself to lower mine. The “human element” is fundamental to defining all expectations. Unfortunately, this element is a process rather than a science. There are no sure things relating to human expectations, only experience and confidence that your judgment will bring you as close as possible to reality.

Share this, or a similar personal story, with your sales staff. If you have an individual who has reached a plateau, set up a specific challenge and incentive for a defined period of time. Share very specific circumstances and achievements in similar regions. Regardless of the conversation, this individual will first need to believe it can be accomplished. Once they have attained this new objective, only then will they fully develop expectations for themselves.

Personal Regards,

INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2008. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.ORG as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM


Management Rewards, Marketing Glitz No Comments »

Vol. XV

Dear Manager,

All sales driven organizations thrive with the anticipation of continued growth and the rewards that follow. It is the single driving force of all managers and entrepreneurs. When things are going well it is easy to assume that current levels of success and good fortune will sustain themselves, and will increase at a similar or greater rate in the future. We are on a roll in the marketplace. Each decision that is made only seems to enhance our position. In the good times, marketing departments often take more than their share of the credit for the developmental aspect of their presentation. In essence, anyone could sell this line.

In more challenging times, very little is taken for granted. All expenditures are reviewed and must be justified. Each marketing decision is fully analyzed to determine its current value. Management becomes more conservative in their decision making process. The pressures of cost controls become a part of their daily lives. In these instances, it is common for the sales force to be given more than their share of the responsibility. In effect, is anyone working out there?


For all manufacturers to survive in the market place they must develop a product or concept that creates need or value to the consumer. This initial focus and success is generally what establishes most entrepreneurs, for without it they will not survive. It is very easy for a newly successful manufacturer to not fully understand and appreciate what got them there. A false sense of confidence from one product can lead to a perception of automatic future success. As we are all aware, this is rarely true.

A number of years ago I was working with a manufacturer whose central product was one of the most innovative I had worked with. This company was very creative, and was in on the ground floor of the product’s life cycle. With their early success came complacency, and an expansion into categories that had little or no relationship to their initial success.

Not only had they taken their eye off their initial success, leaving it vulnerable, but they had also devoted critical resources to a series of unproved product categories. New product introductions require substantial attention to detail, while providing very limited initial reward. Within a short period of time they were very nearly out of business.

Management realized the dilemma, and re-focused all their efforts on what had brought them their initial success. They committed to being the very best and most aggressive producer in their category. The organization once again took an innovative and creative posture, bringing genuine excitement to the market place. Do not lose touch with your position of strength in the marketplace.

With this re-focus, the company became not only the leader, but also a formidable opponent in their product area. Due to their creativity, the competition was consistently in a “catch up” position. With time, and as resources and staffing became available, they were able to expand into obvious second-generation product categories. Today, they continue to be a leader in their field.

Manufacturers can ill afford to loose the creative edge that established them in their market. Once your product is established, always consider your options for second-generation development. This can often be done in the process of your first generation planning. Second generation implies its obvious ties or relationship to the original product or service. The risks are substantially reduced in this type of expansion, as it is built upon your currently developed position of strength. Hanging on too long to an established product will only bring disappointment … Dinosaurs are born every day!

There are just as many companies that become stale and fail for lack of creativity, as there are companies that fail for over extending resources and by taking their eyes off the cash cow! Those who seem to succeed have a strong sense of awareness of their current position in the marketplace. They are creative and able to invest in obvious second-generation products that bring an ongoing freshness and vitality to their first generation presentation. Timing and resources are the two key elements to any expansion.

Rarely are marketing departments or sales forces solely responsible for the good times, or the not-so-good times. This relationship is like a marriage; fingers can be pointed, but success is only achieved through harmony.


The number of manufacturers that many sales agencies ask their sales associates to represent amazes me. In earlier times, it was very common for a sales associate to represent thirty or more manufacturers in a sales region. In all honesty, they may have needed this number in order to survive. Today it’s a very different marketplace, yet I still see this approach to sales. I always ask myself how any single individual can effectively service the needs of this many “masters.” In analyzing this situation, many of these agencies would determine that in excess of 80% of their sales were generated by less than 50% of their manufacturers. In earlier times there was a sense of security in spreading one’s exposure by representing more manufacturers than could possibly be handled. For the professional sales agency, these times no longer exist.

A sales agency can create security through their own value to their manufacturers. Always become more than a sales vehicle to those you represent. Provide them with timely and candid field level information. Make it painful for them to consider a change in representation, in the good times or the more difficult. By providing increased exposure and becoming one of their most successful agencies, your security is assured. Certainly there are rare instances of loosing a manufacturer regardless of one’s success, but there are many more instances of a missed opportunity for lack of available focus, exposure and resources.

Sales associates have limited time and capacity to fulfill their obligations. How many have walked out of a sales call after a very successful appointment only to feel the frustration of having sold only five of their twenty-five manufacturers? How much of their sales time and ability to bring a focus has been spent on line organization, updating, and difficult conversations with a manufacturer over poor sales, and feeling the guilt of only performing for a few? All of this energy has been expended for a group of manufacturers that may represent less than 20% of their sales! Consider the value of these efforts had they been directed toward the associate’s most valuable manufacturers. We only have a limited amount of mind space; it cannot be wasted.

Today’s market conditions require a very realistic approach to one’s capacity. Sales agencies cannot lose sight of their priority manufacturers. They deserve our devoted and uncluttered attention. None of us has the time to waste in needless conversation with manufacturers who provide limited opportunity or future growth potential for our organizations. In addition, we are doing a disservice to these manufacturers due to our inability to bring a reasonable focus to their presentation. If you cannot realistically support them, encourage them to find someone who can.

As manufacturers or sales agencies, we must keep our eye on the ball. Similar to the fish in the sea, some priorities are whales and some are minnows. Remember, every allocation of time is at the expense of time that could be devoted to a higher priority.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2008. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.ORG as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM