Archive for August, 2008


Sales Management Abundancy, Sales With Purpose No Comments »


Dear Manager,

All sales associates face that first solo day in the field. Be it the very first sales position, or one of many, the dynamics of beginning have challenged us all. There are many things to absorb, from working with new management, manufacturers and customers, to dealing with our own and others’ expectations. Next comes the task of processing and using this new information in a way that is consistent with our personal style. All this, in the hopes of being as effective as possible!

Dedication and patience are essential to early success. I have often asked a new associate to put up blinders for the first 120 days. During this critical time, negative influences from internal and external sources can distract, disturb and derail the initial enthusiasm and confidence in one’s objective. While it is human nature to form opinions, how can anyone effectively evaluate a new career after two weeks or even two months? One hundred twenty days of absolute dedication is a minimal investment in the grand scope of one’s career.

Can anyone develop the foundation, experience and knowledge required for a quality decision without this initial commitment? It cannot be done. Those who allow the negatives to affect them need only look as far as their own attitude for proper evaluation of their initial success.

A commitment to the reality of this process is essential. Acceptance of the challenge and a positive outlook will ease the early frustrations. Initial effectiveness for a new sales associate will not begin for ninety to one hundred twenty days, and it is only in the second year that they can effectively and strategically compete with an experienced associate. Once again, it is human nature to not want to accept this reality.

There is a faster track to success that only a small percentage of sales people seem to embrace. As I have suggested, our personal attitude plays a major role in our ability to succeed.

There is a single quality that I have determined always makes the difference. I can best describe it as a quiet confidence; a knowing approach and attitude towards the task at hand. In two very simple words, it is the difference between IF and WHEN. The word IF implies a wait and see attitude and an acceptance of those factors that may be in control of their ability to succeed. The alternative is WHEN, and this style is very different. With every fiber of their spirit, a WHEN person believes they will find success. They understand the dynamics of their position and set their sights in a very clear direction: straight ahead. They are not burdened by IF, as they have too much to accomplish within their own objectives and abilities. They have refused to put themselves in a position that requires them to even consider IF. In essence, they have accepted full responsibility for their ultimate success.


Patience is also critical to success. We all want the feeling of confidence that we enjoyed with former achievements. This type of confidence can only be earned. It comes from the reality of weeks and months of experience. One must believe in this process. Unreasonable expectations, at any level, can only lead to frustration and disappointment. This is always at the expense of productive time in the field.

Those who influence one’s daily life must also be dedicated and supportive of their ultimate success. All too often, a negative spouse or family member can introduce the IFs, diminishing their opportunity for initial success. At the very least, these individuals should show confidence in their partner’s abilities and their decision to choose and pursue their given career.

While many factors can influence the success of a salesperson, the largest single factor is, by far, the quality, dedication and pure effort of the person themselves. A salesperson is, in most cases, on his or her own. We can all relate to the fact that some influences are outside our control. Yet in most cases, these factors impact less than 25% of our true ability to succeed. How often have you spoken with a sales person who has resigned themselves to the overstated impact of these outside influences? Have you wondered how many actual sales calls were made that day?

I often think of a sales call I made a number of years ago. Having arrived for my appointment a bit early, I had the opportunity to see another salesperson during his presentation. From my perspective he seemed hopelessly ill-prepared. His catalogs were disorganized (if even available), there was little focus to his presentation, and he had difficulty finding his pen.

Months later, I ran into this individual again. I can remember wondering how he could survive in what I believed to be a very challenging, competitive market place. The answer soon became very clear: he showed up. While I had often heard of “missing salespersons” that had not been seen in months, this individual was consistent and reliable.

There are always individuals who literally and figuratively never show up in life. Often, their focus is on the outside factors that have obvious control over their lives and their ability to succeed. In fact, they may be more than willing to spend your afternoon telling you, in detail, all about it.

What these individuals fail to realize is that there is an abundance for everyone, if you are willing to make the effort and show up. There is a fair share awaiting all of us, simply for the taking. If an individual makes the consistent effort, they will get their share. If an individual is organized, well prepared, creative and shows consistent effort, they will get their share and a large share from those who are not showing up! This is the only true secret to sales.

A well-seasoned sales person accepts the fact that there are going to be very good days and days that, shall we say, are much less than good days! Years ago, I can remember being excited, if not proud, about my well-scheduled day. As the day unfolded, my schedule unraveled. At each of my three morning appointments I was greeted by a very apologetic buyer and a cancellation. I have to admit that by noon I began looking over my shoulder, half expecting a piano to fall on me. The afternoon was as disappointing as the morning. It was only after I had completed a rather desperate search for a rest room and found its door permanently locked that I stood at the end of the hall and began to laugh. This is what all sales people must endure on occasion. It is, according to a famous scholar, part of the deal.

What was even more memorable about this particular day was that the very next day was one of my most successful at that point in my sales career. This, too, is part of the deal. Being at your best with the proper mental attitude requires an acceptance of the deal. Our attitudes can be affected in both a positive and negative manner based on the ebb and flow of the success in our days and weeks. The professional sales person is able to adjust this attitude to insure the most positive results, regardless of their most recent sales encounter. How often in sales is a much larger sale lost because we were not in our most productive and receptive frame of mind?

Intangible aspects play a much larger role than the tangibles we most often rely on in evaluating performance. As managers, getting back to the basics of teaching dedication, consistent effort and a genuine trust in the process can often have the largest impact on our organizations.

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 Strategies, Sales Management Abundancy No Comments »

Vol. XXI

Dear Manager,

One of the most difficult aspects of management is objectively reviewing your sales regions. Without the luxury of day-to-day personal involvement in each territory you must rely on intuition, comparative sales analyses, and instinct. When is it time to reward a salesperson’s efforts by expanding their territory, and when has a territory matured to a level that it can no longer effectively be serviced by one associate?

These are emotionally charged issues for any organization. Only in very rare circumstances can you reduce a territory and continue to maintain an effective and productive relationship with the sales associate involved. Even less likely to occur is a scenario in which a sales associate will suggest to you that an additional associate be added to their region because they can no longer adequately service it alone.

I believe it is critical in the very early stages of your working relationships to establish fundamental expectations and responsibilities for your sales regions. The first fundamental is the assumption that all the manufacturers you represent anticipate, and have the right to expect, growth in your sales regions. All manufacturers develop their organizations with a single objective: growth. With the absence of growth, neither the manufacturer nor the sales force will survive.

The second fundamental is the assurance to all associates that as long as a territory continues to grow at a level consistent with the needs of your manufacturers and those of their peers, you would never consider a change or reduction in their territory. This is a very strong statement, and it should be. Why would an organization initiate change, risk valuable relationships, and send the signal to others that there is a penalty for strong performance?

Managers have the responsibility to meet not only the needs of individual territories, but also those of the whole. This third fundamental is the reality that allowing an individual territory to languish brings risk to those territories that have shown strong performance. How would an individual in a strong territory reflect on my performance as their manager if they were to lose a valued manufacturer because I failed to respond to the poor sales performance of another sales region? There are no limits to the number of other organizations more than willing to prove they could out-perform our organization.

Sooner or later, many territories will grow to the point where one individual can no longer effectively meet the needs of their customers and manufacturers. As much as we like to deny it, no matter how talented we are or how effective we are with our time, we must accept our human limitations. This in no way reflects on our ability; it is simply a reflection of our reality.

In 1980 I reached one of these moments of truth. While covering two states for a group of manufacturers, it became increasingly evident that I could no longer service my customers at a level consistent with their needs. There was simply not enough time, and I felt that I was always two to three weeks behind schedule. With my days “maxxed,” I was inclined to cut corners, serviced only the larger customers and forgot altogether about the option of new account development. Obviously, I couldn’t properly service the ones I had!

There are numerous options to assist your mature sales regions in continuing to grow and meet the needs of the organization. The key factor is to reward your associates a first, second and third (if necessary) opportunity to continue to grow their region. One of the first steps is to maximize the hours actually spent in customer presentations, as there are a very limited number of effective hours in front of our customers.

Suggest to your associates the option of hiring a part-time assistant to handle customer service, appointment scheduling, order follow up and problem solving. There are qualified individuals willing to work a few hours in an associate’s office, or out of their own home, in this capacity.

Not only can an assistant increase an associate’s productivity in the field, but also be a tremendous source of relief for a busy sales executive. Scheduling and problem solving are a very essential, yet time consuming aspect of a sales career. It is the time for account development and pure selling that truly impact our sales region’s ability to succeed.

Another approach to expanding the potential of a territory is by an individual, or group of associates combining their resources to hire a field sales assistant or service person. Many customers no longer require the hands-on, routine support provided by a sales professional. Why not use a well-informed sales or service assistant to establish consistent reorder cycles? A strong sales professional knows what their time is worth. With additional time in the field devoted to account development and selling (generating income!), a service assistant can effectively and efficiently meet a sales region’s needs for continued expansion.

It is critical to ask your associates to continue to meet the needs of their customers, manufacturers and the organization. No one enjoys the process of giving something up or taking something away; this should only be considered as a last resort. Give your associates options that will effectively meet your and their responsibilities. Expect them to step up to the challenge. If they choose not to, they must certainly be willing to accept the alternative.

The obvious time for management to make territorial adjustments is when a territory is vacant. At this time there are no emotional ties, or legitimate (or perceived) responsibilities to impact your decision. When a territory becomes vacant, it is your single opportunity to review its needs objectively. All options and innovations are now available to you.

Some questions to ask yourself may include:

What are the current market conditions in this region?
• Was the previous associate adequately compensated for their performance?
• Is the current line presentation on an upward or downward curve?
• Will this territory effectively support more than one associate?
• Is there the option of adding additional opportunity to the region?

Look at the region based on the needs of today. The reasons behind a very good decision made years ago often no longer exist, while what may have been a very poor decision at the time continues to exist! What changes would you make if the slate were clean? This is a very valuable thought process, even though you may never have the opportunity to bring it to implementation.

Just as there are market conditions that warrant territory division, there are times that warrant existing territory expansion. Do each of your sales regions have the legitimate capacity to provide a reasonable income for their associates? If not, is this a direct reflection on the capacity of the sales region, or the capacity of the individual? Does the opportunity exist to both challenge and reward a sales individual’s efforts, strengthening their position into the future?

Formulate current and long-term objectives for each of your sales regions and discuss these plans with your associates. Establish an understanding of the region’s requirements prior to a time of concern when emotions are calm. Be creative. Offer options. Re-think your current territory divisions or line packages as market conditions change. Territory management and its many ensuing decisions “define” our organization and us, individually, as managers.

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