Sales and salesmanship

Aug. 3, 2012
What good does it do you to struggle along picking up a little work here and there when a sound sales program could bring in more work than you could do? Starting a sales program doesn’t have to be a large investment, but it can certainly pay large dividends.

We’ve done columns on markets, marketing and market share as well as presentation by both you and your employees. It all comes down to one thing: if you are in business, you are in business to make money. This is not a concept that needs an explanation; it simply is what it is.

There is just no other way to explain why a person (or persons) would choose to put everything that they own or have on the line to work 16 or 18 hour days, six or seven days a week for months (if not years) on end. You give up your free time; strain familial bonds; incur debt that sometimes seem so crushing you cannot see how you’ll ever repay it; scramble for work; do the work; bid, bid, bid and bid some more, all for the elusive goal of seeing your efforts produce a successful business. This business would, ostensibly, be capable of producing enough income to pay your bills, taxes, suppliers, insurances, and employee’s (assuming you have some) wages and leave enough behind to repay you for your effort. Then maybe, just maybe, put enough away for maintenance and vehicle repairs that always pop up at exactly the wrong time, or the rainy days you know will come around. If you’re really lucky, good or both, the cycle will keep going and you’ll have a successful business.

At some point, it becomes obvious that you will need to sell your services to the public. This usually comes about sooner rather than later and takes the form of prospecting for new business to keep the fires of commerce fed. If you’re a service oriented operation, you’ll probably look into advertising at a local level at first like printing flyers and stuffing mailboxes (old school, I know, but effective nonetheless) or some other form of print media (radio ads are spendy to say the least).  If new residential or commercial construction and/or remodel is your area of expertise, you’ll need a different, more personal approach. You’ll need to sell yourself and your company face to face to the prospective clients.

Of sales and salesmen

Some people are born salesman, others become so by necessity or accident. Still others need help of the outside kind. Let us say that Businessman A is a good journeyman who interacts with people well. He can carry a conversation and is well enough versed in his business and the accompanying products that he can sell his company to a new client. Whether or not the sale involves a new faucet, water heater, A/C unit, bath or kitchen remodel or his ability to perform on a large commercial project, doesn’t matter, Businessman A can sell it to the customer. The more he sells, the better his chances of being successful. So he has become not only the means of production, but the sales force as well.

Businessman B, on the other hand, is an outstanding journeyman too, but doesn’t do well with people. Either he is shy, lacks self-confidence, has a speech impediment (actually a true story) or just plain doesn’t like to sell. For whatever reason Businessman B needs a different approach to expanding his business. Word-of-mouth is great, but only goes so far. Getting the word out especially in today’s interconnected world, means selling your company at the top of your lungs.

What is Businessman B’s answer? If he can’t or won’t sell, get someone who can. Hiring a professional salesman, or training an employee to sell is the most expedient way to get the business you want and need. What good does it do you to struggle along picking up a little work here and there when a sound sales program could bring in more work than you could do? Starting a sales program doesn’t have to be a large investment, but it can certainly pay large dividends.

There are thousands of articles and books available on sales and selling. They encompass everything in the world that has been or could be bought and sold, and the techniques for being successful at selling. It is entirely possible that many are better at marketing their ideas for selling then actually selling anything, but that isn’t the point. They all come down to ratios. The ratio of sales leads to calls to presentations to closings. It looks something like this:

X number of sales leads = Y number of sales calls = Z number of presentations, which equals money (the number of closed sales).

The ratio numbers vary according to the success of the salesman, with the goal of reducing the numbers down to a 1:1 conclusion (i.e. one sales lead, one call, one presentation, one closing). The entire exercise is, of course to bring more business to you. Success at any level means success at all levels in this case. When it is your business on the line, you owe it to yourself to make the best effort you can to keep it alive and thriving. Good salesmanship and good business sense spell success.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born author is a retired third generation master plumber. He founded Sunflower Plumbing & Heating in Shirley, N.Y., in 1975 and A Professional Commercial Plumbing Inc. in Phoenix in 1980. He holds residential, commercial, industrial and solar plumbing licenses and is certified in welding, clean rooms, polypropylene gas fusion and medical gas piping. He can be reached at[email protected].

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