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Archive for January, 2009

Profitable Pockets

I’m wrapping up my trip this week in Philadelphia and I am finding a consistent theme – company revenues are down but there are specific niches, or pockets that each company has maintained.  Some have even grown in these areas.  Businesses will survive this economy by leveraging their strong markets (maybe not their core markets).

I have consistently heard that medical, aerospace and some consumer electronics markets are still relatively strong.  Salespeople should be in close contact with their customers right now to identify these pockets and leverage them in their sales activities.  Failure to take this initiative could be a truly career-limiting move.

Another consistent theme I have encountered this week is the need for efficiency.  Companies are fiscally tight right now, but they are looking for opportunities to improve their product or service offering.  Whatever product or service you sell, I would recommend positioning it as a way to improve an existing process, service, product, etc.  This approach still sells in this economy.  Companies are aware of cost reduction right now even if it requires an initial investment.  I would strongly recommend this approach to any salesperson right now, but make sure they are able to accurately illustrate the savings.  No marketing spin here – real world examples and believable figures.

Those are just a couple of items I have noticed this week on the East coast.  Business is still occurring so salespeople need to keep turning over those rocks…deals are out there.

The Value Of The Visit

One thing I enjoy about meeting with customers in person is that you get a better sense of who they are, what their office environment is like, how they interact with coworkers, etc.  As a salesperson, this information is invaluable and can only be gathered through a meeting.

For instance, I met with one customer yesterday who I thought was somewhat dry from email and phone call interactions.  I was completely wrong – he is quite the comedian and prankster.  He also knows all of the people who work on the floor.  Observing his interactions with them and seeing where his office is (cube right on the floor) told me volumes about him.

And to boot, he described Branson, MO to me at lunch this way, “Imagine Jurassic Park with country music.”

Some things just have to be experienced.

The Incredible Pitch

I’m traveling for business this week (I’m in Tewksbury, MA as I type) and heard a sales discussion in the lobby this morning.  One salesperson was working hard to convince 2 others about, well, I’m not sure the exact pitch, but it did involve purchasing produce.  Hear is what caught my ear during the salesperson’s pitch:

Nobody knows more about tangerines than Jim…

Absolutes = unbelievable.  Absolutes like  always, never, nobody, etc. trigger an effect in prospects to disprove or doubt it especially if they are not familiar with the absolute being stated.  Jim may know more than anyone else, but I am skeptical.  Instantly I start wondering about who would know more than Jim.  A scientist?  A botanist? A geneticist?  Instead of believing in Jim’s knowledge I start trying to disprove it in my head.

Perhaps this is a subtle point, but it is one that I notice when trying to build credibility with a prospect.  I would rather hear something to the effect of “Jim has forgotten more about tangerines than most people have learned.”  Ok, now stop, I know the “tangerine” part makes it somewhat amusing, but the structure is my point.  It is a strong statement that doesn’t challenge the listener.  It is humorous which makes it disarming and it is not absolute since it uses “most.”

Now off I go to refill my coffee and eavesdrop on more sales pitches.

A Filtering Economy

This economy is tough for everyone but especially for salespeople.  Money is tight, companies are delaying decisions and jobs are on the line.  Yet, through it all sales must continue…and they do.

One, well, macabre thought through this time is that this economy is a tool that separates the order takers from the closers.  If you think about it, the salespeople who have rested on a strong territory, one large customer or golden leads are now having to face a prospecting situation.  For some this is a nightmare of slasher movie proportions.

I have seen a company’s perception of a “strong” salesperson change dramatically during similar economic times.  This downturn is no exception.  You may find that some of your strongest, most-skilled salespeople are not necessarily the ones at the very top of your revenue spreadsheet.

This is a good time to take an inventory of your current team and assess their strengths and weaknesses.  I would even go so far as to suggest assessments, but only if delivered in the right manner.  In this economy, assessments to salespeople spell trouble in their world.  If used correctly, they can provide the sales manager with a path for getting the most out of his or her team.

They May Not Be High Tech

Honestly, I read this line on the “about us” page of an engineering company’s website:

All information and engineering is conducted using networked personal computer workstations.

Do you think that even warrants a single line on a website?  The context of the sentence was to support their cutting-edge approach.  As a candidate, I would have some serious concerns after reading that sentence.

Job Ad – Requires Skin Lotion

Another example of proof-reading being foolishly replaced by an automated spell check:

Lead the development, scheduling and distribution of market/sales client tough points (new product launches, enhancement announcements, holiday cards, etc.)

That is from an employment ad that, despite using lots of words, does not identify the industry beyond – manufacturing.  Maybe Mickey Rourke will apply.

10 Cold Calling Nuisances

I hate to admit it, but I’m a fan of Jeff Foxworthy and his, “You know you’re a redneck if….”  Eyes on Sales has an article by Drew Stevens that puts a spin to Jeff’s famous cliche, “You might be a cold calling nuisance if…”  Drew has 10 quick tips that are great reminders that you should review before making a cold call.  So here goes, you may be a nuisance if . . .

  1. You pick up the telephone and have no idea who you are calling.
  2. After hello you begin with chitchat. Speak with conviction and have a purpose for every call.
  3. You call and have conversations with gatekeepers. Call only decision makers. Stop wasting time with gatekeepers that are paid to detain you. Research the person you want to reach before you pick up the phone.
  4. You do not know anything about the business or industry you call.
  5. Start your call with information about your company. Begin your call with a purpose and a value proposition. If you cannot articulate the value to the recipient do not make the call.
  6. Begin your calls with inane questions.
  7. Operate each call without a clear purpose. Use a checklist for each call and have a path. A call should have a beginning, middle and an end.
  8. Get over the myth that you are calling to sell something. NO YOU ARE NOT. You are simply calling for an introduction and to gain an appointment, any other reason is a mistake on your part.
  9. You fear rejection. Get over it. Lead Generation whether you conduct it for your business or other complex organization is about the rejection business. In order to be successful get out of your comfort zone and deal with it.
  10. Commence from call to call. I know of an organization that requires representatives make over 50 calls per day. This is unrealistic. What should be measured is not the call volume but the calls that lead to appointments. Success should be measured by quality over quantity.

Travel Time

This economy has caused many companies to limit travel and rightly so.  Discretionary travel is restricted.  However, salespeople still need to get on the road and visit customers even if it is just across town.  National and international travel is still needed too.

The first, obvious reason is true no matter what the economy – there is still business to be had out there.  I think the drumbeat of negativity from the media gets many people to think outside of the right context.  The economy, slow as it is, continues to move.  Deals are being closed and products/services are being purchased.  There is no option to close down the country and everyone sit at home and commiserate with each other.

Second, there is a positive effect in traveling to see customers – you show that your company is active, alive and seeking those deals that are out there.  I have an issue with those companies who cut back, hunker down and try to wait out the storm.  An overemphasis on that approach usually leads to self-fulfilling prophesies.

I would recommend cutting back on the non-revenue generating trips (e.g. engineers traveling to trade shows) and redirect you travel budget to sales.  Have the salespeople get out there and visit customers and meet new prospects.  You might even find this economy to be a good time to grab market share while your fearful competitors fall to the wayside.

Best And Worst Jobs For 2009

I was disappointed when I didn’t see salesperson on the list of best jobs for 2009 at Recruiting Trends, but at least it wasn’t on the list of top 10 worst jobs!  Here is the list of top 10 best & worst jobs:


  1. Mathematician
  2. Actuary
  3. Statistician
  4. Biologist
  5. Software Engineer
  6. Computer Systems Analyst
  7. Historian
  8. Sociologist
  9. Industrial Designer
  10. Accountant


  1. Lumberjack
  2. Dairy Farmer
  3. Taxi Driver
  4. Seaman
  5. Emergency Medical Technician
  6. Roofer
  7. Garbage Collector
  8. Welder
  9. Roustabout
  10. Ironworker

Derrick adds:  I just encountered a position for the worst list – trade show salesperson.  I heard a call yesterday that was quickly dismissed by the decision maker.  I have to imagine this is a difficult time to sell trade show exhibiting.

Where The Jobs Aren’t

When the economy is in a downturn, most people wonder when will it bottom out.  I’m not sure if we have bottomed yet or not, but Yahoo has a quick story listing the 5 cities that will lose the most jobs this year (speculative, of course):

The New York area is expected to lose 181,000 jobs in 2009, the report said. Consulting company IHS Global Insight produced the report for the group.

The Los Angeles area is expected to see 164,000 lost jobs, in part because of the huge drop in home prices that has punctured the California economy.

After New York and Los Angeles, the Miami area is expected to see the greatest loss, with a decline of 85,000 jobs. Chicago and the surrounding area are next, with losses projected at 80,000.

Again, this is speculation.  One thing that catches my eye – this report is based on number of jobs lost.  Well, obviously New York and LA have the greatest chance of leading the pack.  They are the largest cities in the US.  I would prefer to see the numbers reported as the unemployment rate for each city.  That would provide a better read on each local economy.

Here is the ray of hope – 5 cities expecting an increase in employment:

Ithaca, N.Y.; Fairbanks, Alaska; and St. George, Utah, are among the handful of the nation’s 363 metropolitan areas expected to see employment remain flat or increase slightly.

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