Knowledge Library

Life Of A Salesman

Retail Marketing and Sales

by Cobus Van Graan
MD, Tracer CQM

Arthur Miller's famous play, "Death of a Salesman", made its debut in 1949. It ran for 742 performances and became synonymous with the struggles of a salesman, especially an ageing one who can no longer support his family through his sales efforts and ultimately kills himself to try and claim some insurance money.

David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" showed a team of New York real estate salesmen in a desperate push to close deals in a pressure cooker environment in which the winner earns a Cadillac, the runner-up a set of steak knives and everyone else is fired.

These two works of art - and both are mandatory viewing for anyone involved in sales - show, as if we didn't know, that sales can be a matter of life and death.

Far better to look at life: in this case the life of a new-age salesman set against that of an old-age salesman.

The old-age salesman
Contrary to the title, this is not the kind of salesperson we see in "Glengarry Glen Ross"; rather, it is the salesman who follows a well worn tradition. For ease of reading, I'll stick to the male gender.

This salesman get ups, goes to the office, reads his e-mail and processes its contents. Two hours later, he attends a meeting, tackles internal issues; puts together reports for internal consumption; and then, by 3pm, actually gets to see a client on the way home.

Now, it doesn't matter which sales methodology or process you follow: they all depend on some form of development of a funnel of leads, being fed into a pipeline, with leads being qualified or disqualified and then pursued according to current, future and potential value.

But the actions you choose from this point will determine your overall success.

If you are an old-age salesman, you will be seen to be busy. You will constantly impress all with your time in the office, your speed of response to e-mails, your ability to make important (and unimportant) internal meetings. But it's a myth that a busy salesman is a successful one; you might be busy with the wrong activities. You will always be seen to be doing that which impresses management, but you will almost certainly be missing your numbers.

Problem is, management doesn't know about it early enough to do anything about it. But you're a member of the old school, it's always been done this way, and it always will be, from your perspective.

New-age salesman
At the start of the week, he knows his schedule. He has a four-quadrant grid in front of him (or it's in his head): the left axis reads "Urgent"; the bottom axis reads "Important". Anything that resides in the bottom left-hand quadrant (not Urgent or Important) is disqualified. Anything that is Important (reading e-mail, attending internal meetings, submitting reports) is pushed to one side, for dealing with later. Urgent issues need to be prioritised: and note, urgent issues aren't what you plan; rather, they happen to you and they can overwhelm a day.

This leaves you with the Urgent and Important quadrant, and this is where a salesman's focus must be. What belongs in here? All the actions you must perform to increase your sales. Everything else must be filtered out. As an example, being in a meeting, writing a report or handling customer problems cannot increase sales, but visiting a customer can.

And you need to be ruthless with filtering out the other issues that go together to make up a day.

Either you go and see a client, understand his issues, devise a solution, or you come into the office, and get so busy you don't leave.

Prioritise which people will give you your business and customers will need the most effort. Proactively contact them and prepare your schedule a fortnight in advance. Once you know what your working weeks look like, then you can do your e-mail and fit in your internal meetings.

Start with your important work, plan and implement it, then let your urgent work run around it. If you start with your urgent work, it will consume you, so you never get around to the important work.

Vitally, the new-age salesman seldom has to go to the office; he's empowered with a mobile sales solution, and reads e-mail where he wants to and it's already been categorised. He makes his appointments on the same device, and his office-bound sales support prepares all he needs for his customer visits. His mobile device advises him of key events in his customers' lives, such as birthdays, and he deals as a priority with customers which offer the highest potential. This prevents the age-old malady of being so busy with bottom feeders that the big fish get away.

The new-age salesman may not be as busy as the old-school one, but he will certainly be more productive and profitable.

About Tracer CQM
Tracer CQM is the world's leading organisation in terms of boosting sales effectiveness. The company combines sector-leading sales and customer value insights; new-generation technology; and handheld computers to boost the overall sales process. Salespeople become far more effective and sales managers gain a realtime insight into their activities, allowing for remedial action while it still matters. Critically, Tracer CQM allows an organisation to understand where the future quality of its sales will come from. 80% of salespeople improve their sales dramatically in four months through Tracer CQM, as testified by many clients. Tracer CQM CEO Cobus van Graan has co-authored, with Chris Crozier, "The Invisible Customer", a book available locally and internationally aimed at management who want to understand how to align their organisation's resources and business objectives with the market opportunity, target the right customers, and build new business based on quality relations.

Cobus van Graan,
MD, Tracer CQM,
083 628 3084,

Share The Knowledge
The 9 Belts to Sales Assassin Mastery

Retail Marketing and Sales

The Sales Assassin is the ultimate master of sales passion and discipline, the Sales Assassin Master (aka SAM) of your own destiny; focused on a results-driven willingness to be prepared to control your own destiny.

Share The Knowledge
Tips for running a successful sales team

Retail Marketing and Sales

Any company that wants to run a successful sales team that delivers sustainable results needs to create an environment where employees feel positive, motivated, empowered and confident.

Share The Knowledge
Sales is a numbers game

Retail Marketing and Sales

Telesales staff have one of the toughest assignments in the sales department. They call many people on a daily basis, and more often than not, get abused for their trouble. Why do they do it? Because it works.

Share The Knowledge
Once Beaten, Twice Smart

Retail Marketing and Sales

Achieving a consistent 70% hit rate with the deals you pursue would probably keep you quite happy. Yet a 70% hit rate means losing almost as many deals as you win.

Share The Knowledge
The Infamous 80-20 Rule

Retail Marketing and Sales

Most businesses can identify with the commonly used rule of thumb: "20% of our customers provide 80% of our revenues" or "80% of problems come from 20% of our products." The problem is that the same is true for the sales force, "20% of our salespeople bring in 80% of sales." This however, is the kiss of death for any sales organisation.

Share The Knowledge