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Salespeople need answers, too, so here are a few

Answers. Salespeople want answers. Here are a few of the answers to questions that I get in the mail — fax, e and snail.

The purpose of this column is twofold: First, to give you a sampling of what people ask, and some answers you can use to succeed. And second, to assure you that you’re not alone in experiencing the weirdness that everyday selling seems to breed.

What do you believe?

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge for salespeople today?

A: There is no single biggest challenge other than the salesperson’s belief system. The way salespeople believe in their company, their product and themselves will determine their success or failure. They seal their own fate by the way they think.

Other challenges can include the competition lowers prices, market growth slows down, poor service to existing customers, cuts to sales force support, cuts to sales force earnings and companies concentrate on shareholder value instead of customer loyalty.

Make yourself the best salesperson ever and your job will be secure — anywhere you choose to work.

Warming up the prospect

Q: Before making a “cold” phone call, should I “warm” up the prospect by sending a letter to introduce myself? Are such mailings a complete waste of time? I recently relocated, so I have to cold call to supplement my networking contacts.

A: If the letter is self-serving, don’t send it. If the letter is syrupy, don’t send it.

If the letter asks a question that could potentially gain engagement, then that could potentially make the customer interested in more than you have to say. Send it.

Training a new sales rep

Q: We are about to hire two new salespeople for our janitorial company. I need a good, specific, detailed plan on how to get them started. If we start them in the field cold calling, should we assign an area to “blitz” or should we assign a market, or both?

A: I’m always leery of a new salesperson working with an existing salesperson, especially if the first week of training is not dynamic. What typically will happen is this:

The experienced rep will say to the new person, “Forget that training, let me tell you how things really work around here.” Now everything you’ve done up to that point is wasted.

I would reverse the process.

I would do a minimal orientation, go directly into the field, make sales calls in the morning, and clean bathrooms in the afternoon. That hands-on experience will make the sales training much more understandable and much more transferable.

How long will it take?

Q: What is the average length of the sales cycle when selling IT services to Fortune 500 companies?

A: It depends. Here’s the formula: The lower down the totem pole you start, the longer the sales cycle. It can range anywhere from two years if you start with an IT manager, down to one minute if you start with the CEO. Your choice.

Compensation: commission, base, what?

Q: How do you compensate sales reps on a commission basis? Percentage, number sold? Do you pay them a base salary, provide vehicles?

A: There are 40 million businesses in America and 40 million different compensation plans for salespeople. The first thing you have to do is figure out what you can afford to pay them. That’s based on a combination of the profitability of your product and the cost of obtaining a sale.

The best thing to do is look at your industry and find out what some of your peers are doing in other markets. Check with your trade association, it often publishes those figures.

GitBit: Want more answers? Go to www.gitomer.com — register if you’re a first time user — and enter ANSWERS in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail


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