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Artists: Key to Next Generation of Sales Personnel

During one of my recent sales training classes working with “starving artists” I had a chance to sit back and enjoy a tapestry of creativity, passion, and intensity not present in many groups. The eclectic underpinnings of this assortment of highly skilled artisans, devoid of “self-sales knowledge,” made me realize that I was sitting in the presence of some of the greatest sales people I had ever met. The problem, many of them didn’t know it.

Hire For PassionSimilar Process to Sales

While listening to the brainstorming conversations during class exercises, I heard true sparks of genius intermixed with uncertainty and doubt followed by affirmation of resolve to move forward successfully. Curiously, this is the same cognitive theme inherent in a typical sales process (present solutions to potential problems, try them on for size, resolve uncertainty, and try again). The conversations became more impassioned and robust leaving me awed by the spectacle. Imagine standing next to a 30 foot wide flow of hot lava… get the picture.

Dedication to Their Craft

Artists, by nature, are filled with desire and ability to change the world around them with one stroke of their brush, pen, or tool. They are completely committed to a final product and sacrifice greatly to achieve desired results. Even in the face of negative reviews, the purist will proudly stand by his work and continue to show with impunity. I found myself jealous of their innate abilities and imagined how a true artisan could become a sales guru.

Combination of Traits

Just like an artist great sales people hone their craft daily and work to realize the perfect expression of their effort, committing 100% and sacrificing everything if need be. Each one presents an individualistic view of their product to encourage the world around them to grasp opportunity and create an emotional union. Once union is made and product delivered, the sales person/artist begins the process all over again.

Keep an Open Mind

How often people misread the intensity and passion of artists as being out of touch. In reality, they are masters at bringing out life’s subtle nuances through application of texture, color, and form.  Maybe an old sales dog like me should look to hire the next generation of sales giants from the hardworking craftsmen amid piles of clay, dripping cans of paint, and scattered drawings sequestered in art studios. Just a thought…

What Do You Mean I Can’t Leave a Message? Are You Kidding Me!

Customer Service Relationship Chart

Figure 1

Welcome to the world of customer service in small business. Filled with lackluster performance, lack of tools, limited budgets, weak tracking, poor training, and a ton of excuses. Isn’t nice to call a small business inquiring about their “stuff” only to be shoved into voice mail hell, or worse, stuck on the phone with a temp worker who doesn’t know much or care? No wonder businesses fail in large numbers.

The Real Situation

It’s not about determination or desire to foster better customer experience. Business owners and their staff are filled with good intentions but lack execution. Regardless of size companies are facing a dilemma when it comes to servicing their customers. Figure 1 shows the relationship between customer  experience and general factors that may affect it. Note that in all categories desire is the foundation. People want great service whether the product is $1 or $1 Million. Most of the time expectations are not met and the buying experience is “settled” upon. Consumers have to take for granted that poor service may go hand-in-hand with lessening quality/price. The current market demonstrates this concept by a growing glut of big box stores, discount warehouses, specials, rebates, and automatic sales. Each one is designed to purchase customers by paying through promotions. Doesn’t anyone wonder why a company doesn’t lower their retail price permanently and forget the headache of discounting and constant sales promotion?

Components of Service

Before getting into competitive pricing and value, refer back to Figure 1 to explore the general relationships between desire and experience. Buyers approach sales transactions with themselves in mind and sales personnel are supposed to match their desire with product benefits. Bingo, Sale! Unfortunately that doesn’t happen nearly enough in small business. The reasons are many but primarily lack of training and employee involvement. Business owners are entirely at fault. Yes, it’s true! With no investment in training and building culture, what business could manage their customers effectively? None. Even if buyers choke down poor quality and “volume” discounts for substandard “necessary” products, eventually something has to give. The normal result…. no more revenue. You can only “buy” customers for so long before they become fed up.

The Answer is Value

Why does anyone buy a $100,000 sports car instead of a moped? Or, why does anyone by organic instead of bulk? The answer is perceived value. The real question should center on how can a business owner build a strong link between desire and purchasing. The first step is employee training and building a competitive price structure from both costs AND market evaluation.Customer Experience Should be Posiitive There is a frightening amount of small businesses that build their product mix only on cost and limited research. They neglect market evaluation, leveraging customer service, and their biggest asset… themselves. It doesn’t matter  if a business is a sole proprietorship or a mid-sized corporation; value comes from the combination of human capital, operational excellence, and market knowledge. Success is demonstrated in higher revenues, better “reputation”, and a stronger bottom line.

So take a hard look at your business model and value of your product/service; then decide if taking the message and returning the call is better than letting it go to voice mail.


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