By: Linc York, Induron Sales Representative
March 2, 2009 was my first day on the job for Induron Protective Coatings. Little did I know just how good it would be to be a part of the Induron team. Of my 46-year career, my time with Induron has been the most enjoyable and professionally satisfying.
Before my 66th birthday this year, Davies emailed me an article titled “The Definitions of a Good Sales Rep” by Bill Farquharson and asked me for my thoughts. As I transition into retirement, I wanted to leave my friends and co-workers at Induron with a few tips on becoming a successful sales rep. Many of you know me well enough to recognize some of these, but I hope they will reveal concepts to improve your courage and sales.
- Make the initial call. Every journey begins with the first step. In sales, that means making the initial call. My first year in sales was under the tutelage of a very wise and successful salesman. He taught me many things and two of them are relevant here. First, never drive past business. How many times have we all driven past that smokestack or big manufacturer and been in too big of a hurry or just not motivated enough to make the call? Second, always make an excuse to stop. It would take a small book to list the excuses I’ve made NOT to stop—shame on me! However, there have been many times when I did stop. Some of my stops were rewarding, and some even resulted in a significant sale and a long-term customer. A wise man once said, “First things first, second things not at all.” Lots of folks have looked questionably at my 30+ year-old day-timer. I write everything I want and need to do in there. When the “first” thing is done, I draw a line through it. Then, the next most important thing becomes first priority. At the end of the week, I look back at every page and carry over anything that doesn’t have a line through it. A day-timer may not suit your style, but use a system that works for you and use it EVERY day.
- Impress the customer. Receiving complements like, “I wish my salespeople were as diligent as you” or “I like how you used a variety of methods and messages to get through to me” prove that you’ve successfully impressed the customer. I can’t think of anything more flattering than being offered a position by a customer, but how do you handle the opportunity? Though there are exceptions, chances are you weren’t made to be a good widget salesman even though you are a terrific coatings salesman.
- Build lasting relationships with customers. Get to know every person in the account to the point that you may never need to prospect again. When customers leave one company to work for another, you will be brought into new companies and new opportunities. That portrayal should be your goal for all of your good customers. Build a customer relationship that is earned and respected. Your painting contractors should respect you enough that your business is a two-way street. You bring them leads and they reciprocate. Engineers and owners are much the same. If you’ve earned their trust, ask for referrals.
- Provide informative input. If you’ve done a good job as a salesperson, clients begin calling YOU for input and recommendations. Can you imagine what our competition would do to have our seat at that table? Davies touts that Induron is a nimble company. Our R&D team has outstanding product development capabilities and routinely pulls rabbits out of their hats. If you can justify a new product or a tweak to an existing product that provides a solution to a customer, they can deliver it for you.
- Bring existing clients new ideas. Another wise man said, “Don’t ever waste your customer’s time.” I cherished every new product because it gave me another opportunity to get in front of my customer with a legitimate and exciting solution to a problem. If it’s not a new product, then maybe it is something you learned at an Induron sales meeting. In any event, do something to keep your customer relationship fresh and meaningful. Offer a lunch and learn or demonstrate one of our products. Always be there to teach, correct and answer questions.
- Become an expert in customers’ industries. When you’re aware of a customer’s problems, it’s easier to offer an effective solution. It may be part of being a male, but I always wanted to know the names of the equipment, what it does and the process in general. Being knowledgeable is a good quality for your customer to recognize in you, and it is so rewarding to see the look on the face of a new prospect when you can talk their talk—instant credibility!
- Prove your value. I’ve always thought of that as the three-year milestone. The first three years in your territory are spent behind the wheel of your car and in front of the customer. After that, you should have proved your value and developed trusting relationships that result in referrals. In business, there are few things that make the sale easier and sweeter. When your chief source of new business becomes referrals, you’re doing this right.
- Learn from your team. This may be a little corny, but a few years ago I purchased my first iPhone just before a Birmingham meeting. I was way out of my comfort zone and couldn’t wait to have Ben do a show and tell. I could have read the owner’s manual, but instead I leaned on Ben’s expertise. I was happy, happy, happy! Induron’s culture is to be admired. I think I can say that we all respect each other, learn from each other and care about each other. That’s a rare attribute in this day. Cherish it and make use of it. Network and build on it because the other “team” won’t. I was taught a definition of how to be successful many years ago, and it is still very true today: “Surround yourself with highly intelligent people who are willing and able to contribute to your success.” There’s not a single weak link among us. Induron strong!
I wish nothing but the best for you, your families and the terrific company we call Induron! “Love your project, protect it with Induron.”