(Post 1 in a series)

First, let’s begin with establishing that there are three broad categories of Sales. I would argue that there really are only two that count, but I have seen some folks in that 3rd category really shine. However, it’s unusual.

Retail Sales: This is the category that I don’t really count; most people in this position are very much simply order-takers. A customer comes into a store with a purpose in mind to buy a widget and typically knows how much they cost. Yes, there can be an upsell strategy but often it is lackluster and not very sophisticated. Such as offering a discount pair of cufflinks at the counter when I bought a sweater, really?

*Please Note: There are TREMENDOUS benefits to training your retail sales staff in a retail sales environment in how to engage with clients and dig down to their larger needs. My comment is that I so rarely see management understanding the benefit of this that it is a huge missed opportunity. Leveraging your current client base that is ALREADY coming to your store is beneficial in what I call the “No-Brainer” category. It’s easy to see the impact of increased sales by simply comparing baseline sales for a 90-day period (longer if you have it…I love baseline data sets!) to results after a staged sales training program. A one-off full day training program is a great start but is only part of the solution. Employees have habits and comfort zones so training is the first step, tracking while actively managing progress then following up with smaller training sessions to reinforce earlier concepts. (Trainees can only absorb so much information at once and often are not paying attention to full process. Once they see preliminary results reinforced by the leadership team, THEN they become attentive students) Ownership needs to take a Change Management philosophy towards sales training of existing staff – trainees are like customers, they need to have their emotional and psychological barriers taken into consideration to accomplish long-term success.

Relational Sales: This category of sales tends to involve territory. The designated salesperson running the route stopping in on a certain number of established clients (or this can be an assigned portfolio). I’ve seen this job managed a few different ways as sales reps tend to get complacent as their compensation tends to involve a base plus a percent of orders. Management struggles to motivate this sort of position as it sort of has a ceiling hardwired in two ways. First, once a sales rep hits a comfortable level of income, their natural motivation lessens to call on new clients, prospecting is hard and if you don’t have to do it, well….

The second reason for stagnation is typically the strategic mistake of the ownership. As the client base grows in a particular reps area, the number of customer service calls increases proportionally. This takes the rainmaker out of rotation and relegates them to customer service. Sales is very much a momentum and numbers game. When 40-50% of a person’s day is already committed to current customers. It’s almost impossible to piece together the day making new contacts, presentations, and sales decisions.

-As a side note, I’ve heard a million stories of pharmaceutical sales reps being surprised when their territory was cut in half and their quota increased (and they gave a totally new rep half of my clients!). They neglect to mention that when they started, they received half of someone else’s territory. I suppose I’m not being charitable here but sheesh, this is Pharmacy Management 101. I understand you may not like it but you can’t really claim to be surprised, right?

-As a side-side note, I don’t think this is the best method of motivating your relational sales staff. But hey, when my phone’s not ringing, it’s Big Pharma not calling.

The final category of Sales is what I call Transactional Sales. I think we learn the most about Sales in this category. They are the group of professionals that have to produce or perish. This is also the world where most of the stereotypes are born and are sometimes true. Every type of sale involves a transaction. If we unpack this class of sales, it will unlock so much for all the other areas in the world of Sales.

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