Lessons learned: A few minutes makes a big difference

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April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Tom Jennings


When asked to compare the difference in performance characteristics between a top producing sales professional and an average performer, I always respond that a common trait professionals exhibit is they are willing to invest an extra few minutes per day toward their goal of being successful. By this I mean the minutes they are willing to prepare prior to their sales shift beginning.

Ask yourself if the following scenario sounds vaguely familiar: one minute before he has to be at work, the low-performing salesperson comes gliding through the front door with his breakfast in one hand and his cell phone in the other. He appears as if he has been out of bed for about 10 minutes. His hair is still damp, his tie is draped over his shoulder and his shirt tail is untucked. His rationale is he doesn’t need to be dressed up yet. He’ll have time to finish getting ready when he gets to work. He proceeds to drape his coat on the back of his chair, drop his car keys on the desktop and announces, “I’m here.”

While this may seem exaggerated to some, I have witnessed similar behavior far too many times. The sad reality is those who are only willing to give such marginal efforts are too often allowed to get by with such non-professional performance. Even if he is not concerned about his income-retarding behavior, his manager should be.

Recently, a dealer asked me for suggestions regarding a salesman who was habitually late nearly every morning. When I inquired how long he had been employed, I was told 18 years. I laughed and said not to worry about changing this guy’s behavior as his ship had sailed a long time ago. If he wasn’t fired with enthusiasm by now, then perhaps the time had come for him to be fired with enthusiasm. Remember, as a manager, you will always get the behavior you are willing to accept.

Can you imagine a pro golfer stepping to the first tee with no warm-up session on the driving range? How about the bus unloading a football team in uniform at kickoff time? No mental warm-ups. No physical warm-ups. Just toss the coin and kick off. Never going to happen.

You can’t imagine a great singer not going through the scales before a concert. A talented musician would not perform without ensuring their instrument was in tune. Why should striving to be any less professional in our chosen field be considered acceptable behavior?

Sales personnel and managers alike should spend a few minutes each morning walking your showroom to make sure that everything is in order. Are there new items displayed? If so, do you fully understand them? Are all prices clearly marked? Are all of the lights on and in working order? Is the background music playing at a pleasant volume? Are the design tables clean and ready for the first customer in the door? Are your demonstration supplies restocked and freshened? While these may seem like small details, professionals realize they are not. Any unnecessary time spent fumbling and stumbling in a customer’s presence reduces her perception of your professionalism and causes concern. As the customer’s perception of your abilities declines, so does your chance of making this sale. Why take this chance?

If you want to be successful at sales, the first person you need to sell is yourself. Create a mindset and working atmosphere that is conducive to your success. Invest a few minutes each day being prepared to succeed. Your customers—and your wallet—will be rewarded.

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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