Lessons learned: You can have it all

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June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Tom Jennings


During a business trip to Dallas not long ago, I found myself staying in a large, iconic downtown hotel. Throughout my stay, I kept asking myself how my reservation had been accepted as it seemed as if the hotel’s entire population consisted of Mary Kay Cosmetics representatives. My visit proved to be an eye-opening experience.

If enthusiasm is contagious, everyone in this property was quite exposed. Everywhere you looked you saw hugging, cheering and successes being celebrated. The ladies were all dressed in their finest and their faces were aglow. When I contrasted this with how the average flooring salesperson looks and behaves when they drag into work each morning, I could only say wow! I didn’t know what was in the Kool Aid that they were drinking, but I sure wanted to find out.

Being a typical male, I had certainly heard of the late Mary Kay Ash, but I didn’t possess any real knowledge of what she was all about. I decided to do some research by reading her book “You Can Have it All.” My goal was to see what common traits could be woven into the floor covering business.

Following are three key reminders and take-aways from a marketing master:

Give praise. Ms. Ash, founder of Mary Kay, Inc., said, “Sandwich every bit of criticism between two thick layers of praise.” First, remember we all had a first day on the job—just as we had a first baseball game or piano lesson when we were young. Many of us had a teacher, or a coach, who believed in us and encouraged us to practice and improve. They celebrated our doing something “approximately correct” while learning. If you didn’t have this positive influence, you probably soon lost interest and gave up.

The same is true when building sales knowledge and ability. The successful sales trainees have a mentor who monitors their progress, offers encouragement and celebrates their victories as their careers grow. As Ms. Ash wisely said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging around their neck that reads: ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people.”

Appearance is everything. Mary Kay knew that in the cosmetics industry, appearance trumps all. She extolled the value of being a lady and encouraged her beauty consultants to always be prompt and to only speak positively. And they should always have their “faces” on. “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” she said, adding, “Who’s going to buy makeup from a slob?” I can’t imagine why buying a fashionable floor for your home could be viewed any differently. Your presentation cannot be convincing if you appear as if you are anything less than fully prepared to help your customer achieve her desired results.

Reward success. The enduring philosophy of Mary Kay, Inc., is rewards and recognition will motivate sales. With mink coats, diamonds and, of course, the famous pink Cadillacs, Mary Kay motivated her team and thanked them for their accomplishments. “We treat our people like royalty. If you honor and serve the people who work for you, they will honor and serve you,” she said. It was, and still is, a winning combination of incentives and inspiration that awakened hopes and dreams.

The foundation of Mary Kay, Inc.’s achievements has long been turning normal, everyday people into sales stars by enabling them to believe they have no limits to being successful and to understand that with both great products and a great attitude, all things are possible. A lot of managers in our business would be wise to follow suit.

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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