Value the Address Book

In the "olden days" of direct sales, we thought it very important that our sales reps mastered the technology of our products. As an exercise, each rep had to spin a slide carousel (there were four to a full sales presentation) to a random position and be able to describe the preceeding and following slides in detail.

Harry, a recent hire but a long time salesman from New York asked me to make a call with him the week after completing our sales training. Assembled in a conference room at a prestigious brokerage was the managing director and his executive staff. Harry turned on the projector, spun the carousel and said, "there are four thousand features in my product; the first one is…" The group broke out laughing. Harry then said, "Or we can go to lunch and talk about a deal." Cheers, a great lunch and a sizeable contract ensued.

The point is that, particularly in business to business sales, prospects don’t buy products; they buy people. Harry had spent a career building and cultivating relationships with everybody in Manhattan who could approve a deal. Turns out our products were pretty like a lot of others, but Harry could open any door so we could tell our story to receptive buyers. Harry may not have known the technology, but he sold a lot of big deals. His greatest asset was his address book. It was far more profitable to send him a technician to explain the details than to strive to make a product expert out of Harry.

In evaluating sales candidates who will be working directly with prospects and customers you might assign significant value to their networking skills and contacts. Friends make great customers.

One more thought; hire them where you find them. A good address book doesn’t relocate very well.

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