5 Ways To Ruin A Good Sales Force

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We’ve all read countless cautionary tales about once-mights companies that lost their way.  The horror stories usually blame products that haven’t kept up, dumb acquisitions, weak marketing strategies, byzantine decision-making procedures, or overloaded debt structures.

There’s another major reason companies hit the skids, and I have yet to see the first word written about it: mismanaging the sales force.  Well, here is that first word and a few more besides.

1. Add more salespeople. – A car dealer in a midsize city has a very prosperous dealership.  He had five salespeople, and they all made really good money.  The owner was getting rich, but he wanted to get rich faster.  “If I can make this much money with five salespeople, I can make twice as much with 10.” Good arithmetic, bad idea.

2. Cap their earnings. – Smart companies take pride in their sales forces and believe strongly in the rainmaker concept.  They know and understand there are no jobs until someone makes a sale.  They establish a direct, specific, and absolute correlation between the business you bring in and the paycheck you take home.  The CEOs of these companies don’t get their noses out of joint if one or more of their salespeople ends up the year making more money than the boss.  If fact, they’re proud of it.

3. Boring sales meetings. – There must be a course taught somewhere titled “Show Them Who’s Boss: How Corporal Punishment Inspires Superior Performance.” This line of reasoning may work for motivating marine recruits when they have to crawl across the ground under a hail of machine-gun bullets or slog through a 40-mile forced march.  It does not work for experienced salespeople who are required to attend weekly three-hour sales meetings. Naturally, an appointment with a customer is no excuse for missing the fun.  Like an all-night party, it usually takes two or three days to get yourself going again after one of these beauties.  Good performers hat meetings, and the wimps that like them usually can’t sell anything anyway.

4. Promoting boneheads. – Many a good peddler thinks their boss is an imbecile.  Best solution? Quit or transfer. Who wants to work where they don’t want their customers to meet the boss?  They’re afraid the customer will think, “My sales rep can’t be as sharp as I though if he’s reporting to someone like this.” Answer: Don’t try to hide your brother -in-law in the sales manager’s job.  It could cost you your best salespeople.

5. Smother them in detail. – Show me a salesperson who loves paperwork and I’ll show you a bookkeeper, or a salesperson in the bottom half of the class.  Some companies load so much extraneous stuff on the sales force, it’s a wonder they ever have time to call on customers.  Here’s the acid test of that last wonderful project: How many others did it bring in?

Mackay’s Moral: Most companies today have similar products. That leaves one sure way to beat the competition–the best sales force.

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Hands-On Beats All Else

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In the National Hockey League, there’s a saying: “You can’t ride the boards to glory.” In other words, you’ll never win the Hart Trophy–recognition for being the League’s most valuable player–with your fanny glued to the bench.

For sales–as with everything else in life–there is no substitute for hands-on experience, day in and day out. If you’re in the majors, you can bat a thousand in the batting cage, but there is no replacement for going up against an ace reliever with a nasty change-up while 40,000 riveted fans in the stands hold their breath.

When I was 19, I played for Minnesota in the NCAA golf championships at Purdue, confident I would be the next Ben Hogan. Competitors from the South like Don January and ken Venturi banished my dreams to the rough forever.

My mother sat me down and explained the facts of life: “Harvey, you started playing golf at age 7. That’s probably the same age as these other guys. But weather makes it impossible for you to practice much of the year. So you’ve been playing 6 months for 12 years. They’ve been playing 12 months for 12 years. And 72 months of live experience will never beat 144 months. You better find another dream.”

Same goes for sales. Hawking lemonade and Girls Scout cookies can teach you a lot about rejection and renewal while your sales bones are still growing and resilient. Get in the ring early…and often.

Learn more about my new book, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World

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The Mike Litman Show

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I had the pleasure and opportunity to talk with Mike Litman on his radio show about my new book The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World. This whole launch process has been a great opportunity to meet and talk to so many impressive and amazing people.  Mike has been working since 1997 to develop a platform where he could positively influence as many people as possible. He is a success by any standard and he has plenty to offer the world.  You can listen to the interview below or Click Here for the post on Mike’s website.

Mike Litman Show by HarveyMackay

Learn more about my new book, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World

Click here to help me spread the word about my new book.

If you already bought my new book, make sure you download or request the hard copy of my new Network Builder for FREE Here.

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Better Humble Than Stumble

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In the history of the world, there has never been a city that juices itself more on ego then Tinseltown. That said, I remain a huge movie buff and religiously watch the Academy Awards telecast. I’m even more interested because my son, David, is a film director and producer in Hollywood.

The curious thing? For the very cream of the entertainment profession, genuine humility flows in their blood. Stars with staying power understand exactly how reliant they are on the support of others.

Two of the most memorable lines during the 2008 Oscar ceremonies came from the year’s Best Actor and Best Actress, Sean Penn and Kate Winslet.

“I want to be ver clear,” Sean Penn admitted, ” I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me.” While few would refer to Penn as humble, that had to be the understatement of the year! Kate Winslet was disarmingly honest: “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t made a version of this speech before. I was probably eight years old staring into the bathroom mirror, and this would have been a shampoo bottle,” she said as she held up her Oscar.

Danny Boyle, who won Best Director for Slumdog Millionaire, went onstage and started jumping up and down. The movie was originally slated to be released only on DVD, and he said he promised his kids that if he ever won an Oscar, he would accept it in the joyous spirit of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. Never forget that winning moments are also made of keeping promises to the people who’ve helped get you there.

I’ve been speaking to business groups for decades now, but I remember the first time my wife, Carol Ann, heard me give a speech. I knew she would be my harshest critic, so I practiced a great deal. I delivered what I thought was a great speech. Many people came up to me afterward and complimented me. In the car on the way home, I turned to Carol Ann and asked, “Sweetheart, how many great speakers do you think there are in the world today?”

She smiled and replied, “One fewer than you think, dear.”

Mackay’s Moral: The sound carries farther when others blow your horn.

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Integrity Deflates Easily

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Ethics and integrity must be the cornerstone of every sales professional’s existence. Let me tell you a true story about Professor Bonk, who taught chemistry at Duke University. The lessons: First, integrity is always right. Second, dishonesty can be very risky business.
One year, three guys were taking chemistry and all getting solid A’s going into the final exam. They were so confident that the weekend before finals they decided to go up to the University of Virginia to party with some friends. Due to bad hangovers, they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning.
Rather than taking the final exam then, they explained to Professor Bonk that they’d gotten a flat tire on their trip to Virginia and didn’t have a spare, so they didn’t get back to campus until late Sunday night. They wanted to delay the exam until Tuesday.

Professor Bonk thought this over and then agreed they could make up the final on the following day. the three guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in for the test the next day. Professor Bonk placed them in three separate rooms, handed each of them a test booklet, looked at his watch and told them to begin.

They opened up the test booklet and saw that the first question, about OXYGEN, was worth 5 points.

They all thought this was going to be easy. Then they turned the page and saw the second question, worth 95 points: Which tire?

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Overcoming Rejection: Tried & True Tips

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  • Take the criticism, but don’t take it to heart.
  • Realize 10 setbacks are the admission price for any major win.
  • Analyze every failure, but never wallow in it.
  • Don’t break stride and let this loss cost you your focus on the next race.
  • Recognize no one person can please everybody.
  • Don’t rationalize the hurt by saying you didn’t want to succeed that much anyway.
  • Tally up what you’ve learned and how you will use it not to make the same mistake again.
  • Let the setback motivate you to try that fresh new approach you have had stuffed in your back pocket for months.
  • Don’t assume you are branded with failure and walk around as if you’re wearing a scarlet letter.
  • Don’t worry when you lose. Worry when you stop being a contender.

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The Single Most Powerful Tool for Winning a Negotiation

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Herr Schwan demonstrated that walking away from the table is not just for when you don’t want to deal. Sometimes it’s the only way you can make the deal you want.

If you have to have a deal, then all the other side needs to do to win the negotiation is to outwait you.

Take international relations. It used to be assumed that being bamboozled in treaty negotiations was part of the price of a free society. The reason the democracies have been such failures in international negotiations with tyrannies is that the attitudes of the general public are part of the baggage our representatives bring to the bargaining table–and the general public has an expectation that “success” in bargaining is measured by the act of reaching an agreement, never mind what the agreement is.

As a result, once our foreign-policymakers are maneuvered into going into negotiations, it’s almost inevitable that we lose, because the other side knows that they have only to refuse to make a deal–unless it;s one they regard as favorable to them–and the public perception will be that our negotiators will have lost a key opportunity.

Vyacheslav Molotov, the longtime foreign minister of the Societ Union, was so adept at this outwaiting technique that his nickname was “Ironpants.”

Deals seldom get worse when you walk away from the table. Be prepared to walk away from the table … and mean it. You’ll be able to go back to the table and get even better terms.

The single most powerful tool for winning a negotiation is the ability to walk away from the table without a deal.

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Hubris the Humorless

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In ancient Greece, Alcibiades was telling Pericles how Athens should be governed. Annoyed by the young man’s tone, Pericles said, “Son, when I was your age, I talked just the way you are talking.”

Alcibiades looked Pericles in the face and replied, “How I should like to have known you when you were at your best.”

Ah, the arrogance of youth. To put the story in context, Pericles is often referred to as “the first citizen of Athens” for his many achievements: his promotion of art and literature, his championing of democracy, and his sponsorship of an ambitious building project that included most of the surviving structures on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon. Alcibiades, on the other hand, was also a statesman and orator.

The respective lengths of the Wikipedia entries for these two suggests history is still duking it out as to who was greater, but Pericles has the clear edge in the impact of his achievements. Alcibiades, defeated at the Battle of Notium, ultimately exiled himself. Contributing to his downfall were the great, unchecked expectations he allowed to be circulated about himself before being thrashed by the Spartans.

In the dictionary, Alcibiades could be the personification of “hubris.” Hubris means extreme haughtiness, exaggerated pride or arrogance. Hubris has lost touch with reality. That’s why powerful people so often overestimate their competence or capabilities.

Recent headlines illustrate hubris to the extreme: the disgraced governor of Illinois flailing to defend his actions in 2010…the CEo of BP complaining days after the Gulf oil-rig explosion and resulting massive oil spill that he wanted his life back. Hubris lives on–an odd affliction that makes its observers sicker than the self-centered souls it afflicts.

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My Interview With Chris Brogan

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I was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak with marketing and media guru Chris Brogan recently about my new book The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World and about some more fun and interesting topics. I think we had both planned on a quick interview lasting no longer than ten minutes but we really hit it off with some great discussion and let the time slip by.  I drop some great sales tips from my new book and some discussion that I haven’t written down yet.

You can check out the first chapter from The Mackay MBA for FREE at http://mackaymba.com

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What's The Best Way To Save Time?

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Spend more time on time management. You’re in as good a position to save time as your richest and most powerful competitors. Over a lifetime, it’s incredible how much time you can save, and the advantages you can achieve, while you’re sitting on your duff in your car. For example:

1. Use a cell phone… but do it with respect for the posted rules, or you can alienate important people. Investigate smart phones that give you constant access to your e-mail and contact lists.

2. Always phone ahead when you make a call on a customer or a prospect. And, make sure you have both the customer’s landline and cel phone numbers, as well as their e-mail address.

3. Always park your car in a getaway position.

4. Use your drive time to listen to audio books or informational recordings instead of tuning in to the usual babble on the radio.

5. Never travel without a way to keep track of your thoughts. Whether it’s an Ipad or pen and paper, make sure you always have something with you to write things down.

6. Never have coffee with another salesperson, only with a customer. (Make sure you know which sort of latte they’re nuts about.)

7. Just for the hell of it–for an entire week–switch your reading plan. Dumb the sports section or gossip scoop and read the hometown newspapers of your major customers…or trade journals of your key customers or suppliers, so that you can learn what they’re worried about.

Click Here to help me spread the word about my new book, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World!

Click Here to get the first chapter for FREE.

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