It’s true that salespeople come in all shapes and sizes. There is no such thing as a mould that successful sales people are cast from.
This has never been more apparent than when I joined a company that was hiring a team of regional sales people. Amongst the new recruits was Mark, a guy who was very quiet, very studious and if anything I have to describe him as rather ‘cold’ and indifferent. The traditional attributes of a salesperson, i.e. outgoing, extrovert, confident, just didn’t apply to Mark. Everybody who met him said that he had no chance of succeeding.
By the end of our first year in our new roles Mark was the number 2 salesperson in the company, ahead of many of the experienced team and far exceeding anything I was or that the other new recruits achieved. My boss at the time decided it would be a good idea to buddy us up. Mark could learn from me how to develop rapport with people (after all I had been relatively successful, had won good orders and a number of new customers). Mark on the other hand had developed very few relationships that (at least on the surface appeared to be strong), yet he had sold more equipment than I had. My boss felt that we could learn things from each other and so it was agreed we would go out into each other’s territory and observe each other.
My first day out with Mark was incredible. We visited a customer where Mark had won a number of orders during the last 12 months and I sat there, through what I can describe as almost a ‘painfully quiet’ sales interview. The contact was one Mark already knew yet very few words were said, there was no small-talk, little rapport and the interview consisted mainly of Mark asking a series of questions, like an interrogation. At some point in the conversation Mark had decided he needed something which he didn’t have in his case, but he had it in his car and he excused himself to go and get it, leaving me with the customer.
The customer looked at me and said, “Is he always like this?” “Like what?” I asked. “He’s so quiet. We’ve met a number of times yet we just don’t have any relationship”, he said with a puzzled look on his face. “I’m glad you said that because for me I was expecting more of a relationship, especially as you have bought several pieces of equipment from him. May I ask why are you’ve done that if there is no relationship?”
“Because I know I’m in good hands,” he said. “He is thorough, asks lots of good questions and leaves me feeling that he has done everything properly. Therefore it feels right to trust him and so far it works very well”.
When I reported back to my boss about our time together and relayed the customer’s comments he told me that Mark runs on rails. “He has a process that is like a train running on tracks. He starts his journey and stops at station one, moves on to station to and so on until eventually he reaches his destination.” I realised exactly why he’d sent me out on the road with Mark. He had more structure than I did. Immediately I understood that when I could tie his structure in with my rapport and relationship building skills I could be a better salesman. I did and I was and I am forever indebted to Mark, the most unlikely sales person I’ve ever met, and my former boss who was shrewd enough to pair us together.
Over the years I’ve repeatedly found that the most successful salespeople have a clearly defined structure to work to. They develop it, are disciplined to work to it and improve it on an ongoing basis so they continuously improve themselves and their results.
I only hope that Mark managed to learn as much from me as I did from him.