Hans Hansson | July 1, 2015
We recently had a shoe salesman connect with us about joining our firm as a commercial real estate agent. He had ten years of sales experience and was considered to be one of the top salespeople at Saks Fifth Avenue in the women's shoe department. Every prospective agent we consider we ask that they take a "Sales Drive" test for us. This test helps us to better understand an agent's individual strengths and weaknesses. The results for this shoe salesman were disappointing, at best.
A classic rule of thumb for successful salespeople is to be an effective "hunter" and "farmer." Salespeople have to seek opportunities like a hunter and provide superb care and service to existing clients, much like a farmer. Salespeople also have to have the keen timing of knowing when to ask for the close.
Marketers experience success by having opportunities come to them through vehicles, which attract people to seek their services. Marketers need to service their clients, but often times, they have a short window to provide service and close the deal. Closing the deal is typically based solely on the buyer's decision that they need the service or product, which mostly likely started by a form of solicitation that caught their eye.
On the other end of the spectrum, salespeople make that form of solicitation occur by hunting for opportunities. A friend of mine who is a residential real estate broker once told me that as a residential agent, he was actually more of a marketing person than a salesperson. He stated that in his business, once he secured the house for sale, his role was to attract people that were coming into the house to view it and work with him to find other opportunities. In the commercial real estate world, you are always creating an opportunity "out of thin air."
Education cannot teach sales, it simply comes naturally. Either you have the tools or you don't. Yes, there are special courses you can take that teach you the sales process, but ultimately it is either in you or not. Marketing, on the other hand, can be taught. Universities across the globe offer degrees in marketing, however it's almost next to impossible to find a school offer a sales degree.
The results of our shoe salesman's test was that he was neither a hunter nor a farmer and his scores were some of the lowest scores received in either category. He was however a very successful marketer. For example, when a prospective customer spotted a pair of shoes they liked, he would be available right away to assist that customer and take them through to the next step and try on the shoes in their size. However, in the end, he had a small part in the customer deciding to purchase that pair of shoes. It was the shoes themselves that drove the customer to make the final purchase.
I find that businesses today are seriously confused as to the value of finding true salespeople. It's not easy, but as we become more corporate, salespeople are turned more into marketing people. Salespeople are very independent, very entrepreneurial and need to have freedom to hunt. This means less rules and regulations. Today's businesses cannot survive without true salespeople and marketing people unfortunately don't have the skillset to becoming a sales engine for a company. American businesses need to grasp the importance of salespeople and how it can be an enormous gain to their bottom line instead of morphing salespeople into marketers.
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