Sales 101: Be Yourself!

The profound statement

Recently a local sales representative for a truck leasing company stopped by our office to make a courtesy call. While checking to be sure our needs were met by his company, he casually mentioned something that I have never before addressed in Sales 101. He said, “While I have been ‘on the road’ selling, I have come to realize that I can be myself. It’s sort of like being my own boss.” This, folks, is a profound sales statement!

Imagine that – being your own boss without actually owning the company. Sure enough, when salespeople get out and pound the pavement, no manager at the corporate office is able to make sure that the rep is totally focused on the job one hundred percent of the time. For some salespeople this could be a curse, but for those diligent enough to handle the minimal supervision; i.e., self-starters and go-getters, this means freedom in the workplace.

You must fight!

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Freedom fighter

I spent fifteen years “on the road” myself, and yes, it was freedom. No one told me where to go, how to get there, when to arrive or what to do once I was in front of a prospective buyer. I was responsible for keeping my sales totals up. As long as I did that, I got no grief from the office.

Are you an outside salesperson? If so, do you feel the freedom of being able to leave the office? I have spent four out of five workdays in the office over the last five years. My office has dark wood paneling, old fluorescent lights and a five-inch-wide window stretching from floor to ceiling. My work is scrutinized; my attitude is evaluated. When my day out of the office arrives each week, I relish every minute. There is nothing like the sense of freedom that comes of leaving a five-by-eight cubicle. Having a full day to run around town, regardless of the weather, is like a pleasurable dream. Yes, this can be considered freedom.

Earn the right

Salespeople have to earn the right to use company time and money to make sales calls unencumbered, however. Bosses get riled when sales quotas are not met. That’s when they start breathing down a salesperson’s neck. Freedoms get curtailed in a hurry. How can a salesperson avoid this unpleasantness? Simple: handle the job. If the job gets done, rules, procedures and bosses do not become shackles.

Therein lays the crux. For salespeople willing to get out and make the calls, do the follow-ups, sleuth out new business, handle the paperwork, learn the products, know the techniques – their path to freedom is an open road. It is a matter of mind over body; of zeal over sloth. This is the price of a salesperson’s freedom from workplace doldrums and the key to being oneself on the job.

Outside salespeople have the unique opportunity of setting their own standards. If those standards allow them to handle their job in an exemplary fashion, their freedom is ensured. A sales manager would be a fool to hinder a top producing salesperson with excess rules and procedures, as long as that top seller is honest and forthright.

Learn from history

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Way back when

Back in the seventies I knew a salesperson I’ll call Mr. X. He was one of those go-getters I mentioned earlier. He came to work happy, dressed well, and his shoes were spit-shined. Mr. X never worried about what people thought of him. He was confident in his sales abilities and proud to be a salesman. Furthermore, he was proud to be selling the type of product he represented. In general, Mr. X loved his work. He always met or exceeded his quota each month. For this he earned a fifty percent commission rate, had a gas allowance, a company car and other perks. He was allowed free reign in his sales territory to go forth and multiply the business.

Unfortunately, as time went on, Mr. X fell prey to the back room gossip. “You’re not being paid enough…I’ve got a bigger car…the boss makes more money…you work too hard for what you get…” These and other negative comments weighed on Mr. X until he became disgruntled too. His sales totals plummeted. Eventually his company could no longer sustain him. During this downslide, the boss put pressure on Mr. X to get his sales up or suffer cutbacks in his perks. Now, the boss had every right to expect Mr. X to handle his obligations to the company, but Mr. X did not see it that way. A once happy, successful salesperson allowed the whispers of jealous coworkers to sap away his corporate freedom. Mr. X quit.

Chewing the cud

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Constant vigilance required

It is all too simple to obtain corporate freedom, and all too simple to lose it again. Once attained, it must be guarded with the vigilance of a soldier. Unfortunately backbiting is the way of the world, and one of the primary reasons a salesperson eventually fails. It is hard to fight year over year against those negative vibes from jealous coworkers, friends, family, and even customers. Those who wish they could attain corporate freedom always try to drag down those that do achieve it. So, a word to all of you “on the road” salespeople out there: do your job in order to maintain the freedom to “be yourself.”

As I have been forced into the managerial chair instead of making lots of sales calls these days, I mention this important philosophy of corporate life in the hopes of salvaging some of the "on the road" salespeople out there. Sure, riding around beating on doors to get business is tough. As I stare out my cubicle window dreaming of lost corporate freedoms, an old mantra runs through my head. Is the grass greener on the other side of the road? Perhaps "on the road" selling is not so bad after all. It's sort of the middle path between sides. Beware the lure of working in the office rather than making your own sales destiny or you may find yourself chewing cud!

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