Every successful businessman knows the ins and outs of the particular industry that they are part of. They are successful precisely because they have mastered the tenets that have been passed on by the best people of the corporate world since the beginning of time. Although times change and business strategies develop over the years, there are some essential must-knows that remain timeless. The succeeding sections of this paper will discuss these important characteristics of a successful businessperson.
Determining Effective Orientation and Training Methods
The sales business does not merely involve the exchange of goods for cash, but more essentially involves the services provided by the business. If the goods and services offered are more or less the same in each business, then the customer is more likely to purchase from the business which provides better customer service (Uichiro, 1986). Being in any sales position makes service a competence of utmost importance. If selling were merely the change of goods for liquid currency, then vending machines by the corner would do an even more efficient job. However, this is obviously not the case, as the service factor is the differentiator.
Successful salesmanship is built on solid training frameworks that consist more or less of the following components: product knowledge, a correct attitude, and technical know how. The art of selling is a combination of technical and soft sales competencies which compose the formula for successful salesmanship (Taylor, 1985).
Knowledge of the product is the basis of all sales training. The seller must know what he is selling before he can learn to sell it. First one has to assume that the company image is already a product in the sales sense. The company’s reputation for quality, research and development, financial strength and long service in the industry are important features. These play vital roles in presenting the physical product into the market. On the physical side, product information also consists of pricing, scheduling, shipping, warehousing, warranties and service policies, among others. Naturally, all products have both commendable and poor features. Given this, it is imperative the salesperson is informed of both the positive and negative features of the product. Such knowledge would present an advantage in showing the benefits of the good features and prepare the salesperson for objections or rebuttals about weaknesses (Taylor, 1985).
To put it more graphically, what would one feel as a customer if the salesperson could not answer any question about the product? A good salesperson does not only study the product, but also considers how he is going to sell it. For example when one is taught to disassemble and put a product back together, one must sharply pose these questions:
o Why was it built in this particular way?
o How does the competition build theirs? Why?
o What are the advantages of this product over theirs?
A similar appraisal method should apply to other aspects of the product: information such as pricing, policies, service, shipping, warranties, company image and structure, etc. (Taylor, 1985).
Interaction with Customers
There are eight basic psychological steps that transpire when customers buy goods. These start from attention, interest, association of ideas, desire, comparison and evaluation, trust, action, and finally satisfaction. The correct time for salesperson to approach customers occurs when they have already established attention, started showing interest and possibly moving on to association of ideas (Uichiro, 1986). During this phase the customer is not afraid that he will be forced to buy the product, and yet still holds enough attention to be curious about it. The salesperson now should then try to satisfy the customer’s curiosity, then to stimulate desire. There is no better way to gauge the strength of a customer’s desire than to ask questions. Simultaneously, the salesperson should give an explanation of the goods. The customer would then compare and evaluate the goods alongside alternatives and substitutes. At this point the salesperson should lead the customer to trust the item he has chosen. Once trust has been established, it is again the job of the salesperson to lead the customer into the actual action of buying the merchandise (Uichiro, 1986).
Selling is not merely a numbers game. Along this idea, the customer’s needs only become important if they happen to coincide with the product the salesperson is selling. This mentality makes the job of the salesperson difficult as he is required to persuade the customer to change his mind to wanting the product he is offering. Furthermore, if sales were merely a numbers game, the salesperson would not worry about how to accomplish the sales target, he would achieve it through whatever means. Anything and everything would be allowed: from lying, intimidation and causing embarrassment, for as long as he got the customer to buy. All pounds are alike and any sale is worth making. (Miller ; Heiman, 1990). This is not what a good salesman is.
According to Miller and Heinman (1990) there are three key phases of sales. Phase I involves, learning the reasons the customer is interested in the product. Phase II, is giving information, describing or demonstrating the product or service with accordance to the needs of the customer. Phase 3, is getting commitment from the customer to buy the product, which means resolving all uncertainties that might prevent the customer from buying. These three phases are not cast in stone. Each sale is a dynamic interaction between buyer and seller. This means that the salesperson must be able to move to and from phases with ease. The salesperson needs to understand where his stance is, where his customer stands and what exactly needs to be done in order to close the deal.
Most businesses in today’s economy use hardware and software to track sales transactions, such as a computerized cash register system. Many businesses have achieved improvement in their business process through an implementation of these systems. The business benefits include 1) increased checkout speed to improve customer service; 2) improved productivity by reducing cashier training time and cost; and 3) reduced the cashier need for help when completing complex transactions. On the impact to the customer, they feel more control with the ability to see the scrolling receipt as they observe what the cashier scans. In addition, the POS equipment design reinforced the store’s new branding program to be perceived as a more upscale, high tech, customer-friendly store (IBM.com, 2007).
According to Wuorio (2007), veteran retailers pinpoint a common problem: the inventories do not match tallies, unrecorded sales, the staff spend resources correcting mistakes than tending to customer’s needs. These point of sale systems keep track of inventories and sales at the same time. Automated inventory control help keep stocks in proper balance. The point of sale system truly lends itself to a better overall customer experience. The sort of things a customer expects when he walks through the front door. Inefficiency can be cut down, from menial task like cash register reconciliation, inventory disparities, etc. The most powerful asset with computerized cash register systems is the time and freedom it affords personnel to devote their time to the customers (Wuorio, 2007).
There are key factors that relate to the job the salesperson should be carrying out. These are primarily concerned with how the salesperson performs during actual sales with customers. Prospects that directly influence quantity and quality of sales produced should also be considered (Lidstone, 1992).
Some of these factors are enumerated below.
Table 1. Knowledge and skill areas of a salesman’s job.
Company marketing policies and procedures
Organize personal work to optimize selling time
Delivery, routing, credit, pricing, accounts, collection, legalities, and servicing
Deal with customer’s objections
Knowledge of the customer basic profile
Understand computer data and complete orders accurately
Products and competitor’s substitutes
Prepare sales interviews
New products by company and competition
Practice good area management
Old products being phased out
Persuasive and fluent communication
Selling done by other branches, (general company performance)
Present sales propositions based on customer’s needs
Reporting and complaints procedures
Analyze own performance in order to improve
(Lidstone, 1992, p. 230).
The mark of exceptional salesmen is their drive to improve, and a solid example of this is clearly through self assessment. By knowing one’s weaknesses, he can develop and improve himself. Constantly, those who have a strong drive for self-development ask themselves, how can I do my work better (Taylor, 1985)?
Communication in Business
Good business people know how important communication is in running a successful business. Without good communication skills, a leader may not be able to get his messages across to his followers. As such, he or she may not be able to convince his or her subordinates to share in his or her goals and to be passionate about them.
The type of communication often used by business leaders is referred to as leadership communication. Leadership communication has three characteristics. First, it moves in a cyclical flow rather than a linear one. It includes the sender, the message, the medium, the receiver, and a feedback mechanism, which allows the receiver of the message to send his own message back to the sender. When the receiver wishes to give feedback, the communication process repeats itself thus explaining how it becomes a cyclical process (Kumuyi, 2007, p.42).
At present, however, some leaders still enjoy using the linear type of communication process. The danger of this linear type of communication is that it does not ensure that the receiver of the message actually understands fully what is being relayed. That is why for leaders who use this method in business a common problem are employees having difficulties in following the instructions issued to them. Employees are not able to clarify any questions that they might have regarding the instructions given to them. As such, misunderstandings arise.
Second, good leadership communication takes into consideration the human element in business. This means that message being communicated must be able to cultivate an environment where workers feel appreciated and motivated. Without a good working climate, even the most eloquent of communicators would fail to get their messages across thus affecting productivity. Brent Filson, president of The Filson Leadership Group Inc., explains this aspect of leadership communication very well when he said, “Whenever you intend to communicate as a leader, you should assess not only the information you want to impart but also the human relations aspects of how you will go imparting it” (as cited in Kumuyi, 2007, p.42).
Lastly, leadership communication entails being consistent with the messages a leader needs to get across. For example, if a supervisor wants to use communication as a tool for motivating his/her subordinates, then he should motivate his employees in every situation that the business is in. If the supervisor is inconsistent with his/her messages, the message becomes ineffective (Kumuyi, 2007, p.42).
Improving Team Productivity
Robert Hoffman (2006) in his article “Top Seven Strategies for Improving Productivity in your Team” suggests several other methods in which team productivity can be improved.
First, he suggests focusing on the middle performers because they are the ones who most likely need the guidance of a leader. Hoffman suggests asking these people the things that keep them from doing more and to give them tasks that may challenge them to work more.
For those who exhibit poor performance, Hoffman recommends giving them an ultimatum: to improve or remove. Leaders should warn those who perform badly that if they do not improve their work output, they would be removed from the team.
Third, the leader should allow the members the freedom to come up with their own ideas and solutions to certain problems. This encourages creative thinking among members. A team with creativity and initiative will be an asset in the long run.
Instead of hindering the team from achieving things, leaders should instead work with the team to achieve the team’s goals. The leader should not be the one blocking the team from accomplishing things because of the need to follow certain procedures and formalities.
Moreover, the leader can encourage the team to be more productive by praising them when they do well. Compliments from the team leader will reinforce the team and inspire them to do good again next time. When things do not go very well, however, the team leader should help the team learn from their mistakes. The team leader should provide constructive criticism that will be more beneficial for the team in the future.
Lastly, a leader should be “loyal to the team and its mission” (Hoffman, 2006). He must always ensure that the team’s actions are in line with its mission and the leader must always fulfill his promises to the team. In this manner, the leader earns the respect and the belief of his team.
Conducting Performance Appraisals
Performance appraisals are essential so that a team may evaluate their performance and plan ways to improve the team more. Usually, team leaders find performance appraisals tedious since it is difficult to give evaluations about every member in a team. Team members, on the other hand, also find the experience tiring since it puts everyone on the edge. It makes the team nervous and defensive.
Liz Ryan (2007) in an article for Business Week Online gives some advice for managers and employees in conducting performance reviews.
According to Ryan (2007), it is important for managers not to cram the performance evaluations of employees. Cramming these evaluations would only add to the stress and may affect the fairness of the evaluation given. Ryan (2007) recommends that managers schedule the evaluations with each employee in such a way that there is enough time between each evaluation to allow the manager to recover from each one.
Furthermore, she advises managers not to let their needs interfere with giving an objective evaluation of each employee. The evaluation instead should be about the things the employee did for the entire year. In order for the evaluation to have basis, it should be done according the goals set for the employee during the previous year. The topic of the evaluation should be whether or not the particular employee was able to fulfill his or her goals. After identifying the good things the employee has done and the things he or she needs to improve on, new goals should be set.
For the employees, Ryan (2007) advises focusing on the purpose of the meeting itself rather than being bogged down by details. The employee should be willing to accept criticisms and not debate on every little detail the manager presents. Employees should also come to the meetings prepared with information that would support their personal assessment of their performance. After the meeting, the employee must ensure that they have a clear idea of what they did right, the things they need to improve on, and the goals they have for next year. By keeping these things in mind, they are assured of having a good review the following year.
A simple method for resolving conflicts can be summed up in the acronym DESC, which stands for “Describe, Express, Specify, and Consequences” (“Resolving Family”, 2006).
To describe involves scheduling a private meeting with the guilty party and objectively describing to them their behavior. In describing, a leader should quantify the concerns and avoid making unfair generalizations. For example, instead of saying “You always” or “You never”, one should say. “You failed to meet the deadline for the report you were assigned. That was the fourth time that happened this year.”
To express, on the other hand, includes stating the leader’s concern regarding the consequences of the behavior of the guilty party. When doing this, a leader should not exaggerate. Instead, the concerns should be stated simply. For instance, rather than saying, “ You are dragging the company to the dumps,” one should say, “Your not being able to meet the deadline causes other deadlines to be moved which in turn causes the company to lose some money.”
After pinpointing the problems and the consequences involved, a leader should then specify the behavior the leader wants to see. A leader is encouraged to be as specific as possible to avoid confusion.
Lastly, the leader should cite the probable consequences when the guilty party changes his or her behavior (“Resolving Family”, 2006).
Improving Employee Relations
Finally, it is important that supervisors know how to improve employee relations because employees comprise a huge essential chunk of the company. Tips in improving employee relations include showing interest in the employees. This could not be stressed enough: employees should be made to feel important and appreciated. In addition, since employees are more than mere robots, they should be treated with respect. Supervisors should learn how to value the opinions of their employees and to be fair to each of them at all times no matter how hard this can be. Supervisors should also keep the employees’ jobs interesting by providing them with a fair yet challenging workload. At the end of the day, what really keeps employees in a good mood is the appreciation they get from their supervisors for a job well done. A simple praise from supervisors can go a long way to ensure that the business will continue running smoothly (Robertson, 2007).
In conclusion, there are several things that a businessperson must know in order to succeed in the corporate world. However, the characteristics and strategies discussed are merely the basics of the trade. A truly effective supervisor or manager should be one that is innovative and creative. The qualities and strategies above are not meant to set limits. Instead, these should be owned and be built upon.
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