As a card carrying salesman, I am proud of my profession and the services we offer. I am proud of what and how I sell. I am proud of the way I teach selling. I have always taught selling in win-win situations. I've always been very proud of the people I have taught selling to who have gone on to be successful. I have also been saddened by the many who have never considered staying in this honorable and rewarding profession because of its perceived reputation.

There is a reason why few young people remain in the sales end of our industry. Selling has been thought of by this industry as simply another rung in the managerial ladder to the top. A person wanting to remain in selling is often looked at as being unmotivated and lacking desire. "What we need are managers to expand our organization; we can always find sales people," is a phrase often heard. This kind of attitude will tend to make anyone reconsider their choice of selling as a career. I once heard a young person say that they would consider being in marketing but not in sales. Is there a difference? If so, why? Isn't it just another fancy word to describe what people in sales do every day? Look up the word in the dictionary and you'll find sales and selling throughout the definition.

During my 40 years in the comfort industry I have held a number of jobs. But two continue to give me the highest feeling of satisfaction: teaching and selling. Teaching offers me the best of both worlds because it combines skills used in both positions. There is a great feeling to see the lights flicker in a student's eyes when they learn a skill they can use tomorrow. That feeling also exists when you make a win-win sale.

Good, profitable sales people are not easy to find. Price merchants, quote-hopers and other artists who proclaim they sell are easy to find, but they are not professional sales people. The skills necessary to profitably sell products are learned the same way we have learned how to troubleshoot an air conditioner or a heating unit. The big difference in our industry is that we have spent most of training dollars training service mechanics and little in sales training. We have good skills in the ability to install and service our products but little in the first step of the process - selling the proper and profitable job.

Selling for a lifetime

Selling is an occupation, a lifetime vocation in which the skills can be learned and developed to serve the company and the customers. A good manager learns to read and use the balance sheet or the P. and L. to run a company profitably and professionally. A professional sales force can grow and prosper by improving their selling skills.

The problem which occurs is that most sales people know that the position of sales person is at best a temporary position. Within a period of time they will be moved, to a higher and more valuable position in the company. Why is there a job more valuable than selling profitably? In some cases, "Peter's Principle" may occur and the individual is not comfortable in this new position and leaves or they are fired for not doing a good job. Why?

Why is it necessary to move someone happy and profitable into a new position which may not be within their comfort zone or ability? I don't have the answer but there are too many career moves made where within a year a good employee is lost because of the move. Perhaps we should look at the motives used in determining such promotions.

Part of the reasoning is the lack of respect some managers have for the profession of selling. The images used to describe a sales person are not complimentary in most instances. The perception of a sales person is next to a crook or a flimflam artist. But is that fair to those who would like to remain in sales? Most of us who passed through the "selling phase" have known it was only for a short time. Most of us spent more time and money learning and perfecting our favorite recreational sports than the skills necessary to do our jobs. If we spent half the time that is spent on golf or tennis lessons on improving our closing skills, we would be able to play these sports more often.

Many people do not sell

Take the fabled "hope and quoter" - here is a person who has learned most of the technical skills necessary to run a business. It is their hope that by knowing installation and service they will be able to sell the customer by explaining and showing their talents. I have had students who will spend hours making surveys and layouts for a job quote and phone in the price to the prospect. The hope and quoter has a very poor closing ratio because there is no selling skills involved.

It is the same as a "parts-changer" who feels that fixing a unit by the process of elimination of all the various parts is a serviceman. Just as the "parts-changer" costs you money so does the untrained sales person who does not have a high closing rate. Think about the training given the person who is your front line employee. We give them maybe a week's training, a price book and a territory to cover. Then we send them out and expect good results from all this "good" training. Why is that any different than hiring a high school student who has worked on cars and giving them a tool box and sending them to one of your best customers after a week's training? Is there a difference? I believe there is a big difference. We want COMPETENT SERVICE PEOPLE.

The problem is both positions have to be trained to be efficient and profitable. Both positions should be career positions if the person wishes to remain and improve their skills. But management must see the need! GOOD SALES PEOPLE THRIVE WHILE MEDIOCRE SALES PEOPLE SURVIVE.

Think about TEAM SELLING! Broaden your sales force to include good knowledgeable technicians who can accompany a qualified sales person on every sales call. Women are buying more of the products we sell in this industry and team selling allows to the opportunity to train more women to sell our products. The ability to close can be greatly increased if the team is trained properly.

Think about the possibility of creating a sales force who would have no ceiling on their income and no cutting of territory. Think about a sales force who would be together as a team working and perfecting their skills which would result in more profits. Think about the last five good sales people who left and why they left. Change your system to accommodate the good sales person - they are worth their weight in gold.