Melanie Kramer is Vice President of Specialty Support at TempWorks Software
When I was a recent college graduate, I accepted a sales job in a jewelry store in the Mall of America. Customers would come in, try on every piece of jewelry we had in the store, then tell me they wanted to keep looking and would be back. The majority of the time, I would never see them again. I could blame this on the size of the Mall of America and think that they just couldn’t remember where we were located, or I could blame this on people wanting to kill time by trying on some bling. However, I do know that I just could not close the sale. I would sometimes get frustrated that I spent the better part of an hour walking them around the cases of sparkling gemstones and 14 carat gold, only to watch them walk out the door without a little black box in their bag. I worked in this store for just three months before I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I determined that a position in sales was not for me.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with inspiring and extremely smart people. I learned a philosophy from a Regional Vice President back in my staffing days that I repeat to myself often, and relay to my own employees. I don’t recall if I heard him say this phrase only once, or if it was something that was ingrained in our day-to-day operations. Regardless, it is something that has stuck with me. His philosophy was “If you’re not in sales, you’re overhead.”
As primarily an “operations” person, the mere thought of making cold calls, discussing features and benefits, negotiating service
agreements, haggling over price (and being sure I don’t over-promise) are all tasks that make me want to curl up in the fetal position under my desk. There are people whose personalities are more geared toward sales and have the extraordinary skill of closing a sale, but even the most sales-reluctant employees need to contribute to the profitability of their company. Every person in a company is responsible for some aspect of sales. If an employee is not involved, whether directly or indirectly in the overall satisfaction of the customer, then they are truly overhead. Here are some roles that illustrate how sales responsibility is actually omnipresent within a company:
Recruiter - Sells an open position to a candidate and in turn sells that candidate to the hiring manager
Receptionist – Sells the product/service the company provides, and this begins with the manner in which the phone is answered. The receptionist sells to the caller that he/she will connect them to the right person
Software Developer - Develops a product that the client base wants to buy
Customer Service Rep - Anticipates the needs of their customers and instills confidence in them; supports the product
In reality, sales isn’t that scary. I realize now that in every position I have held since that jewelry store, there was some indirect aspect of sales involved. If you truly believe that the product/service you are offering is the greatest product/service in the market, it makes the duties of sales seem less like duties and more like helping people. You don’t have to be the stereotypical used car salesman, using hard sell tactics to get your clients to purchase more from you. If you commit to providing outstanding service to your already existing clients, they will be more inclined to purchase more products/services from you, thus increasing your sales.