Based on my research, the first sale was made by a caveman during the Stone Age. The smooth talking Neanderthal sold a set of flint carving tools to a friend. At that time, he needed to face his potential customer, because wild pigeons weren’t strong enough to carry both the sales pitch (in drawings, of course) and the product to the interested buyer. And pterodactyls had already become extinct.
Some 130,000 years later, the face-to-face sales approach is still the best way to develop a relationship, which is the key to out-selling the competition. I fully understand Amazon.com Inc. sells more than $200 billion in goods every year without ever seeing the buyer. Maybe when millennials and Generation Z take over, salespeople will become a little less necessary.
But I don’t think so. Even Amazon needs salespeople to help grow its cloud and advertising businesses. And in the tire industry, where consumers and fleet customers must have their cars and trucks physically serviced by retailers and commercial dealers, they are crucial to staying in business.
Face-to-face interaction between the buyer and the seller is still the best way to build a relationship. It is the cornerstone of a successful brick and mortar independent tire dealership.
While combing the Modern Tire Dealer archives in celebration of our 100th anniversary, I have run across many articles extolling the virtues of salesmanship. For example, Dick Morgan, who founded Morgan Marketing Solutions Inc. and has contributed several stories to our magazine over the years, wrote about developing an effective sales pitch in 1989.
“After clearly establishing the background — the prospect’s tire situation as it now exists — and focusing on your prospect’s goals, you are in an excellent position to make your specific recommendations, which will help the prospect meet his tire-related goals, and gain you business.”
Follow that up with “details of the benefits your prospect will receive.”
Morgan’s advice sounds like it would be successful today, doesn’t it?
The late Bernie Kovach, a past publisher of MTD and president of our then parent company, once spelled out the eight qualities a good salesperson should have. “Sales are powered by people,” he wrote back in 1976.
“While these thoughts are not original, they often need to be retold,” he said. At the time there was no Internet, much less World Wide Web, so some of you might assume these qualities are nothing more than worn-out cliches that have changed drastically in the last 43 years. But before you arbitrarily dismiss them, read them as he wrote them. Then make up your mind.
1.Will to succeed and determination. Without these two qualities salespeople cannot hope to win. There are many frustrations a salesman faces each day. Many times his prospect, or customer-to-be, will say no. When this happens the salesman must have the will to go back and say, “I’m going to sell, I’m going to sell.”
2.Enthusiasm. It is this quality that convinces the customer your product is the one he must buy. Enthusiasm is really that which makes you a friend of the buyer. It makes you a producer of confidence in your abilities and your product. Enthusiasm also tells the customer that you’ve got what it takes.
3. Initiative. A good salesperson must be a self-starter. He doesn’t wait to be given hints and tips on how to best obtain sales; he thinks out new ways of making sales, which are different and generate new ideas that will win over his customers.
4. Sincerity and honesty. Selling a product that requires routine and repeated calls on customers will always require the salesman to build goodwill through honesty and sincerity.
5. Confidence. This characteristic is very close to enthusiasm, for confidence comes from complete knowledge of the product and experience gained from making effective calls.
6. A pleasant personality. This is a big plus because a salesman has to mix with all types of people. Each customer is different in some way, and a good salesman must get business from many different types of customers. There is no such thing as limiting calls to friends or those people you get along with. You must develop a personality that enables you to call on and sell to people with whom you have very little in common.
7. Adaptability. To be a successful salesman, you must be adaptable enough to change your approach and sales presentation according to the situation, size and type of the customer’s business. You must be able to present the product you want to sell on any given day or in a certain sales quota period.
8. Perseverance. Keep trying even when it seems your efforts will never succeed. Remember that 80% of all sales to new customers are made after the fifth call, but 50% of all salesmen quit after the first call.
“To sum up, these qualities are important, whether you are an owner of an independent tire dealership, a sales manager, a retail or commercial salesman,” he said. “As a matter of fact, they’re qualities all of us should carry into everyday life.”
I agree with Bernie, who I knew personally. And as long as homo sapiens exist, I believe his words will continue to ring true. ■
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.