Below is a light-hearted cartoon view of an old fashioned telephone sales guy...
The phone in the cartoon pictured with this post, dates the image as probably from the late 1950's, right back in the day and before my time. Before computer screens and, by association, email. See if you can spot the similarities and the differences. You probably won't see it as I do so please scroll down for my observations which might inspire you. I hope they do. My conclusion will certainly surprise you.
1. The first thing you probably notice is the cigarette burning away. That was a distraction, nearly everyone in telephone sales or customer service seemed to be a smoker. Nobody needed to go out to smoke. Offices were full of ashtrays and smoke was everywhere. You could barely escape it. I cannot remember a single non smoking office when I started working. So that's one thing that's it's good to no longer have around. Today's distraction is naturally your tablet, your mobile phone and all manner of social media that you feel obliged to use 18 hours a day. He had his problem with fags and you have your problem saving time with all these gadgets...so much so that you have little time to work efficiently. You are too connected where he was too disconnected.
2. The "always there " sandwich. That was always there sitting in front of our hero just waiting for him to get connected to a prospect and then he would start munching away as he spoke to prospective clients. That's always been a common feature in a sales office. The sandwich eating time (now known as grazing time) is still around though it has morphed into all sorts of food dressing the office desks around the country. Non stop grazing is not a great thing, is it? It's bad and always was but how do you drum this into a sales team? Don't pitch with a packed mouth was the answer then as it is now. Eating at your desk is almost OK but don't mix it with answering the phone or initiating a call. Please! By the way you will never, ever, see a top telephone salesperson eating at his or her desk during call times. It just kind of doesn't happen, does it? If you know different let me know as it will be a first.
By the way, back in those days management pretty much insisted that everyone left the office at lunchtime. I acknowledge that more and more these days this does not happen as fewer people are even mobile enough to get out of their office or see the point and certainly don't see the value in recharging their batteries. The pub is certainly out these days but anything else could be seen as a welcome break? A walk outside, a visit to the gym (I know people in sales offices doing this every day) or moving to the canteen and having a positive chat with some colleagues. Working more and more hours in my opinion is rarely extra productive. You are better off getting in early, making those 8-9am calls and possibly leaving early. Do more of the right stuff in the time you have available is my point here. Work smart, all of you start working smart and efficiently in normal office hours.
3. A good point for the guy in the cartoon is that he is dressed for work, he has made an effort and that's the first step on the road to success. He will have clean and smart shoes on and no trainers, no American hats and no bomber jacket. He is dressed for success. The same is apparent today. There are those that "do and them that don't." These days management often don't insist on a dress code. I would, it makes a huge difference in attitude. Dress like a professional and a winner and it will work for you. I worked in several very broken down places in my sales career but always wore an ironed white shirt and a coloured tie. It kind of held my head on. If you get that you are on your way to a better life in sales. It's called going to work....being the man or woman and acting as if you are really in business. The difference will be immediate if you are currently a distant relation to the hippy generation. Being a hippy in the office never cuts it guys!
"The consciousness of clean linen is a source of moral strength second only to that of a clean conscience". Quoted by John M. Wilson in Open the Mind and Close the Sale.
4. Our hero has a glass of water to keep himself hydrated. Essential. I always have a bottle of sparkling water near me when on the phone all day. I have sat with people who seemed to drink nothing all day and yes they sounded pretty dry and some were pretty terrible much of the time but even water wouldn't have saved them. They were in the wrong workplace frankly. You know what I mean here ? Just not up to the lively, hydrated fun person that they needed to be.
5. He has a script on the desk in front of him. Every successful sales person had a script. Nothing will have changed. Not using a script is not as smart as you might think, you will often miss opportunities. Have you ever heard of a play where actors did not follow a script? Pretending we know it all and don't need the script is a bit of a Faux Pas. Not having a script will catch you out at least a couple of times each week. It did in those days and still does today. I see it in every office I visit. The worst of it is that staff without scripts don't even realise how poor they are on the phone, they think they are the bees knees and it's the prospects fault that he is not buying today. A script or a skeleton script laid out in a progressive way allows you to bring a wandering prospect back to your process. It works so well that I am astounded by the number of unscripted people who think they have their prospects where they want them. They rarely do. They sometimes tend to rely on an email doing their job for them. If that sounds familiar you are not really in sales. The guy in the cartoon certainly was.
6. Our hero also has a list of people to call. He will start at the beginning and go through this list. To make it interesting, he will sometimes call from the back forwards as fewer people at the end of any list get a call as most sales teams wimp out long before the end of their list. On a good day, our hero's handset will not rest on the hook for more than a few seconds. It's one call after the other...bang bang bang until he was able to make a pitch. He had a manager and his manager reported to a director. The theme of the day was to stay on the phone for certain periods of time and then have a break and probably a cigarette. That method has very little in common with what happens today. But it worked and our hero was often more productive than his modern day counterpart. Certainly a ton more calls were made back then. Leads came from directories and yearbooks and were a comprehensive list. What do you rely on now ? Sometimes it will be better but often very time consuming and ages between each call which was never the case when you simply called everyone and left no stone unturned.
Now everything is a bit too precise. You do not need to know via Linked-In or any social media what your prospects eat for breakfast. You simply need to be making calls, getting along with people who answer and get put through. That's the same as it always was. The additional details come as the process continues. You ask questions as to...you do not need all the answers before you pick up a phone. Take note of that, it really is well worth remembering. People give you the answers more readily than 20 minutes on the internet 'researching'. This may be the first time anyone has suggested this to you but if you really want to make to the winners’ enclosure every month you will reverse the amount of time you are on the computer compared to the phone. Make calls and make money and stop fiddling around.
7. The cartoon guy had no email system, no computer and yet he was more productive. How is that? Email has revolutionised business but now the cracks are there for everyone to see. This is a coaching email so it can be long but will still be ignored by many recipients. It's the same with your own well crafted emails. Emails do not sell, the phone sells. Back in the day people closed deals all the time on the phone. It's what we had to do. Now, there are many, many people in sales whose only function is to get as quickly as possible to the point where they say or the prospect says "send an email". That's it . That's the pitch and the Close is to await the order or the call back. That regularly passes for selling these days. Dream on guys. Real sales guys are still making a ton of money on the phone not on email. Wise up to this.
My conclusion is actually that things were very different then and there was a lot of success and there still is a lot of success. The big difference, and I know this well is that people no longer have the same amount of time as they used to have. You have less time, your buyers have less time, we all have less time. And yet the clocks have not speeded up? Why have we all got less time then? Mainly in my mind due to computers and all the time saving devices and systems we have allowed into our day and now clutter up our business and our lives. We are so busy saving time that we don't have much time left. Another conclusion is that the world inexorably moves relentlessly forward and with so much choice available to buyers that everything is being bought pretty much on price where there is no discernible difference from one supplier to another. That's where personality comes into it, as it always did of course.
People buy from people they like. Be the helpful person that your clients want to buy from. Give them sound examples of others who have trodden the same path with you and your company and really got the best out of their purchases of products or services. That is what binds these two eras together in my mind. Serving buyers and their company politely and with genuine empathy with information you would want and need in their position has always been the key. The reality is that nothing much has changed in the balance between buyer and seller. We do the same thing as all those years ago with some pluses and some minuses in technique and of course technology but essentially exactly the same thing. Think about that.
As ever, I am interested in anyone else's observations or any questions you may currently have.