I came across this article by Bill Gorman some time ago. It was first published by RV Trade Digest, September 1984, long before I had ever thought about making RV Sales a career.
What is the secret of success? Throughout the world of RV sales, there are poor salespeople, adequate salespeople, and pretty good salespeople. Then, there are those for whom nothing goes wrong, it seems. These salespeople consistently outsell the competition and rarely lose a customer. What is the secret to their success?
The need to view sales, as a valuable role as a professional, with its own technology and vocabulary, is critical to becoming a high performing salesperson. Product knowledge trained individuals, who become salespeople, and who understand that selling is crucial to their jobs, are enthusiastic about their profession. They apply skills, strategies and concepts developed over time. They can also withstand the inevitable rejection and loss, attendant with the sales process because they understand that these come with the territory.
The basic sales training skills prevalent in the industry today need to be continued. There is a body of knowledge to be learned about selling and a cluster of skills to be developed. In the eyes of the customer, all salespeople are perceived to perform basic skills to a substantial degree. To be a salesperson, let alone a high performer, a person must be trained in fundamentals. However, a thorough knowledge and practice of basic skills do not necessarily predict high performance.
Product knowledge, competitive knowledge, and face to face skills selling feature/benefits, handling objections, and so forth are still prerequisites for the sales job. The sales practices taught in the training programs-how to probe and close, how to sell features, advantages, and benefits-have been well learned by nearly all salespeople. Working with several dealerships around the country, I have observed both the high and moderate performers who have mastered these practices and other similar ones. These practices have, in fact, become the price of admission to the selling job. However, high performing salesperson’s go way beyond the basic selling skills.
High performing salespeople take a two-way advocacy position, completely representing the interest of the dealership and of the customer. They bring added value to the sales tasks with greater enthusiasm, more sensitive interpersonal skills, and a sense of professionalism. They are committed to the sales process. They see it as a profession; a way of life.
High performers take the initiative in doing what is in the best interest of the customer. Compared with moderate performers, the high performing salespeople intellectualizes the sales process, mapping and developing stategies that allow for best use of the customer’s time. Having a sales interview in the beginning of a conversation with a customer normally starts this.
People who become sales representatives in our dealerships must undergo a value orientation that explains the whole dynamic of the sales profession.
Technical values of product expertise must be changed and augmented by their new values and relationship management, advocacy, careful time planning, and the resource use. Without this orientation, the purpose of the sales profession may be missed. Salespeople are much more than demonstrators and explainers of RV’s. They provide information, advice, build relationships, solve problems, make deals, and paint the picture for the customer.
High performers understand that the RV or service itself does not build value, but that salespeople build value with every contact with a customer. Salespeople know how to make the duration of the sales time valuable for the customer. They are “relationship” brokers; they orchestrate and coordinate activities and resources with the customers and know how to deliver a desired effect. High performing salespeople have a sense of control over their destiny and make things happen by carefully using their time.
Salespeople clearly need to learn the influence skills that are required for working with both internal people in the dealership and customers. Salespeople generally have no subordinates; they do their work through others in the dealership, over whom they little control. The ability to influence others to change their priorities, interrupt their schedules, or fulfill other requests for attention or special action is a major job of a salesperson. Customers must be taken care of when they have a problem and deliveries must be made within 24 hours if at all possible.
High performers generally do a much better job than moderate performers in this area. These skills are subtle and directly related to the interpersonal qualities of support. Sharing the power, to build the esteem of others with trust. Success in the area of getting others in the dealership to work closely with a salesperson clearly distinguishes high from moderate performers since it reflects the ability of the high performer to coordinate others in a way that allows for mutual trust and respect, the priority of making a sale, and taking care of the customer afterwards.
The manner in which high performing salespeople establish, build and maintain relationships with others in the dealership is a key ingredient of success. To internal support staff, the salesperson who respects and solicits the opinion of others, who considers the ideas open-mindedly, and who seeks creative ways to solve problems with the entire staff of the dealership is a high performer. To customers, the salesperson that seems enthusiastic is interested in working with
them to solve problems, rates as a more successful performer than the one who does not. Clearly, the maintenance of key relationships, internally, as well as with the customer, is a vital aspect of selling. This implies a statiegy designed to establish working relationships in which mutual support, trust, and goals are nurtured over time. A salesperson, with these characteristics, can penetrate a dealership at several levels; develop an inventory of concerns felt by various peoples throughout the dealership and offers solutions at the right time.
The skill required to take care of a customer to provide timely and caring concern and to maintain a vilgilence if the customer has a problem is where competition gets eliminated. Salespeople, who take care of customers, will get referrals and repeat business and will continue to develop strategies to sell additional units.
High performers do not disappear once the sale is made. They are available to the customer using the RV and when he comes in for service. They continue to maintain a customer relationship that their customer finds valuable. As we have said many times before, salespeople need to stay in constant touch with the customer. A customer should be called the first Monday or Tuesday after he has taken delivery to see how he likes his unit. At this time referrals can be requested. The customer should be called in ten days, in 30 days, then every six months forever.
Training in this area of follow up and prospecting for customers that are already owners usually is reserved for veteran salespeople. It is focused on building a clientele.
Selling is a profession that demands preparation, customer orientation, and knowledge ability about how to add value to a sales situation.
Highly successful salespeople do much more than practice the fundamental sales skills. They know and excise influence management skills with both their internal staff and their customers. They maximize new values of relationship management, advocacy, careful time planning, and resources utilization. They appreciate that customer service after the sale is critical to continued success. High performers view the sales profession as one in which yesterday’s success formulas have become today’s price of admission.
The Sales Manager is
Bill Gorman was President of Gorman Planning Co., Ltd. in Virginia Beach. His many years of experience in the industry included positions as owner of a dealership, general manager, sales manager, salesman, mechanic, service manager, manufacturer’s representative, consultant and trainer. Following his death, Bill’s impact continues in the hearts of people and within the many organizations with which he had contact over a long and highly successful career.