Running Sales Enablement as a Business Within a Business

ISE Season 3 - Enablement History with Erich Starrett

Many sales managers want to start their own Sales Enablement Business, now or in the future. It’s interesting to think about helping them take that kind of ownership now. Why not let them be entrepreneurial when they don’t have to pay social security taxes, overhead, office space?

What if sales managers could own a business within a business? Well, they CAN with a sales team. They can track their expenses and what they cost the company. They can track the amount of revenue they bring into your “franchise.”

The balance sheet would tell any good sales manager what the “margin” is from their “franchise.” It’s a great way to become a world-class salesperson. And guess what? The more proficient they become, the more accountability they will take run their business-within-a-business.

Many of the greatest sales managers see themselves as an enterprise; and they act and think like a business. They value performance, change management, accomplishments, quality, self-management, time-management, community service, and reputation. They are the face of the business—an enterprise with a quality based product line, and skilled knowledge base. Their resume becomes a brochure, highlighting their strengths and minimizing the company’s limitations. The sales conversations are like interviews – considered sales interactions where their share their product — themselves (ie., their passion, purpose, personality, potential, and performance). They share the benefits of working with potential vendors. Their image, dress, and conduct is consistent with their business standards. Their follow-up contact (thank-you letter and/or follow-up call) will close the deal, and leave a lasting professional impression on the future customer (employer).

Membership does have its privileges! The deal is won.

Great sales managers also collect all their successes and their professional or leadership wins into a sales win-book. The win-book is becoming a necessary part of their presentation and documentation to current and future buyers. And it clearly communicates the role the salesperson and the company plays in helping others succeed. The contents of the win-book includes, but is not limited to, the salesperson’s bio and qualifications , sales track record, example client work, testimonials and references of other buyers.

Selling continues to be a challenging profession. Throughout business history a handful of salespeople have achieved success far beyond the ordinary, and these super-high achievers all followed the same set of fundamental principles in their approach to the business. It is worthwhile for any serious student of the game to study the common elements in the greatest success stories in the history of selling.

First and foremost, each of the greats had a passionate love for the product he or she sold. It might be easy to understand how a young Estee Lauder would love to make women more beautiful, the appeal of beauty is universal. However, many would not see much romance in a vegetable brush. But to Alfred C. Fuller (AKA “The Fuller Brush Man”) brushes were cool. Fuller loved brushes, and to him anything having to do with brushes was fascinating.

A second and closely related characteristic of the great sellers is thorough product knowledge. This knowledge enables the enterprising seller to answer the prospect’s questions, and show the prospect the benefits that would accrue from owning that product. It also enables the seller to show a healthy enthusiasm for the product. The value of product knowledge is perhaps best illustrated by the following excerpt from Percy Whiting’s excellent 1947 book, The Five Great Rules of Selling, where he shared a story. “I went one day with one of our mechanics to buy some linoleum tools and equipment saw some carpet tacks and I said, “Do you sell carpet tacks?” “Do I sell carpet tacks!” he almost shouted as he bubbled over with excitement. “Why I sell the best carpet tacks on the market, and I can prove it.” “Look,” he said as he admiringly held up the tack, “I sell Presto blue sterilized, rustproof, small, bevel-headed tacks. Unlike the ordinary flat-headed tack that pinches and pulls the carpet and thereby forever exposes its ugly head, this tack when driven into the carpet causes the carpet to flow up over the head and thereby conceals itself in the pile of the carpet. Yes sir, this is by far the best tack on the market!” As it turns out, product knowledge is even more important to sellers of high-tech equipment than it is to sellers of carpet tacks. Yet how many salespeople today can talk as knowledgeably about our own products as that long-ago peddler talked about his tacks? The immortal Diamond Jim Brady, arguably the greatest salesman who ever lived, knew more than most of his customers about the railroad trains they operated. Dressed in his expensive suits and bespangled with diamonds, he would crawl in, under and around the equipment, and he kept detailed notebooks full of important (to him) information about both machines and customers.

Third, the great peddlers have all been undaunted by rejection and failure. You have to be, to succeed in a business where you are guaranteed to hear “no” much more often than you hear “yes.” Farm equipment vendor Cyrus McCormick, for example, sold only two McCormick Harvesters in his first three years of trying. He sold seven in the fourth year, and sold enough of them to make a living in the fifth year. (The point here is he was still trying in that fifth year.) McCormick eventually achieved great success. His company, once known as the International Harvester Company, is still around today, under the name Navistar.

Fourth, showmanship. This is another virtue common to all truly great sellers, and there are no exceptions. Showmanship, which grabs the attention of the prospective customer, makes the job both fun and lucrative for the seller who understands it. P.T. Barnum proved showmanship could be the actual product, as Ill as a means of selling products. Diamond Jim would grab the attention of a new prospect with his larger-than-life style. If a prospect doubted his many diamonds Ire real, he would take one off and use it to cut James Buchanan Brady in the doubting Thomas’ office window.

Fifth, pride in the product. The greats insisted on selling only products of the highest quality, to keep the customer satisfied. When the New Haven Railroad complained to Andrew Carnegie about a shipment of faulty rails, he wrote them an apologetic letter, dispatched an inspector to their yard to report on the rails and then harshly criticized his production people for what he called “this disgraceful failure.”In the first chapter of her autobiography, Estee Lauder says it best. “I learned early that being a perfectionist and providing quality was the only way to do business.”
All the greats have been tough and self reliant. They Ire charming enough to be relentlessly aggressive without putting people off. They all eschewed security in favor of opportunity. They all had fun

Alfred C. Fuller immigrated, penniless, from Canada very early in the 20th Century. He built up a hundred-million dollar business by the start of WWII. Cyrus McCormick was a poor Virginia farm boy when he started selling his harvesting machines. By the time he died he was the owner of one of the world’s most profitable companies.P.T. Barnum left his parents’ farm before the Civil War to make a living selling dry goods, and he made a huge fortune, added several new words to the English language, and founded the circus that still bears his name. Estee Lauder started selling face cream in the corner of the neighborhood beauty shop, and built up a business that sells several billion dollars’ worth of cosmetics each year. Andrew Carnegie dropped out of school at the age of thirteen to go to work in a sweatshop, and ended up the possessor of the world’s largest fortune, which he then gave away to charity before he died.

The sales managers of today has a proud tradition to live up to. Those who are ambitious enough to want to succeed greatly need to look back to the habits of the greatest of our predecessors, and follow the time-tested principles that make a salesperson a winner.

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