A Visit from One of the World's Worst Salesmen

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Author John Towler, Ph.D.
Original Publication Exchange Magazine

A terrible sales call and how you can ensure that your sales force doesn't send this impression!

We were lured to a high-tech trade show and it led to the most amazing sales call. A large show featuring the latest in high-tech products and services was in town and when one of the exhibitors mailed us a coupon for free admission – we decided to attend. As it happened, this was a bit of a scam since the admission was free, but we spent an enjoyable couple of hours viewing the displays, entering contests and talking to the vendors.

One that caught our eye was a Web site design firm offering a comprehensive Web site analysis. Our Web site has won a couple of awards, but we were interested in what they could do for us.

The reps encouraged us to consider an analysis and told us that even though they were professional developers, the analysis of their own site revealed several broken links and other errors. We thought that this was a strange recommendation for their services, but gave them our cards to be entered in the draw for an analysis.

A week later, I answered the phone to hear, "Hi John! This is George.

How're doing? I want to drop by, but where are you guys located?" Now I know several Georges and this certainly wasn't one of them. George went on to tell me that we had won the contest, that they had analyzed our Web site and he wanted to come over to present us with the results. We were intrigued, if not a little puzzled that if they had selected our business card and been to our Web site, why didn't they know our address? Nevertheless, we agreed to meet.

An hour later George appeared and started to talk, and I do mean talk. We ushered him in to our boardroom and tried to introduce our managers, but George barely paused for breath. With a great flourish he tossed a 30-page report on the table and told us that we really needed their services.

There was only one copy of the report and several of us, so we asked him to summarize what it said. "I have no idea," he replied. "I haven't had time to read it." As he rambled on, we skimmed the report and noted that we had been given low marks for spelling. "What spelling mistakes do we have?" we asked. "It's all in the report," replied George. A few minutes later, we found the section and noted that the mistakes weren't mistakes at all, but were the trade names of our products. We pointed this out to George, who simply said, "Well we can't catch everything." But, we thought, this is what you want us to hire you to do.

George proceeded to tell us that most managers haven't a clue about Web design and needed experts like them to help them understand meta tags, spiders, search engines, java scripts and other essential elements. "Web masters" he said, "barely understand them themselves." Our Web master who was sitting across from him wasn't very pleased at this. "Not only that," George went on, "CEO's don't understand people who visit your site and how they think." Our psychologist CEO wasn't impressed.

By this time, we couldn't wait to get rid of George; however, we politely asked him for a copy of the report, a list of his services and the fees involved. George told us that he didn't have any promotional materials with him but that he would send us everything we needed to know together with a copy of the report. As he moved to the door, George's final comment was "You know, most managers want to get out their checkbooks at this point and sign up. But I always tell them to wait a couple of weeks and think it over. You should do the same. By the way, what do you guys do here?"

We never heard from George again and it's probably just as well. However, our sales manager used the experience to show his team what not to do on a sales call. George was unprepared, a poor listener, and didn't ask any questions. He knew nothing about us or his own business, didn't ask for the order and never followed up. Where did his company find him, why did they hire him and how long will it be before they figure out that he cannot produce for them?

The shame of it is that his firm could have avoided this if they had screened their applicants for sales positions. You can do this easily, quickly and inexpensively with sales tests. These tests measure such things as:

Sales Aptitude
Sales Responsibility
Sales Work Experience
Sales Skills
Sales Interest
Sales Orientation
Persuasiveness
Sales Potential and a host of other factors essential to effective selling.

If you are looking for entry-level, retail sales people, try the Retail Readiness Assessment. This test, developed for the National Retail Federation is the first test to accurately identify people who have the skills and aptitudes that are essential for success in retail environments. The test is easy to administer and the results can be in your hands in minutes. The test can be used to screen new job applicants or to assess the skills of your current staff. The comprehensive report includes a profile of the person and identifies an individual's strengths and weaknesses.

If you need to assess a candidate's attitude towards sales, there are three choices. One is the Personnel Selection Inventory. It measures the attitudes of job applicants and evaluates retail sales personnel based on their sales aptitude, customer service orientation, job commitment and integrity. It is an inexpensive and highly reliable way to pre-screen applicants.

Or you may want to use the Sales Aptitude Test. It will help you assess behavioral and personality characteristics that are indicative of success in sales positions. It measures eight traits that are important to success in sales and yields one overall score. The test measures:

Achievement Motivation
Ego Strength (resilience to criticism, rejection or failure. Such people are able to maintain a positive attitude in the face of failure or rejection)
Energy
Enterprise
Persuasiveness
Self Confidence
Sociability

The Sales Attitude Check List test will provide you with a quick measure of sales habits. Designed to reflect attitudes and behaviors, this test helps give you a clear picture of your sales applicants and/or current staff.

Sales skills are relatively easy to measure. There are two excellent tests for this: the Sales Aptitude Test as described above, and the Sales Professional Assessment Inventory.

The Sales Professional Assessment Inventory measures the potential for success in sales and can be used to select inside or outside salespersons. It is used for personnel selection and placement and to identify training needs. It measures sales motivation, sales readiness and dependability. An unusual feature about this test is that it assesses sales arithmetic, business ethics and sales potential.

Sales tests are excellent tools to help you find the right people, with the right skills in the shortest possible time. The costs range from under $20 to several hundred dollars, but the costs are more than offset by the savings in getting a qualified person who can produce those all important sales in the least amount of time. If you don't want to hire a salesperson like George, use a test to make sure you are getting someone better.

John Towler is a Psychologist and the founder of Creative Organizational Design. Please send comments about this article to jtowler@creativeorgdesign.com. For more information, please contact us.

Re-printable with permission.