Archive for category Sales

Because Prospecting Is What Salespeople Do

dan-3Get out there and do it now!

I know you hate to prospect and you hate to make cold calls, so this is what we have to talk about today. Whether you like it or not. To help us, there is a great book by Mark Hunter called High-Profit Prospecting a trade paperback published by Amacom. This book is a first rate guide to making sure that you squeeze everything you can out of your prospecting. If you are in sales I am not going to ask you to read this book; I am not going to urge you to read this book. No I am going to order you to read this book. This is the best book on prospecting since well since I read Hunter’s buddy Jeb Blount’s book called Fanatical Prospecting. Yeah sorry but I order you to read that one as well.

Look, there are no two ways about it, prospecting is one of the key elements if not the key element of doing a great sales job. You have to find new customers and to do that you have to prospect. Now don’t bother to start listing the excuses and myths about prospecting and why you cannot do it and why it doesn’t work in today’s market, because I have heard them all as has Mark Hunter. Actually to save time he has listed them for us to kick off from his book and here they are, with a few of my own for good measure.

Myth 1: One and Done: A cold call is not leaving a voice mail. You have to keep at it until you actually talk to someone. And by the way a ton of e-mails won’t do it either, they are useful to warm up an upcoming cold call but they are not a real cold call. You have to actually talk to someone to start the sales process.

Myth 2: I’ll prospect when I’m done taking care of my customers: I you believe this you will never call on new customers. No, let the shop take care of your customers and you go find some new ones.

Myth 3: It’s impossible to have dedicated time to prospect: Yeah right. Make the time to prospect, it is after all the most important thing you’ll do all day.

Myth 4: We’ve made it this long without prospecting: As Mark Hunter says in his book, “This myth will sink your company.” This myth has already sunk many other companies in the past. Look you need new customers even if your company is doing a great job and you have many long term customers…stuff happens, companies are bought, companies go out of business or decide to go in a different direction. If you are not always out there getting new customers, you will run out of business and it will be sooner than you think.

Myth 5: If we provide great customer service to our existing customers, we won’t have to prospect: Of course customer service especially great customer service is essential to be successful but you still need to always be prospecting for new customers. Check myth 4 for the reason.

Myth 6: Only “born salespeople” can prospect: No, with a set of skills and a lot of heart, courage and hard work, not to mention patience anyone can be a successful prospector and that’s a fact.

Now I am going to add a few myths of my own.

Myth 7: Ah, my personal favorite, if we build a great product they will come: No, they will not, unless your product is a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield they will not come. You have to tell someone about your products and services for them to know enough to want to talk to you and as a sales person this is your number one responsibility.

Myth 8: No one wants to see me anymore: They are all too busy to see me so it’s much too hard to make appointments. Actually, this is more of an excuse than a myth. Yes, it is true that it is much harder to see people than it has ever been but that’s just too bad. Your job as a sales person is to find a way to make it happen. Look if it’s hard for you to see a buyer it is as hard for your competitor as well so you’re on a level playing field. You have to figure out how to see people and how to get your point across on a phone call or even through the voice mail you leave to intrigue the potential customer enough to make her want to see you.

I think by now you’re getting the point. We as sales people have to prospect, we have to get out there and get in front of new customers. We have to get more involved in lead generation, prospecting, cold calling, first sales calls and getting that first quote and winning that first order. This is want we do. For the next couple of week, I am going to dedicate this column working with you on successful prospecting techniques and I am going to use Mark Hunter’s excellent book as a guide so I’d recommend that you’d do something to help yourself and get out there and get a copy of your own and follow along because there is no way that in 900 words a week I am going to cover everything that is in this important book. Next time we’ll talk about successful factors in lead generation you are not going to want to miss it. Meanwhile stop coming up with your own set of myths of why prospecting doesn’t work and get to work on some prospecting…try it you’ll like it. It’s only common sense.

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Customers Still Deserve Your Respect

dan-5Times may have changed, but some things never do. The old adage that the customer is always right still stands. No matter how hard it is to accept, you have to live with that law if you want to stay in business.

We all know that it is harder to respect the customer now than it has ever been. Customers are much more demanding and insistent that we do things their way. And the irony is that they want less direct communication with us than ever before. The want to do everything online, and they won’t pick up the phone if you call them. And heaven forbid if you try to visit them in person…they want no part of that.

So you are supposed to figure out what it is they want, and in many instances with absolutely no help from them. Many times they will even get angry if you ask too many questions, even if those questions are designed to help give them what they want.

Difficult as it is, this is the world we live in, so we have to do whatever we can do make it work. Here are five things you can do to communicate with your customers and educate them, so they can help you help them to build a better product.

  1. Show them how valuable your knowledge can be to them. Instead of trying to “one up” your customers by showing them how much smarter you are about PCBs, try to educate them in a friendly and helpful way. Offer them seminars and webinars on how a board is built. Send them presentations and books about how boards are fabricated. Do whatever it takes to make your customers “board smart” because the smarter your customers are about building your product, the better their tools will be and the more respect they will have for your technology and what it takes to build their boards.
  2. Invite them to your facility. Look, captive board shops are a thing of the past. Many of the people we used to interact with, the ones who were buying boards or supporting those who bought boards, had come out of their companies’ captive board shops. For the most part these people are long gone and the people who have replaced them have never been in a board shop, so invite them to yours. Ask them over for the day, feed them, lecture them, tour them and educate them. Bond with them and create a partnership. This will go a long way toward making you their trusted advisor and expert on printed circuit boards.
  3. Learn everything you can about them. Visit their company. Find out how their boards are being used. Learn about their marketplace and who their customers are and what they have to do to succeed with their customers. Go to their receiving department and learn what they do with your boards when they arrive. Try to find ways to make it easier for them to use your boards. Could you package the boards in a way that would be more compatible with the way they receive the boards? Teach them how to handle your boards, how to pre-treat and bake them if need be. Show them how boards fabricated from different laminates should he handled differently and why. Be their expert, their partner, and their friend.
  4. Help them design the boards so that you will build them the best boards for the best price. I know this is not always easy and often they don’t want to hear what you have to say, but keep trying. If you have been working at doing items 1, 2 and 3, they should have enough trust and respect in you by now to listen to your advice about designing boards and calling out the right laminates in a way that will make your job easier while giving them the best product at the most economical price.
  5. Go back to what we said in the beginning of this column: the customer is always right. There’s another old saw that is relevant here: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Live by that; it’s the only way to go. And finally, one more (there is always one more in my “underpromise and overdeliver” world):
  6. Lead the way when respecting your customers. Show your staff by your example that you’re in business to serve your customers and that without customers you would not have a business. Never allow your folks to speak disrespectfully about your customers. Make sure you never speak disrespectfully about your customers, because if you do, you are giving everyone in your company permission to do the same.

The customer is always right and it is your job as a company leader to understand that and make sure everyone in your company understands it as well.

It’s only common sense.

———————————————————————————————————Dan Beaulieu is a 30-year PCB industry veteran, sales and marketing expert, and writer. He has contributed to numerous industry publications on topics ranging from sales and marketing, to board shop performance.

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That Annual Sales Meeting

dan-6Last week, we talked about preparing for 2018 by developing account plans and forecasts. We mentioned that this would be presented, viewed, and discussed by the entire management team at the annual sales meeting that would be held in January of 2018. This week, we’ll discuss that annual sales meeting.

This is truly, the most important meeting your company will hold every year. It is the one time during the entire year where the team comes together and intentionally talks about business for the coming year.

Besides the sales people presenting their slate of account plans, and their customer-by-customer month- by-month sales forecast, operations will talk about what their plans are for the coming year and how based on the sales forecast they will plan production shifts as well as staff the company to meet that forecast.

Engineering will talk about the new technologies they will be coming up with in the next year and when they will be implemented.

Both operations and engineering will present a capital plan, listing expenditures for the coming year including equipment, and facility upgrades and a schedule of when they will occur.

And Quality will discuss any new specs and qualifications and registrations that they plan to achieve or be updating in the coming year.

The marketing department will deliver their marketing plan including a quarter by quarter plan for synergistic marketing that will tie in, advertising, newsletters, and social media. They will also announce the trade shows they will be attending and exhibiting at.

There will also be a download of market information including a study of each market from defense and aerospace to security, to computers, to telecom, to medical and commercial to decide which market to target. There will also be a discussion of the competition; who is winning, who is left, who has gone out of business and why, as well as which companies have grown by doing what?

And finally, the entire team will come together and discuss the company’s strategic direction for the coming year. This will involve setting a complete plan in play for the coming year, including sales tactics based on the customers, technology, and markets that the company will be targeting not only in the next twelve months but also twenty-four, thirty-six and yes, even sixty months.

This team will study, discuss, and make major decisions on a number of key topics including whether or not to develop and implement an acquisition program for buying or merging with new companies. They may decide to develop and implement a roll-up plan where they acquire suffering companies and roll up their business into their own. Or they might decide to vertically integrate and buy an assembly company or a design service bureau so they can offer a total solution from design to assembly. Or alas, they might decide that it is time to call it day and sell the company or worse yet just close it…that’s ugly.

This annual sales meeting is a good time to discuss partnerships. Maybe the team decides that it is time to face facts and start offering offshore services, finally going out and getting some Asian suppliers to complement their own capabilities.

These are all issues that are discussed at this once a year annual meeting. But, the most important thing by far, is that all the company’s key people are together in one room for one, two, three days or even a week. Decided together the direction of the company. This is the real reason for the annual meeting. And therefore, every second of that meeting must be carefully planned. There should not be a minute wasted. Everyone should participate and have their fair representation at this meeting. And yes, everyone should come fully prepared to not only discuss their particular area but also with their strong ideas as the overall direction of the company.

And then there are three things that have to come out of the annual meeting:

  1. Everyone must be in complete agreement as to the direction of the company once the meeting is over. Inside the meeting room, there can be infighting and chair throwing and loud words and intense arguments. But once the meeting is over all management must come out of that room fully aligned and marching in step toward the company’s future.
  2. There has to be a communications plan. Once the direction of the company has been decided and everyone on the management team is marching in place, all the managers must go to their respective departments and convey these marching orders. In as little as twenty-four hours everyone, and I mean everyone in the company, must know chapter and verse the direction of the company.
  3. And the last thing that comes out of the annual meeting is a fully assigned and dated action plan. The plan that will become a working document. The tool, the blueprint, that everyone uses to not only implement that plan but measure that company’s progress against the plan’s dated milestones. Too many companies go to all the trouble of holding an annual meeting only to throw the plan in their bottom drawers and completely forget about it until the following September when it is time to repeat the entire process of annual planning. And that ladies and gentlemen is sheer foolishness.

If you are not planning to have an annual meeting this year. If you are not planning to develop account plans, and forecasts, and capital plans, and engineering plans. Then why don’t you just do yourself a favor and just plan to check out. Call my friend Tom Kastner and start the process of selling your company while you still have something to sell. It’s only common sense.

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Going The Extra Mile

dan-7

…and avoiding getting the door shut in your face

We know it’s tough getting appointments. It’s even tougher getting people to answer the phone; and then once you do get that appointment or that phone call you run up against a stone wall made up completely of attitudes of people who do not want to be sold. People are not only terrified of sales pitches, they out and out hate them. If a sales person comes anywhere near trying to get someone to buy something the person he’s talking to will turn off his mental hearing aid in a snap!

This is not only happening in our business, it is happening everywhere. I just read a book called the End of Advertising: Why it had to die and the creative resurrection to come by Andrew Essex, in which the author, who is in advertising, by the way, talks about the death of advertising as we know it. He points out that with all the ways of watching our favorite television programs fewer and fewer people are sticking around for the commercials. He points out that even those Super Bowl commercials aren’t cutting it any longer. Did you know there was absolutely no uptick in sales from the advertisers in the last two Super Bowls? Those companies who advertised, spending a combined $30 million on one big game each year got literally nothing for their advertising dollars. Actually,the only company that made out was Budweiser because after winning Super Bowl Fifty, Peyton Manning said that he was going to drink a “whole lot of Budweiser.” And he meant it! He wasn’t even getting paid to say it, he just planned to drink a lot of beer,

So, if the big boys are facing diminishing returns from conventional sales and advertising, what are those of us carrying bags for our companies supposed to do? First of all, don’t give up because there is hope, there is always hope and secondly maybe things are not as bad as they seem because at least in our world people are still using what we sell. The key is to sell something they need rather than to try to get them to want what we sell.

In other words, focus on exactly what potential customers need. A good sales person will be adept at finding out what they want, exactly, A great company will provide it. For those of you in the PCB industry, here are some of the things that our customers need at this time. And, if you and your company can provide these things, they will take your phone calls. They will take you up on your request for a meeting and yes, they will notice and read and heed your ads.

Okay, let’s get to it. Here are some of the most important needs your customers have:

  1. To get the obvious out of the way they of course need high Quality PCBs on time all the time.
  2. They need worry-free service from their PCB vendors.

Now lets’ get to the good stuff:

  1. They need PCB expertise. It’s not like it was years ago when our customers (OEMs) were the ones who were the PCB experts and they could tell us what they needed. No, not at all, those days are gone and those experts are gone so most of the people we are dealing with don’t have a working knowledge of our products and technology. That’s something they need and it’s something we must provide if we want to sell them PCB’s. We need to invite them into our facilities and show them how a board is built.
  2. They also need our expertise. They have to know they can count on us to provide them with the technical knowledge in PCBs they are going to need to build their products both today and in the future. We can provide this to them with manuals, DFM guides, webinars and seminars and lunch and learns.
  3. They need partners. This is especially true of those companies who are building “products of the future” such as rocket ships and satellites. These companies are sometimes working with technologies that are immature at best and not even invented yet at worst and they need partners to help them get there. Partners, who are willing to share in their mission with time and energy and yes, passion.
  4. And finally, they need to work with companies they can trust, companies who are going to keep their information secret, companies who they will feel comfortable sharing their vision for the future without fear of exposure to the rest of the market until the time is right.

Selling  printed circuit boards is no longer what it once was. It now requires a totally new level of cooperation, dedication, flexibility, passion and trust. The old sales model is broken, the new sales model is the only way we are going to succeed in this new world order. We have to give our customers what they need…not what we want to try to get them to want. It’s only common sense.

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Salespeople Are The Voice Of The Customer

dan-2So as that voice, make sure you get it right!

One of the greatest responsibilities we have as sales people is being the voice of the customer. This means that we must strive to always relay the customer’s message truthfully and most importantly accurately, because, very often the future of the relationship between your company and their customer is in your hands.

This means that you are the one person in the company who has the be the customer expert. It is your duty to learn everything about your customers and make sure that you convey that information accurately to the rest of your organization. Be careful to speak without bias so that you never put your “spin” on what the customer is thinking, or doing, for your own self-serving reasons.

Here are nine things to keep in mind when acting as the relationship manager between your company and the customer.

  1. Knowledge: Know everything you can about your customers, including the business they are in, the amount of your kind of products they buy, what their hot buttons are, and what their needs are both today and in the future.
  2. How to win the business: Learn what it takes to win their business. Find out who they are dealing with, who your competition is, and why that competition is successful. Learn what your customer thinks it takes to be a great supplier and then pass this on to your company.
  3. Be the news reporter: Keep your company up to date on any changes in the status of your customers all the times. Are they in trouble financially? Are they buying someone? Are they going to be introducing a new product? Are they going to be sold.? All this information is vital to the customer/ company relationship and it is up to you as the sales person to make sure your company knows everything and I mean everything.
  4. Mediator: When problems occur, it is up to the sales person to help solve those problems. This is when she really earns her money and this is when accuracy in communications is especially important. This is particularly true when things heat up, when the relationship hits the skids. The sales person is the one who must cool things down. She is the one who must do everything possible to sustain the relationship at all costs. She is the one who makes sure that the company does not win the battle but in the end, lose the war.
  5. Bearer of bad news: As they said in the Godfather, management needs to hear the bad news immediately! No matter how painful it is to hear, bad news should be communicated right away.
  6. Be an Armadillo: Yes, a true sales person must have skin as tough as an armadillo because there are times, especially hard times, when the company is going to want to shoot the messenger because they are so angry and frustrated about the news they are hearing. This means the sales person has to hang tough. He should be able to relay the customer’s negative message with clarity and without exaggeration. He cannot let his own feelings get in the way of conveying the customer’s sometimes insulting message, in a way that will get the point across but at the same time will not pour gasoline on the fire. This is a tough, but important one.
  7. Provide a live butt to kick: When the customer is particularly irate it is up to the sales person to go directly to that customer an offer himself up as the sacrificial lamb, to provide that fresh live butt for the customer to have the satisfaction of kicking. You’d be surprised at how often this works and how often it serves to diffuse the situation.  A great sales person will show up and provide the customers the opportunity to vent. Believe it or not, the sales people who do this are the most respected in the business on their industry.
  8. Accurate and complete conveyer of all news: Sales people should make sure they know all the facts in any critical situation. They need to be able to correctly report any problems a customer is having with their company. If it is a technical problem they need to know all facets of the problem so they can convey it accurately to the people at their own company. They need to be able to anticipate the questions that their engineers and Quality people will ask to be able to develop the right solution to the problem as quickly as possible.
  9. Number one customer advocate: Always, the sales person has to put the customer first; and she has to make sure that everyone at the company does the same.

And finally, there is one more, under promise and over deliver, and that one is to never over promise and under deliver something that is often the case when it comes to sales people. Look, we know that a good sales person must be optimistic, but try to keep your rosy outlook in check. You are not helping your company out if you over forecast or if you let them know that everything is all good with that large customer, when it is not. No one likes surprises, especially negative ones, so no matter how much you would love to forecast that huge million-dollar order for this year. Make sure it’s in the bag before you do. It’s only common sense.

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Team! It’s All About The Team!

dan-5Getting your direct sales people to act as a team

For the most part sales people are lone wolves. One of the reasons they choose to be sales people is the independence, they like to run their own race. I have found that the best sales people are truly the loners. Think of Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glenn Ross. While all the other sales people were drinking together and figuring out how to screw the company to make their numbers, old Ricky just quietly went his own way always making those numbers and claiming his Cadillacs.

No matter how much your sales people prefer working on their own, it is not good for the overall company. We should find some ways to get everyone to work together. We are still sales managers and we still manage sales teams. Not Individuals. Here then are some ideas to get your sales team working together, cooperating, and helping one another so that they all make their numbers and yes, in the end, the company prospers.

Here are ten tips to help you unite your sales individuals into a strong industry leading sales force: (Please note these tips are designed for a sales force made up of direct sales people who reside in their individual territories)

  1. Hold weekly sales meeting. These meetings should be about an hour long and should have a strong and clear agenda covering not only what is happening at the company but also what is happening in each territory. This will give your sales team a chance to talk to one another, talk about their successes and challenges and exchange ideas for winning more business. This is also a great time for them to communicate with your operations and quality people and find out what is going on in the shop.
  2. Require weekly written comprehensive sales reports:  These reports should be distributed to each member of the management team, inside sales; and, each sales person so everyone can see what each of them is doing. It will also provide everyone with an overview of what is happening with key customers
  3. Develop and keep an approved vendor list: This is a list of the multi-location customer you are approved to work with. Make sure that each sales person has access to it. If the company is approved at Raytheon in Andover then everyone on the sales team needs to know this and use it to win business at their own local Raytheon location.
  4. Share good tools: If a sales person finds a sales tool, albeit CRM or data base or research tool that they find useful it should be required that they share it with the rest of the sales team.
  5. Share good ideas: If a sales person has found an effective way to penetrate a customer, then they should be required to share that with the rest of the sales team.
  6. Sales is not a zero-sum game: Always be reminding the sales team that sales is not a zero-sum game. Everyone can win and everyone should be working as hard as possible to help everyone on the team win. The better the entire sales team does the better it will be for everyone.
  7. Discourage sales xenophobia: Don’t allow your sales team to hold their cards too closely, as stated earlier this is a team sport and sharing is a key to your team’s success. Yes, there is going to be some competition and yes, the sales people are going to have to fight to get their customers in line to make delivery dates when the shop is full. But you, as sales manager must demonstrate that at all times the company, and the overall health of the company comes first.
  8. Hold salesperson-only phone meetings: Encourage your sales team to hold phone meetings one their own. Invite them to use the company conference calls to have team meetings without you. This way they can share leads and solutions to problems they are having. This will go a long way in creating good team spirit.
  9. Take one for the team: Show them that sometimes they are going to have to take one for the team. Because they are direct sales people and thus employees of the company, their base salary is the compensation for doing work for the company. This means that things like covering house accounts and doing something to support a fellow sales person are part of their job and the reason they get a base salary.
  10. Create team incentives. Of course, each sales person has is or her own individual compensation plan but create some incentives that are based on the entire team making a certain goal. Nothing will create team spirit more than this.

And finally, one more, always under promise and over deliver, have an annual sales meeting at the company and I urge at the company. Don’t spend money going somewhere cool because that is a complete waste of money and a distraction as well. Once a year bring all the sales people in for a sales meeting. It will give them the chance to meet and talk with one another. To visit with the people in the plant, to take plant tours and check out the new equipment and improvements and to get briefed in new capabilities and technologies. It will also give the sales team and the management team the chance to review the company strategy and plan for the coming year. It will be beneficial and it will go a long way towards creating a strong bond between the sales people and the management team as well. Bring everyone together at least once a year and it will money the best money you spend all year. It’s only common sense.

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Yes, You Do Need Salespeople

dan-5Man, how many times I am going to have to say this? For those of you loyal readers who have been checking out this column for years I apologize in advance and won’t blame you if you want to sit this one out because you’ve read it all before right here and yes too many times. But I can’t help myself; every time I think that people have gotten the message I am proven wrong. Every time I think the times they are a changing I am disappointed, discouraged and then finally angry. Angry because some people still are not getting. So here we go…and I wish I could promise you that I am going to say this one last time, but I somehow doubt it. Instead all I can promise is one more time for now. Yes you need sales people! The biggest problem that every board shop I talk to has is lack of sales, not enough sales, not enough customers. Not enough new business, not enough backlog, not enough new customers. But then when I ask them how they are selling they say things like, “Oh word of mouth.” Or “People know who we are.” Or this beauty, “We’ve had the same customers for years they are not going to leave us.”

When I ask them about sales people they will tell me that they have had some in the past but they just didn’t work out. Or they don’t believe in sales people. Or my personal favorite as soon as they buy a drill or a router or a press they will hire some sales people. And then I sit there scratching my head wondering how that is going to work?

Let me see. You don’t have enough business so instead on spending some money on sales people you are going to buy a piece of equipment for the same amount of money of two or maybe even three good sales people for a year. Then I have to wonder, what are you going to do with the equipment? You don’t have enough business now but you are going to spend from a quarter to a half to three quarters of a million dollars for a piece of equipment that is going to sit idle because…can we say it all together you don’t have enough business!

Now you guys who sell equipment don’t get your knickers in a knot I am a great believer in investing in your company by buying new equipment. But you have to admit it would be nice if your customers had the right amount of business to use on that new equipment. Maybe your customer base would be up around twelve hundred like it was in the good old days instead of a little over two hundred a number that is so small that some of you are leaving and going to China and the rest of Asia like those proverbial rats of that sinking ship.

Look guys it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, and now that I think of it some of you are probably rocket scientist to figure this out. If you don’t have enough sales you have to hire some sales people…or at least one to get the ball rolling. And I mean a real sales professional a man or woman who has a proven success story a sales professional who is going to be able to get you some business. And frankly a sales professional you are going to have to pay like a professional. Don’t try to skimp, don’t try to convince them to work on commission only for a while until they get some business and then you’ll give them a salary….really?really? That is just plain stupid. Would you ask that of a production manager? Would you ask that of an engineer? Would you ask that of well of yourself? Then why the heck do you think a sales person would be willing to take that deal? It just doesn’t make any sense.

So now listen to me and listen very closely because if you do and you heed my advice I won’t have to write this one more time, maybe this even will be the last time. Ready? Okay hear I go, here are my pearls of wisdom:

You don’t have enough business. I to get more business you need to have sales people, feet on the street, people calling companies and getting them to buy your products. And the good ones costs money. They will not work for minimum wage, they will not work for commissions only, and they will not work at a salary for six months with the promise of it being cut in half in six months. No they are professionals, they need to be treated as professionals, they need to be paid as professionals and they need to be respected as professionals. And guess what if you hire a good professional sales person you will get some business… and yes that’s only common sense

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