Last week we discussed the importance of marketing. Now let’s look at the role of sales. I define sales as the management and nurturing of the relationship between the company and its customers. Managing that relationship is never easy. Years ago I found an anonymous ode to salesmen. (The term includes women who have become an important and growing element in the world of sales).

Some highlights:

“A salesman is a quota to the factory, an overlooked expense account to the auditor, a bookkeeping item called “cost of sales” to the treasurer, a smile and a wisecrack to the receptionist, and a purveyor of flattery to the buyer.

"He (she) must have stamina to sell all day, entertain all evening, drive all night to the next town and be on the job fresh at 9 a.m.

"He (she) wishes his merchandise was better, his prices were lower, his territory smaller, his goods more promptly delivered, his boss more sympathetic, his advertising more effective and his customers more human.

"He (she) is absolutely certain that tomorrow will be better, that there is nothing he would rather do, nobody she would rather be than a salesman.”

That is what it takes to bring our human side into our relationships with our customers. Those who do this well are proud to be called salesmen and are probably confused when they are described as “marketing representatives.”

I have learned that the best sales success is one which is controlled by the knowledge the salesman has about the customer, which is built on personal relationships and trust. To maintain that trust, the salesman must be the owner of that relationship. A customer wants to see a single face that represents your company’s products and services. I found this to be as true in China as it is in Pennsylvania. It is awfully hard to achieve this with a continuous stream of different faces from the home office.

I’ve known salesmen that have been called into a customer’s Board of Director’s meetings to discuss new capital projects that involve their products. Guess who gets the job! We had a very large customer whose plants had no receptionists (quite common these days), and access to the plant was only through security locks. The salesman for that account was deemed so valuable to the engineers planning new projects that they gave him a company security pass so he could enter any area at any time he was visiting the plant to discuss any current technology. Another salesman became such a friend of the plant superintendent that he helped the superintendent move to a new house and was best man at his wedding. Those are relationships.