For nearly 30 years, Jim has maintained a newsletter correspondence with his loyal clients.
For all of the youngsters reading this, newsletters are like blog posts--just better.
Read on for some of Jim's "greatest hits" and musings on business and life.
Recently I was having dinner with a friend who is in sales. He was lamenting to me how everything has changed in the business world and how customers had become so difficult to deal with. So I asked him why this was so--and all he could attribute this to was that buyers were increasingly more difficult and that margins of profit were thinner than ever. But, what bothered him the most was the conduct of the buyers from the “way it used to be.” “Now everyone wants their bid E-mailed or faxed to them. There is no more human contact, no interactions with the customer.”
He explained, “In the old days we used to have lunch to discuss quotes or we might catch a ballgame together. Today, I’m dealing with a buyer that I hardly know, let alone can spend any time with. As a result, all anybody cares about is price.”
I was thinking about what my friend said. I thought about the play Death of a Salesman when Willy Loman says that unlike his colleague Charley, he intends to be “well-liked.” He tells his sons that in business as in life, character, personality and human connections are more important than smarts. Says Willy: “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.”
Unfortunately in the current world, this belief is really outdated. With e-mail, faxes and the Internet, buyers are equipped with weaponry like never before. So what is a salesman to do? Change careers?
Perhaps the answer lies in their approach. The one thing my friend really did not consider in the “new equation” was what his role should be in this changing environment. How could he add value to the companies he was soliciting in spite of losing contact with his buyers? It takes a creative sales/person to understand the needs of his customers and to find a way to fulfill those needs. It may not be the old way of taking them to a ballgame or the three martini lunch, but there still is a place for good sales/people.
The reality is that we all want to pay Wal-Mart prices and yet get Nordstrom levels of quality and service. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work that way. The performance of a good salesperson is usually rewarded with the business. But providing value is the key, not just being Willy Loman’s likable guy with the best tickets.