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July 2009 | Volume 28 / Number 2
Publisher's Outlook

The Death Of The Sales Manager

By Nadji Tehrani
CEO, Technology Marketing Corp.

To do justice to this subject matter, one must make reference to Arthur Miller’s legendary play entitled, The Death of a Salesman. To refresh your memory, Miller won a Pulitzer Prize for his work, which he described as, the tragedy of a man who gave his life, or sold it in pursuit of the American dream. The main character in the play is Willy Loman, who, after many years on the road as a traveling salesman, realizes he has been a failure as a father and husband. His sons Happy and Biff are not successful on his terms (being well-liked). Willy’s main claim to fame was to use a smile and a shoeshine as the only sales technique one needs to be successful in sales.

To say the least, Arthur Miller taught us that selling success need not be at the expense of being a failure as a father or a husband. In other words, being a great salesperson and being a great father/mother and a husband/wife does not have to be mutually exclusive. For this alone, I think he richly deserved the Pulitzer Prize, for today, far too many people are placing business success ahead of the family and being a good father/mother and a good husband/wife.

Today we have learned that Willy’s legendary smile and a shoeshine selling technique is only 5 to 10 percent of selling skills. There are plenty of other things that go into selling success today, which have been addressed in previous Publishers Outlooks in this publication over the last two decades.

The Death Of The Sales Manager
Last but not least, one needs to address this great phenomenon, which in many ways is sad, but true, therefore, it must be stated. Not long ago, I met with the Vice President of Sales of one of the largest magazine printing companies, who was soliciting our business. During the social conversation, he asked me, “Do you promote from within?” I answered, “Promotion from within is our middle name.” In fact, I stated, “in 2000, nearly 70 percent of the employees at TMC were promoted.” He was very impressed and stated, “Then I am sure you will enjoy the following story.”

A farmer who enjoyed duck hunting had a dog that was exceptionally effective in hunting down the ducks that were shot down. The farmer, looking at the dog’s performance and personality, named the dog Salesman. Pretty soon Salesman’s reputation spread through the small town where the farmer lived and the town leaders called the farmer and stated, “We understand that you have a great hunting dog and we would like to go out duck hunting with you and your dog.” And so they did. Of course, Salesman impressed all of the town leaders that indeed he was extremely hard working, very talented and very motivated in performing his duties. At the end of the day, everyone was grateful to the farmer.

A week went by and the town leaders called the farmer again and asked to go out duck hunting because the last time was a fantastic event and the town leaders insisted that Salesman must come along. The farmer said, “I would be happy to out hunting with you, except that I am sorry to tell you I shot Salesman.” People asked why. The farmer stated, “Well, the salesman did such a good job, I promoted him to sales manager and thereafter, all he did was sit on his ass and bark all day and got nothing done!”

There is a strong message in this story, which I think is not far from the truth in most cases. One of the most commonly made mistakes by management is to take a top producing salesperson and promote him or her to sales manager. The mistake becomes even more damaging if the salesperson has been doing well in a good economy and then promoted. The fact is, even if the salesperson was outstanding in selling during a bad economy that still does not mean that he or she would make a good manager. CIS

As always, I welcome your comments. Please email them to me at [email protected].

CIS Magazine Table of Contents

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