Q - What are the key skills necessary for success in this type of selling?
A - The people who would be most interested in this particular type of job must like to make a lot of decisions on their own, must prefer freedom to a highly bureaucratic structure where everything is done "by the book," and must like to /use their imagination to wheel and deal. This is one of the last truly entrepreneurial industries left. It functions on a supply-and-demand base. It is sort of a "flea market" business, and there aren't too many businesses like that left.
In my opinion you have to be energetic, fairly smart, and be able to read a contract and understand what it says. You have to be up on the market and know your product, be honest, and have an interest in trying to help others. I don't ever think of the fee until after the deal is done. There are a lot of good salespeople out there, and I think some of them know how to talk and how to listen, recognize the problem, and reach down to the soul of the guy who's got the problem and try to find the answer. He also has to know what the hell he's doing.
Brokerage activity connects supply and demand in the market. There are a lot of changes, and it takes a fairly quick thinker. It takes someone who has a variety of interpersonal skills.
Q - How much time do you spend on the job, and how do you spend it?
A - Generally, sixty or seventy hours per week. I usually have breakfast in the morning with someone, perhaps an end user of some of our products. Then I generally sit through some sort of performance evaluation at a systems manager meeting early in the morning to give a status report of where we were, how things ran through second and third shift last night, what were the major changes to be made to the systems hardware and software, or what was to be added to the network in the next time period. I might then have a presentation of an hour or so to a member of the executive staff on some issue. The afternoon might be involved with making travel arrangements and administration or perhaps a planning meeting with my own team on some particular topic. Then about 4:00 I would probably meet with someone at the bank concerning any number of a thousand different administrative details, perhaps work another hour or two on presentations, and then call it a day. I'd say on an average of forty hours per week, and this varies because one of the steps in the selling process is to have the hospital use the product on a trial basis for a period of time, perhaps two weeks. During that time, the sales representative is generally in the hospital ten to twelve hours every day. So, during that week the representative may work eighty-five to ninety hours. Generally the guideline we try to give the sales representative is to put in, on the average, forty hours a week. But we temper this with "put into the job whatever it requires."
Forty hours a week. I spend a lot more time thinking, pushing paper, and wasting time than I do selling. If I could allocate eight hours a day to selling, I could probably make 2 deals a day, depending on the week. Right now I'm making YA deals a week and averaging $100,000 a year. You can burn yourself out, so you have to pace yourself. You can get physically sick. I've had some friends do that. They don't know what the matter with them is, they can't sleep, and they have stomach problems. It's because they're thinking about business too much.
A lot of the things that we do are sales from the office. We really do everything related to a particular customer, we even check to see if he or she has credit problems. We check on delivery and work on expediting orders. We have had some problems with stock outages and late deliveries-of course, every manufacturer has that periodically-but we spend a lot of time expediting orders and trying to find out where an order is, calling the plants, and getting delivery dates. Sometimes you have to get in touch with the product manager or the national sales manager to get some pressure put on the production plant to ship an order sooner. When I've quoted somebody on something, I check back to find out what's going on with the quote. I spend a lot of time on the phone. Probably at least two hours a day.
Well, it is lonely if you make it that way. If you like the field you are in, you can almost accept anything. But some personalities would not fit into that requirement. Some people would be much happier reporting to an office, having definite responsibilities, and being home every night with the family. This is a different life altogether. In many ways, you are really a maverick out there roaming around. It just wouldn't appeal to some people over the long run. It might appeal to them initially, but year after year it might not be appealing. If this is what you like, fine. If not, you are going to be a very disappointed individual. In some ways it is not conducive to a good family life. You are gone most of the time, your family does not get to see you, the kids grow up, and you come home with pressures that you bring back with you. It helps if you are married to an understanding wife. If she is really savvy she will wait until you have downed the first martini before she unloads on you about the family problems.