By Larry Slagel | senior vice president of sales at RecruitMilitary and a former captain in the United States Marine Corps |
Published in the March/April 2011 issue of print Search & Employ® |
Have you considered a career in sales? You may have what it takes to succeed. A statistical study conducted several years ago showed that veterans can serve as a tremendous source of talent for the sales professions. The research identified and measured sales-related skills, motivations, and personality traits of veterans, then compared the results with data on non-veterans. The veterans outscored the non-veterans in measurements of characteristics related to determining the quality of sales leads, selling against strong competition, and other functions that spell sales success.
HR Chally, a sales-research and career-development firm in Dayton, Ohio, conducted the research in cooperation with our company. We published details of the study in a whitepaper, “Forward…Sell!” For a copy, email me at the address given at the end of this article.
THERE ARE TWO main categories of sales jobs: (1) business-to-consumer, also known as business-to-customer (B2C), in which a business sells a product or service to an individual who will use it; and (2) business-to-business (B2B), in which one business sells a product or service to another business. In this article, I will focus on B2B sales because most people have little or no experience with it and because it is complex—the graphic on the opposite page show 14 categories of B2B sales jobs.
TO EXPLAIN B2B SALES, I will start with examples of the more familiar B2C sales; specifically, three B2C experiences of “Tom,” who is transitioning from active duty to civilian life.
(1) When Tom bought a car from a dealer, he interacted with an individual whose functions are like those of a B2B Product Transactional Specialist (see that B2B category in the graphic).
(2) When Tom used an 800 number to buy a pair of hiking boots advertised in a catalog, he dealt with an Inbound Salesperson.
(3) After he had worn the boots on a few hikes, a couple of lace hooks were ready to fall off, so Tom contacted the company that sold the boots and talked with a Customer Serviceperson.
B2B EXPERIENCES. Now, let’s see how a business, a producer of small plastic parts for automobiles, interacted with a B2B Product Transactional Specialist, a B2B Inbound Salesperson, and a B2B Customer Serviceperson.
The producer used just one forklift for all shipping needs, and it was starting to show its age. So the plant manager called several distributors of material-handling equipment regarding a replacement. A Product Transactional Specialist working for one of them came to the plant and made the sale.
A few months later, the hydraulic fluid in the forklift needed to be changed. The plant manager was not sure whether leftover fluid bought for the old forklift would be okay for the new one. He called the distributor and talked with a Customer Serviceperson, who advised against using that fluid.
A couple weeks after that, the parts company’s production manager needed to buy a type of shrink wrap that she did not normally keep on hand. This wrap was a standard, commonly used material. So she called another distributor, her regular supplier of shipping materials, and ordered the wrap from an Inbound Salesperson.
SPECIAL ORDER. The producer was an important customer of this distributor, so the distributor had assigned to the producer a Territory Relationship Product Salesperson named “Bill.” In dealing with the producer, he worked with the Inbound Salesperson and other colleagues.
On one occasion, a customer of the producer wanted an order shipped in boxes with individual compartments. The customer and the producer had no experience with that type of container, so the production manager contacted Bill.
The distributor handled a variety of such containers, but Bill was not sure which one would be best. So he visited the producer’s plant with his colleague “Susan,” a Territory Consultative Product Salesperson. She made a recommendation that was accepted.
Another time, neither the production manager nor Bill nor Susan knew exactly how to package a large shipment of oddly shaped, delicate parts. So Susan called in the “big guns” from a container manufacturer that the distributor represented. She spoke with the manufacturer’s Indirect Salesperson, who visited the plant along with a Product/Service Specialist and a product designer. The designer adapted an existing container, providing an economical solution for a valued customer.
SYSTEM SALESPEOPLE. The producer had originally injection-molded all of its products. Later, it added extrusions to its product line. To do that, it bought a complete extrusion system—everything from raw material mixers at the input end to pulling devices and saws at the output end.
The producer initiated the purchase by contacting manufacturers and distributors of extrusion systems. Because the producer had no experience in making extrusions, “Manufacturer X” sent a Territory Consultative System Salesperson to the plant to discuss the project. If the producer had previously made extrusions, Manufacturer X would have sent a Territory Relationship System Salesperson instead.
The Territory Consultative System Salesperson and Manufacturer X’s System Specialist made several follow-up visits to the plant. They then drafted a formal sales proposal, which the producer accepted.
SELLING THE NEW PRODUCTS. The producer gave its Strategic Account Manager the responsibility for sales of extrusions to very large customers. As that individual obtained new customers, he turned them over to Account Managers and Territory Relationship System Salespeople. The producer also hired a New Business Developer and three Outbound Salespeople to sell extrusions.