For The Joy of Sales

Find a job you like, and you will never work a day in your life.

Teachers, career counselors, and motivational speakers have shared this nugget from antiquity with students, job seekers, and dissatisfied workers. It is sage advice. Having spent four decades in the sales profession, I can attest to its validity for salespeople.

For some people, sales is a calling and then a career. For other people, sales is an entry-level position into business. After the trial period, it may become a launching pad for something else. For some people, sales is a proving ground to see if they can make it in the marketing field. For Liberal Arts Majors, Sales is a way to assimilate into a world they may not have planned to join. How people arrive in this profession doesn’t matter. Sales is an exciting career for those who want to risk the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in the business world. For most people, there is no greater challenge in business than succeeding in the role of a rainmaker.

Sales offers a way to serve others, solve problems, and build relationships. Some sales positions offers the opportunity to travel to places most people would not visit on their own. This broadens their perspectives. Sales demands that salespeople set aside their own biases to see the world in others’ terms, which results in personal growth. This transcendent quality of sales is reinforced as salespeople become part of a team that creates value for their companies and customers. Value creation is a meaningful experience for everyone. Salespeople have the privilege of experiencing this daily.

Sales allows salespeople to test their mettle. If salespeople have a compensation plan that involves an incentive for performing, they are paid what they are worth. Sales is the one true meritocracy in business. That’s why it motivates salespeople. There are no participation awards in sales. There are no third-place trophies. There is no simply going through the motions. Order-takers soon discover their companies and customers want more than a warm body in a hot territory.

The starkest reality and most exciting dynamic of sales is that salespeople are paid to make sales, not calls.

Salespeople must produce or perish. Some people are intimidated by this reality, and that’s okay. There are many other ways for those people to create value for their companies. Those people who make sales a career understand the reality of producing and are motivated by the challenge.

Whether Confucius, Mark Twain, or a Princeton Professor coined the opening quote doesn’t matter. It is sound advice. Finding something that is enjoyable to do and doing it with great pride and effectiveness is a prescription for success in any profession. It is absolutely true for salespeople.

Tom Reilly is literally the guy who wrote the book on Value-Added Selling (McGraw-Hill).

Brand Preference and Customer Loyalty

The brand of computer I prefer to use comes from Austin, Texas. The brand of motorcycle I prefer to ride comes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The brand of beer I prefer to drink comes from St. Louis, Missouri. Okay, with beer, if someone else is buying, I’ll drink their label.

Our research shows that customers have brand preferences for everything from shoes to underwear to automobiles. Companies rely on those preferences for repeat business. Though some brands evoke strong passions among customers—Apple and Harley-Davidson—most brands enjoy preference, not passion. Brands are about things. Loyalty is about people.

Loyalty is rooted in emotion. I prefer a brand of motorcycle, and that significantly influences my buying decision for what I want to buy. Where to buy what I want to buy is another story. I like to buy from places that provide a great customer experience. That customer experience is influenced by two things: company policy and people.

Company policies are practices and procedures that make it easy or difficult to do business with them. I like to buy from places that make it easy for me, the customer, to purchase something. Company policies are designed and implemented by people. This is where loyalty comes into play.

I may prefer a brand, but I reserve loyalty for people.

It is delusional for companies to believe that customers feel loyalty to warehouses full of inventory. Customer loyalty is the emotion buyers feel toward the people with whom they do business. Retention is the behavior of repeat business. When companies lose good people, customer retention is at risk. When companies change policies and procedures that make it difficult to buy, customer retention is at risk. Policies and procedures are not gospel; they are guidelines created by human beings, and human beings sometimes make mistakes. When companies lose good employees over policies and procedures, they will lose customers for the same reason.

Tom Reilly is literally the guy who wrote the book on Value-Added Selling (McGraw-Hill).

The Skill and Will to Succeed in Sales … and Life

Success is demanding. It is one part skill and an equal part will. Someone may have the skill to succeed but lack the will to succeed.

Skill includes technical knowledge about one’s profession and the necessary competencies to perform at a high level. Teachers must know their subjects and possess the right mix of communication skills to connect with students. Medical professionals must know their specialties and be proficient in administering care to patients. Salespeople must know their products and companies well enough to communicate their value to customers. Communicating value is one of many skill sets salespeople must possess.

Will is the motivation to succeed. It is the ambition and energy of high achievers, the want-to. Motivation is an internal force that impels action. Since the force is internal, the individual must take the initiative. Initiative, ambition, and want-to are important dynamics in motivation. Another motivational dynamic is perseverance, the tireless persistence of the person who refuses to quit.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, earned the nickname “Silent Cal.” He didn’t talk much, but when he did he said a lot. After his presidency, Coolidge served as the Director of the New York Life Insurance Company. In a pamphlet to his agents, Coolidge printed his famous quote.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and will always solve the problem of the human race.

Coolidge knew the skill to sell was only half of the formula. He challenged the agents’ will to sell. Sales managers face an ongoing challenge to find the right salesperson for the job. Their questions echo Coolidge’s sentiment. Can this person sell? Will this person sell?

Tom Reilly is literally the guy who wrote the book on Value-Added Selling (McGraw-Hill). You may visit him online at

Next Value-Added Selling public seminar is June 14-15, 2016. It is presented by Tom Reilly and Paul Reilly. Call to reserve your seat. 636-537-3360.