In selling, practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes better. The sales ecosystem being imperfect is something to think about, not dwell upon

Dear salesperson, constantly complaining that the system (process or product) is imperfect will only get you sounding like a dripping tap. Repeatedly lumping your entire dismal performance on “the inadequate system” may be what you say, but what we hear is not a reason, but an excuse.

FMCG stock-outs and more

Take the fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) industry, for instance. Perfection in packaging, impeccable delivery times to avoid stock-outs (items missing from outlets) and just-in-time production (producing only what, how and when it is required) are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that your company is always struggling to put together. Sometimes the bottled water will arrive at the distributor and the tops will not to be breaking from the seal as they should; you may also miss sales because the distributor did not get the goods on time as was agreed. Yet another premier distributor will tear your head off because the soap arrived at his door step and the lowest batch was squashed. It turns out the problem was not with production (factory); instead loading was done with an extra layer of cartons and it is this extra weight that caused the squash. As a salesperson, these anomalies are something to think about, not dwell upon.

It’s not Utopic

Admittedly, they affect your relationship with your customers and therefore your sales efforts. Granted, this is not warranted. Granted too, that this is not unique to you, nor your organization. There is no perfect system and insisting that the competition “always delivers on time, always has the packaging right, and always produces in synch with demand” is energizing an untruth. It’s digging your heels into an excuse for not performing. Almost always, unless yours is not a serious outfit, these anomalies are the exception not the norm. To make them the norm is to abscond responsibility.

Sales is grey never black and white

The very title salesperson requires one to appreciate that many times he will be working in a grey environment. Why? Because humans are emotional beings and emotions do not come in tidy black and white boxes. And man-made things (like factories and mobile apps) are subject to imperfection. Yet you are the pivotal point to the whole process. Like a juggler your responsibility is to keep practicing to keep all the balls supporting the sales eco-system in the air. Is it easy? Of course, not. Even this juggling system is not perfect. Occasionally some balls will fall. Does it grow you? Absolutely, yes. If building sustainable relationships is the crux of business and life, then there is no better field to practice than selling.

When these anomalies happen, by all means raise them. After all, only your feed back can get improvements made. And improvements do not necessarily happen overnight. Look at how long it took M-Pesa to resolve the sending to the wrong number problem. Equally, give feedback on what’s working and where we can trump the competition. Remember their system is not perfect either and their flaws could be your strength.

Careful what you wish for

Dwelling on the imperfection as the reason (excuse?) for your lackluster performance, also sets you up for a massive fall. About two years ago Del Monte changed its package to make it easier to open without the juice pouring out. Before this, we used to tear off a perforated corner. If there was a salesperson there that had dwelt on this as the reason for his poor performance, he now calls undue pressure onto himself to perform, yet he can’t. Why? Because, he did not bother juggling his balls, “until they correct that packaging problem.” Exit for him is imminent. Keep practicing the juggling just as the system keeps improving.

Practice doesn’t make perfect in selling, it makes better. There is no perfect system. Just look at your collections record, for instance. It’s not perfect is it?


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