Selling turns business wheels

When teaching salesmanship at The Wharton School of Finance, I always start, "Your business can have the finest 'back office' in the world, the newest manufacturing techniques, the top merchandise, etc., but -- not a wheel turns unless somebody sells something."

And I note that Success magazine, May, devotes its 80-page issue to this vital topic which, in recession, becomes more critical than ever.


Excerpts: "If your company is hurting, you've got only 3 choices: increase margins, cut costs or increase sales. Number one isn't practical in tough times and number two is the favorite of large, bureaucratic companies -- and what bureaucratic monsters do just has to be wrong . . . You must, at the outset, give people a dramatic reason to listen to you . . . Don't forget where your greatest profits are: saving the sales you've already made . . . Automate your sales force with new technology . . . The best salespeople never let on that they are in control; they disarm by being open and inquisitive . . . When closing, sum up your products and get the order." (I got dozens of new ideas from this issue.)

PHONE FACTS: Using your business telephone correctly? From a booklet, "Effective Telephone Techniques" that a reader sent me: "When placing callers on hold, be sure to return every 30 seconds to reassure them they have not been forgotten. Customers will hang in there about 2 minutes if you keep checking back; otherwise you'll lose them in 40 seconds . . . First impressions are long-lasting. A friendly 'Good Morning!' is


TC pleasant way to start . . . Even when it's clear that the customer is wrong, handle the situation positively. Avoid phrases like, 'You have to,' 'I'll try,' 'It's against our policy,' etc."

OUCH! A reader writes, "Regarding last Monday's column, "Penny-Pinching at the Office," here's another example. Many years ago, when I worked in the New York office of American Home Products Corp. (Anacin, Advil, Dristan, Preparation H, etc.), the CEO posted and enforced a rule prohibiting the Supply Dept. or anybody else from buying paper clips or staples. The only things we could use were straight pins. We needed hundreds of Band-Aids and the company didn't pay for them, either!"

WORKPLACE WISDOM: "Goodwill is one asset that the competition cannot undersell or destroy." (Marshall Field) . . . "In the business world, perfect quality is not only unachievable but it's often undesirable. Instead, a company should focus on 'relevant quality,' the quality its customers want at a price they can afford to pay." (Bureau of Business Practice Management).

"Complete a long-delayed project by coming in early and allocating the first hour of every day until it's finished." (Robert Half International.)

MONTH-ENDERS: A retired Bethlehem Steel worker told me, "In 1934, when I was 18 years old, I was paid 24 1/2 cents an hour as an apprentice at Sparrows Point and they still made me pay rent in company housing."

The Kiplinger Letter believes that Ross Perot's candidacy is being taken seriously in Washington, with some insiders thinking Perot could deny the required 270 electoral majority to Bush or Clinton, thus throwing the election into the new House of Representatives next Jan. 6.

"Beware of credit card companies' promises to make up the difference if you buy an item at a lower price. You must do a ton of paperwork, including clipping ads of many different items." (Bankcardholders of America) . . .