Five Myths about the Direct Sales Force

In my previous postings I talked about the three major sales channel models (direct, indirect and direct marketing). This posting will discuss five major misconceptions about the sales force in the direct sales channel model.

Five major direct sales force misconceptions:


1-      That the sales force is only “coin operated”, meaning they are motivated by money, money and more money.   Granted direct sales people are compensated by a combination of a salary and commission, which is usually organized around an increasing sales volume, incenting them to sell more. However, other equally or more important drivers are that most sales people are driven by being singled out at the annual sales meeting as the top performing person in his/her region, or the overall top performer, or being selected to go that exclusive “retreat” for outstanding individuals within the corporation. Another major driver is what I called the thrill of the “kill”; i.e. getting that big order! In other words, competition and recognition are just as important as is the compensation.


2-      That sales people are just “gun slingers”; they see a potential opportunity and drop what they are doing and go after this potential record breaking situation. The true top performing person spends hours in understanding potential customers needs, who is who, generating a strategy, knowing the competition’s strengths and weaknesses and providing the best solution that meets the customer’s real needs.


3-      That sales people only know how to sell.  Again your top sales people not only know how to sell, but often they know the products and/or services usually better than some of the product managers! Sales people also know technology, and more importantly they know the appropriate situations for specific technologies. Probably the best attribute is they know how to propose the best solution for the customer’s problem.


4-      That sales people “loves them (the customer) and then leaves them”.  Good sales people not only get the initial order, but stay with the customer and work to understand other related needs or other emerging needs within the corporation. This accomplishes two major tactics, one, getting embedded with the customer for future business and two keeping the competition out.


5-      That anyone can sell so if I lose a good sales person, so what!  People who say this probably have never sold, just like people say anyone can do marketing. It take a unique combination of drive, motivation, knowing people, understanding needs and fulfilling those needs, negotiating, knowing how to close, and in many cases taking rejection, in order to be a good salesperson.


In summary, while the direct model requires many factors for success, the most important component is the sales force itself. You can create great programs, products/services but if you have mediocre sales people you will not last long. On the other hand you can have mediocre products and programs, and top performing sales people can make up the difference. So do your due diligence on selecting sales people just like you would do on selecting a strategy.

Have you thanked your sales force today?


RHL 01/05/10

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