It starts with smarts, but if you want to build the perfect salesperson, a few sidearms sure can help. But which ones? To find out, we asked sales managers and reps who subscribe to ProSales to tell us which tools they consider most vital to their work, which products added in recent years have provided the greatest benefit, and what aids they would most like to have. Scores of you replied. We've compiled the top three results for each category, with some of your reasons why.
1- Cell phone/smart phone
"Everyone runs off e-mails today. Our customers do not call; they send e-mails. So if you have a smart phone, you are in business. If you do not, you probably are not in business."
–Ted Grund, Universal Forest Products, Janesville, Wis.
2- Paper notepad
"With paper generally you are writing customers' information down right away while it's still fresh, mostly as they are speaking. Plus, you have tangible proof if an order is called into question. Another benefit is [that] sometimes looking through notes, it's easier for me to see potentially missed information. And on the flip side, as I look at my notes I can see information that the customer may have left out. As a commodity-focused guy like I am, I also like to see the prices from previous quote/orders. So right away I can give a customer a good number and I can call 'bull' when he/she may be feeding me bogus information."
–Matthew Barnes, Weyerhaeuser, Baltimore
"I call my truck my mobile office because when I set out for a day of visiting my customers, I can do what I do in my home office. I have all of the things [I need]: cell phone, computerized database, paper notepad, stack of business cards, and my laptop."
–David Walker, Huttig Building Products, Friendswood, Texas
Other notable nominees: Industry knowledge; a computerized database; "committed sales people."
Best Recent Addition
1- Smart Phone
"I got a Blackberry a couple of months ago and it has been very helpful in communicating with my customers, vendors, and inside sales people."
–John Hammell, Allied Building Products, Toms River, N.J.
2- Laptop computer
"It has increased sales and my customer base by [enabling me to provide] on-the-spot quotes, orders, and research information."
–Dwayne Axelson, Honsador Lumber, Honolulu
3- Software programs
"I no longer need paper files. All of my work is done on my MacBook Pro and backed up using Carbonite. I have access to all files and any Internet-based site that I need. I also have access to my point-of-sale system so I can be mobile and spend more time with the customer."
–Kevin Goff, Kelly- Fradet Lumber, Enfield, Conn.
Other notable nominees: Integrating information on both cellphone and computer; an iPad; GPS; new products or showroom; adopting a "touch it once" philosophy.
1- A sales assistant
"A sales assistant is my most desired tool. Not only for the paperwork end of the business, but someone that could be a backup for my customers to contact if I am not available. Also, to challenge me and help keep me focused."
–Ed Bolden, Mentor (Ohio) Lumber
2- Productivity software
"Quoting software [that] can interface with point-of-sale software and eliminate the need to hand-write orders and key in information that already exists. This would eliminate keying errors and vendor errors, and would free me up to sell more and be a clerk less."
–Kent Strawderman, Preston Feather Building Centers, Petoskey, Mich.
3- (tie) iPad or other tablet computer; a smarter smart phone
"An iPad so that I could receive emails and Internet on the road. This would eliminate my need to return to the office as often."
–Rob Bazemore, Pratt-Dudley Builders Supply, Augusta, Ga.
Other notable nominees: Access to the network via my laptop; hands-free texting; better drivers.