During my tenure as sales director for a millwork manufacturer, one of our most valuable distributor customers considered our Delores the best sales rep they ever had. But co-workers regarded Delores as their biggest nuisance.

Delores constantly wreaked havoc, seeking to provide services and products outside of our norm. She complained that most of our products were unsuitable for her West Coast clients. Of those products that were suitable, she insisted the prices were too high and frequently sought price concessions, even though other salespeople in her region were selling at standard pricing levels. Delores also requested production of special parts with the stipulation that set-up charges would be waived.

Her constant complaints annoyed her inside sales partner, inside sales manager, and regional manager. When they couldn't give her the answers she wanted, she went over their heads to me and the company president. I gave Delores credit for having a good sense of the market's product needs, but whenever I asked her to assess a current or potential product's qualities based on data and trends, she balked.

Ultimately, Delores quit before she would have been dismissed. Her departure left the client's vice president of sales with a bad taste in his mouth that strained our subsequent business relationship. It was unfortunate because Delores had real talent and, had she been more business-like in her approach to customer advocacy, she might have created a win-win situation.

This issue of ProSales is devoted to dealer excellence. Thus, here are two tips I am recommending your salespeople and managers discuss jointly to create sales excellence as we prepare for what we hope will be a better 2011:

1. Sell what you got. This is a mantra I have shared with salespeople for over two decades. Any salesperson can take orders for special products and emergency deliveries. A true Sales Leader consults with his clients to help them use the standard products successfully and deal with production schedules in order to avoid emergencies and fire drills.

2. If you don't get what you need, make a proper business argument. I am not naïve; I realize there are times when new products, sizes, features, accessories, and services are necessary to compete in the market. True Sales Leaders don't report on the individual lost sale, but instead report on trends. The next time you lose a sale because of a singular deficiency in your offering, make a note. Continue to evaluate the trend. If you conclude that the issue needs to be addressed, do it in writing with facts, data, names, and sales situations that have cost your employer money. This way, you'll gain respect from both your employer and your clients.

Consultants are more respected than advocates. Advocates are liked by their clients because the advocate can be easily manipulated. But clients have deeper respect for Sales Leaders who offer valuable consultation and can sell within the rules of the game.

Make 2011 the year of true Sales Leadership by focusing on sales that create profits for your clients ... and for your employer.