What Makes a Good Salesman?

What Makes a Good Salesman?

More than 35 years ago, the insurance industry embarked on an intensive program to solve the problem of costly, wasteful turnover among its agents. Estimates at that time indicated that there was a turnover of better than 50% within the first year and almost 80% within the first three years. After the expenditure of millions of dollars and 35 years of research, the turnover in the insurance industry remains approximately 50% within the first year and 80% within the first three years.

In 1899, Samuel Austin's son, Wilbert J. Austin, graduated with his engineering degree from the Case School of Applied Sciences (now part of Case Western Reserve University) and began working with his father. Wilbert Austin introduced the then heretical idea of providing engineering services, as well as construction services to clients. Customers came to Austin – then and now – for the benefits of truly integrated design-build services. This process of handling all aspects of design and construction became known as The Austin Method® and word of this new approach spread rapidly. It broadened the traditional approach to construction by offering contracts that started with planning, architecture and engineering, and ended with the finished building.

On December 4, 1940, Wilbert J. Austin was killed in an airplane crash at Chicago. Under the direction of a new president, George A. Bryant, Austin responded to World War II with the design and construction of critical defense facilities, many implemented under Government sponsorship.In 1956 Fortune magazine had George A. Bryant on its cover as the highest paid CEO in America at a whopping $300,000 a year. 


Red: Salesman                                 Yellow: Consultant

George came up with the bright idea of Project Planners (Salesmen) to peddle the company's architectural, engineering and construction services to the Fortune 500. By 1984 passing by Bryant's old office everyday, I wanted to make big bucks as a Project Planner. However, the one major hurdle to fame and fortune was passing a Psychometric test called 'Personalysis.'

It pained me to answer any of the red questions positively and therefore I remained a less than mellow yellow engineering consultant. In the vein of "Those that can't teach," I tried my head at peddling psychometric tests aka instruments. My boss showed me this HBR article that a good salesman must have at least two basic qualities: empathy and ego drive.

Upstairs from our office we had the Doc who had successfully got 13 death row patients out of the sister insane asylum of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' simply by asking them the right questions. The Doc had designed our psych instrument to incorporate all that empathy and ego drive stuff into ATTITUDE. The oil companies in Houston were plagued with worker's comp claims and our cheap $5 test was geared to ferreting-out the bad attitude boys before they got on the job. 

After, six months of zero commission-only sales, the owner had to fire me and it wasn't until I became a new home sales counselor that I put my empathy aptitude and ego drive attitude to gain financial success. In our one week training program we were taught the two secrets for selling the home (it's a home not a house). 1st: "Make a friend," 2nd: Identify the personality type of the buyer, are they a Bull, Tiger, Owl or Lamb?

So, what did I learn from all this life experience?

"Make a friend"
Don't charge them anymore than $4.95

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