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The Five Percenters

By Tom Irmen

Two decades or more ago, the key to a successful sales career was the ability of the salesperson to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship between the client, the client’s company, the salesperson and the company he or she represented. This relationship often required years of effort, but resulted in a level of belief and trust in each party and their respective companies that represented an enormous competitive advantage for the successful salesperson and an incredible uphill battle for their competition.

A great deal has changed since then. Gone by the wayside are the two martini lunches, fishing trips, dinners with clients and their spouses, pagers, long lines at pay phones, cell phones the size of a shoebox and company cars.

Please understand that I’m not pining for the “good old days.”

Personally, I enjoy the many technological advances that allow me to operate so much more efficiently than in the past. These same advances also help us to respect our clients’ time. And as a small business owner of 26 years and a former accountant, I further appreciate the fact that increased competition has required each of us to do more, with less, which has unfortunately come at a high price. The personal relationship with the client.

This reduction in face time with clients has fostered today’s commodity marketplace environment. Most clients I meet with are confused by the deluge of emails blasts, cell phone calls and, in my industry, media consultants that drop in unannounced, each claiming their product or service is superior to that of their competition.

Overwhelmed, clients often jump at the savings that they believe will result from a lower price, unaware that this low price typically comes at a cost that, more often than not, offsets any perceived savings. Not knowing who they can trust, perspective clients often turn a deaf ear to every salesperson, account executive, etc. that they encounter.

With our continued dependence on technology and growing acceptance of commodity marketplaces, an invisible, technological, “firewall” exists that jeopardizes the very client relationships that once was the hallmark of success for both buyer and seller.

Is there a solution? There always is. But you’ve got to become a “five percenter.” That’s the title I’ve assigned to salespeople who have successfully differentiated themselves, their company and their products and services with their clients. They still embrace technology. They respect their clients and their own time, recognizing that we must all do more with less. And, most importantly, they believe that success in selling occurs not when the sale is consummated, but rather when the client wins first.

Five percenters do not hide behind technology’s firewall permitting their products and services to become mere commodities with price their only weapon. Five percenters not only make more money, but they enjoy a personal level of fulfillment and satisfaction, and the uncommon respect and trust of a large and loyal customer base that’s nearly impenetrable, that eludes the ninety-five percenters.

It’s your call.

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