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Office Culture Can Make or Break Your Sales Team

10 Sep, 2003 By: Jay Wallus imageSource

Office Culture Can Make or Break Your Sales Team

is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna' get" -
Forest Gump

a sales rep in the office equipment industry is much like that box of chocolates
- you aren't sure what you're getting into-until you're there. The culture in an
office equipment dealership is critical to the success of your sales team-if it
supports them, they'll appreciate it-if not, you're killing your profits from
the inside out. Here's a story about how two different cultures affected an
office equipment sales rep in dramatically different ways-as seen through the
eyes of the author.

was the summer of '89 when I was hired by my first copier dealership as an
account executive. "An account executive?" I asked. "I thought I
was going to sell copiers?" Pushing me out the door and shoving a few
brochures in my hands, my new boss explained to me that it didn't matter what it
said on my business card. "Don't worry about that," he explained.
"Just go out and hit some doors and see if anybody needs a new

learned this industry much like most other reps-the hard way. I didn't know it
at the time, but throwing a new rep directly into selling was how this
dealership weeded out the weak and determined if you were good enough to stay on
board and become one of the team.

an initial two month period, most of the sales reps (sorry, account executives)
who were hired were gone and then (and ONLY then) the sales manager and CEO
worked with me to make sure that I made some money and continued to succeed.
They took me under their wing and made sure that everyone knew that I was going
to "make it". When I sold a machine, the service manager made sure
that it worked perfectly and it was ready to be delivered. The administrative
staff handled any other issues that came up so that I could go out there and do
what I did best-sell. How else would the business grow?

culture in this office was geared towards selling, and the reps were made to
feel that they were a very important part of the business. There were weekly
newsletters with the top performing reps publicly announced to the whole
company. There were contests that had the reps working double time to get one of
the prized trips to Fort Lauderdale; Florida; and Vail, Colorado. As a sales
rep, you felt good coming through the door in the morning (as long as you were
working and closing).

were often congratulated on a good sale by the administrative staff and it felt
great to be looked at as someone who contributed to the success of the whole
company. The mindset in this dealership was positive and enthusiastic-it's no
wonder why it grew to become one of the largest dealerships on the east coast.
The CEO believed in the vision and growth of his ideas. It was never about the
types of copiers that we sold, it was all about the people who made up the
business. This was our unique selling proposition: when I believed in the
business, so did the prospects.

forward four years when I'm offered an equity position in a small dealership
that had no current salespeople and a client database that hadn't been called on
by the previous rep. The owner that I had always dealt with was a great guy who
loved the industry. Taking a chance, I negotiated a contract that would allow me
a chance to buy the company after seven years for what it was worth at the time
I came in. How could I lose? So, with some mixed feelings about leaving the
other dealership, I joined the small firm and started my "new" sales

took awhile, but I began to upgrade the client base, selling new and rebuilt
machines. Although you may think things would be great, I soon discovered that
as my sales and the amount of work to get these boxes out into the field
increased, so did the resentment of the service staff! Instead of telling me
what a great job I was doing, (The only ones who did that were the owner and the
woman who paid the bills-I wonder why?) I was met with frustration. "You
don't realize what goes on here," I was told by the service department
manager. "The guys are out on calls and you need these machines
rebuilt-they'll have to wait." I often waited 2 months for a machine to be
rebuilt - talk about destroying my sales psyche!

about a difference in culture from the last company. I realized that this
business was small, not because of the equipment we sold, but because of the
culture in the office. It didn't feel good to come into the office in the
morning anymore. In fact, I started to go to appointments right from my home
without checking into the office. I just didn't want to be exposed to that
attitude anymore.

culture actually led to my ultimate decision not to buy that business and to
start a great business that I love-showing other office equipment dealerships
how to avoid the costly mistake of not creating a culture that their sales force
can thrive in.

order to create the right culture, a dealer principle must always monitor how
the sales team is being perceived in the company and make appropriate changes
when necessary. Often times it takes letting go of "sacred cows" in a
business - but the benefits will far outweigh that temporary uncomfortable
feeling. Your office equipment dealership doesn't have to be like a box of
chocolates-you can tell what you're going to get from a good sales
force-especially if you create the right culture.

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