Graduating from college, I went right into a high-pressure sales job selling newspaper advertising for The Dallas Times Herald in the burgeoning Dallas, Texas marketplace. It was a hustle out there as we competed with The Dallas Morning News who had a greater share of the subscriber and ad revenue markets. At that time in the 80s, Dallas had small businesses and strip centers popping up every day and I would literally case my territory at least every other day so that I could be the first in the door, when a store opened. Because if I was not and the ad showed up in The Dallas Morning News, here is what happened…
8 am daily paper check with our entire sales team and manager and each region did it at the same time, every day. Paper check meant, our boss opened the competitive papers and asked us about any businesses advertising in our territory that we did not have running in our paper. This was of course, in front of the whole team. So, my first lesson on the importance of feedback in sales was frequency and consistency matter. I knew that I had to be ON IT or look like a weak link on our team. The second lesson about the importance of feedback was transparency. We all went under the same daily scrutiny and although this was painful at times, it also brought us together as a team. It was competitive, it was fun and we rooted each other on. This feedback process also allowed us to share some best practices and teach the newbies so that they knew what was coming and how to get better.
Adaptability in sales is essential and that is another lesson I learned at The Dallas Times Herald. During my 6 years there, my territory was split 4 times so I gave up strip centers and advertisers to my co-workers and had to go deeper into my current client base, selling them more or finding new ones in a smaller territory. I was blessed with a North Dallas area and was able to adapt and continue to outsell my complacent Dallas Morning News opponent.
My boss, a wonderful guy named Eddie, was a master at understanding the importance of feedback and would always find a time to point out the wins, the great sales, the creative approaches and he was famous for slipping us producers a $50 here and there as a bonus. Which of course, we went out and blew that night at the Elan, dancing and drinking a few cocktails. I grew to love feedback, as all salespeople should, but of course, the quality of it matters. Coaches should be direct, fair, instructive and consistent in their feedback to make it work its magic. Not everyone is as lucky as I was to have an accomplished and encouraging coach.
The coach is so important when it comes down to it. I would certainly not have been as motivated or as skilled or as inspired to canvas my territory, stay out late and build ads until 8 pm at night without Eddie. So how do coaches become better? Here is one great resource from our partners Objective Management Group: The Ultimate Sales Coaching Guide with another downloadable below.