Sales is a profession. Like all professionals, tools are required. When I ask salespeople about tools of the trade, I often hear: “My laptop stinks, it’s slow.” “Can you believe our company still gives out Blackberrys?” “I don’t get anything from marketing.” “My Sales Leader is too cheap to buy lists for leads.” “I hate having to go back to the office for wi-fi.” “When will they upgrade…” “Whah, whah, whah….”
It’s time to quit whining. Here’s why:
I was reminded of a valuable lesson this weekend.
I sat in a hair stylists’ chair and watched her prepare to engage in her craft. We’ll call her ‘Misty’, mostly because I didn’t ask if I could use her as an example in this post. Misty opened a drawer and there was a showcase of the most beautiful haircutting tools I had ever seen. Chrome and steel so shiny it seemed to brighten the room a bit when she pulled the drawer open. As I tuned in to what she pulled out, the quality was obvious. There were no kinks in the cords, they were smooth and tangle free. The scissors opened and closed with a whisper, not the grinding sound of my scissors at home. The clippers looked heavy and well-built. They made a relaxing hum as they buzzed by my ear. Even her combs looked like they were made of better plastic somehow.
Here is what prompted my checking out her stuff. When I sat down, there was an exchange between Misty and the stylist in the next cubicle that ended with Misty politely reminding her coworker to never touch her “tools”. That word struck me- “Tools”? Her tools? So I asked, ‘doesn’t the company provide you with stuff’? Seems like they’d have a vested interest in making sure the stylists had what they needed. She scoffed. “In this business I am not going to depend on company hand me downs. I want to know what I’m working with. I want the best tools I can afford.” That really struck me. So, I began the inquisition: “How much for a good pair of shears?” (not scissors, I’m told) About $120 plus sharpening a couple of times a year. “How about the clippers?” $300 for those shiny ones but she’s saving for a better pair. The conversation continued for the next 7-8 minutes. If I had more hair, I could have continued the interrogation for as long as she tolerated it. I was fascinated. I’ll have to thank Misty next time I see her.
A quick internet search revealed that Misty isn’t alone. Almost every stylist buys their own tools and carries them to and from their place of duty. They spend a range of $500-2000 on tools and maintenance. The average stylist in the U.S. makes $26k a year. High end might be $45k.
There are very few tools a good salesperson needs to be successful. A good laptop, robust internet service, a dependable mobile device, tools to organize communications and customer info, lead gen, and a great pair of comfortable shoes.
In most cases, we work at companies that provide these items. (except the shoes, of course) However, keep in mind that they are purchased for the ‘average’ salesperson, or worse yet, they are purchased with the average employee in mind and the purchasing department hopes that salespeople will make them work.
Is that good enough? It isn’t for Misty. So, why do you tolerate it? What can you do about it?
My advice is to first give thought to the tools of your craft and figure out what will truly help you succeed. There are lots of things that would be nice to have, but those are often distracting shiny objects. I’d start first on the core items that you can’t function without. Do they work properly? Are they up to date? Will they serve you tomorrow and next week, next month, next year? Does your technology match or outpace your ideal customer’s?
Next, I’d start looking for things that will help with efficiency and productivity. What tools of the trade could you have that would provide at least a 10x return in efficiency or productivity? Mobility, lead generation, and organization/time management tools come to mind.
Now that you have a list of needed items and specs that meet your needs, ask for them. Start with sales leadership, consult with IT, marketing, and purchasing, or anyone else that makes the decisions. Also, make this discussion part of your annual review process. You’re going to ask for a raise, right? You also ought to be asking to be outfitted with the best tools for your craft. Make that part of your negotiations.
Now, here’s the deal…you’re going to hear “No” a lot. But you’re used to that, right? You’re in sales! You won’t be phased by that. Ask again, be prepared to show your case. You know the drill.
If you get stonewalled, blocked by red tape, restrained by budget, etc. Well, now you have a choice to make. You know what tools you need, you know how they will help you, you know that average tools won’t cut it, and you have set a benchmark for the standard tools of your trade.
You can whine about it or you can arm yourself with the best tools for your trade. The things that will help you become an expert in your craft. Buy them yourself. Get control of your tools. Carry them with you wherever you go. Set aside a budget each year for updates and upgrades. Invest in yourself and your craft.
Laptop too slow? Go buy a good Lenovo, Mac, or HP. Invest in the best. Want more leads? Subscribe to a service, join a networking group, or pay to upgrade your social media presence. Want faster wi-fi? Get a new device or pay for faster service for your office.
Sales is a profession. Like all professionals, tools are required. Do not rely on others to provide you the tools purchased for average reps. Quit whining, take a page out of Misty’s book and ensure you have the best tools you can afford. Get an arsenal of tools you can depend on that will give you a cutting edge.
Feel free to reach out if you need help to determine the best tools.
(PS- This article was written on a MacBook Pro that I used personal funds to purchase years ago. You will rarely see me without it. It is one of my most powerful tools and it serves me well. My company issued HP laptop is left at work and gets little use.)