Creating Sales Stars by Stephan Schiffman and Gary Krebs

Everyone knows about the business potential represented by the huge millennial age group. But how do you manage the next generation millennial sales force required to reach this gigantic market?

Read an excerpt from Creating Sales Stars and download the first 3 chapters below.


In an ideal world, should you really be “obligated” to cajole your team into “buying in” to the product or service you are selling? No, you shouldn’t have to do this. Are you going to end up doing it? You bet you will.

Millennials can be really skeptical and don’t have a sense of the past. They also have an odd lack of imagination about the future, as if it’s already arrived and they are convinced that they already know everything about it. They aren’t paying any attention to the way things were, where they are now, and where they could be in the future.

The phonograph was an unbelievable invention in 1877. When Thomas Edison invented it, he had no idea how long it was going to last or be appreciated. It survived the cassette era and the 8-track era, sputtered during CDs, and vanished in the wake of digital music. The phonograph went kaput, right? Wait, not so fast.

In 2005, turntables came back, with sales of about 138,000. That’s a pretty interesting blip. Was it just an anomaly? Between 2006 and 2014, the sales ranged between 60,000 and 111,000. The original excitement aside, this seemed like a pretty niche market that was flat to downtrending at best. But what happened in 2015? Sales went through the roof to 1.4 million! A year later, sales reached 1.8 million! Now, suddenly, we have a turntable trend, and records—vinyl albums—are a viable business once again. One company, SEV Litovel, is seeing 400% increases in turntables and can’t keep up with demand. You are probably asking: Why are you bringing this up? Should I start investing in 8-track players?

No, of course not. I bring up the turntable sensation as an example of how knowing the past can help the future. Today’s sales professionals only see a big black cloud hanging over the future. It’s absolutely ridiculous. They only see the negatives in the marketplace, not the opportunities.

I believe the past can often be a beacon to the future. When I get on a crowded bus, I can predict what is going to happen: some people will get off at the next stop; some people will stay on the bus; more people will get on. Am I a soothsayer? No. It’s common sense. Business is circular, and customers are always coming and going.

Whatever you do, no matter where the bus is headed, you and your team don’t want to be left off the bus because someone else—i.e., a competitor—has stolen your seats.

Your team needs to recognize that there are important moments in history, and this could be your turn to take advantage of them. How do you accomplish this? Everyone must buy in 110% to your product or service and its bright future.

Let’s say your team is selling a widget that’s existed since 1972. It still makes money and supports two thousand people in a factory, a warehouse, a back office, a sales team, a marketing team, a board of directors, and several executives. Sure, sales are soft and times are tough. They have always been tough. Your sales team is about to go off on a road show to unveil and present a brand-new widget that’s been in development for years. One problem: your sales team doesn’t buy in to the new widget at all. The objections might go something like this:

• Widgets are old—who cares about a widget?
• Anyone who wants a widget already has one.
• The competitors are outselling us three to one on widgets— how can we beat that?
• A new widget? Really? There’s no difference between the old one and the new one. A widget is still a widget, isn’t it?

What they are saying is that they don’t buy in to your product, they don’t believe in it, and they don’t have any confidence that they can sell it. They couldn’t care less that widgets have sustained the business for years and that the new widget is sensational. It’s all doom and gloom and black clouds.

Do you think this sales team is going to succeed on a road show with this widget? Not a chance. They are guaranteed to fail. They’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they don’t believe in the product, there is no way they will be able to sell it. The buyers will smell their lack of faith from a mile away.

Salespeople not only need fire in the belly in order to sell; they need fire in the brain as well. Their brain cells need to be bubbling with excitement over the new product. They should be pumped to hit the road: “A new widget? Hell, yeah—pile them high and wide, I can sell a ton of these!”

So, how do you foster this kind of enthusiasm? As a team exercise, gather everyone together for thirty minutes. To start the dialogue, show them a metal paper clip. Open with this:

In 1817 the paper clip was invented. What a brilliant, perfect invention! It’s still used in offices everywhere—in spite of staplers, binder clips, and digital documents. The paper clip is never going away.

Now. Suppose you had to market and sell this metal paper clip. Your commissions depended upon it. How would you do it? Everyone knows exactly what a paper clip is and what it does, right? You’re thinking: “He’s out of his mind. Paper clips are old. Who cares? No one will buy a paper clip.”

Ask everyone to write down their ideas for reinventing, marketing, and selling the paper clip. Anything that comes into their heads is fine. Each idea should be written on a separate Post-It. Give them ten minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible.

When time is up, have everyone place their Post-Its on the walls. Every salesperson should have at least ten, if not up to fifty. When they are done, the walls of the entire room should be covered with Post-Its filled with inventions, marketing ideas, and sales pitches for the paper clip. Pick a volunteer from the room to read them all aloud. I guarantee some will be silly, some will be wildly creative, and a few will be brilliant.

The point is this: everything has a precedent for invention and can be reinvented. Every year there is a newer and better smartphone. The reps at Apple are never going to whine “Aw, man, do I have to sell another iPhone again?!”

If Apple can create, market, sell, and generate excitement for new phones every year, why can’t there be a newer, better paper clip? Think about the versatility of the paper clip today and all the variations currently available in office stores:

• Paper clips used to just be metal and come in only two sizes. Why not offer them in ten sizes, for every need?
• They could be made of bendable plastic instead of metal; no longer could they be used as sharp weapons or tear your paper when you remove them.
• Paper clips can come in a variety of colors—blue, green, orange, red, and more—so you can separate different documents by paper-clip color.
• How about an amazing low-priced paper clip spinner with dividers to separate the colors?
• Why not customize paper clips in the color and shape of your customers’ brand and logo—it’s a whole new revenue stream!

Whoa, that’s a lot of stuff for just a paper clip! Imagine what your team comes up with! After the session is done, ask them to go off on their own and think about the future of your company’s product or service. They can project all kinds of crazy things, which is exactly what you want. The exercise creates excitement and buy-in for your product or service because the salespeople have imagined all this unlimited potential on their own. The future will look bright indeed!

Download the first 3 chapters of Creating Sales Stars for free.

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Creating Sales Stars

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