I love the "surf, turf or frog legs"! You never fail to deliver a fresh perspective, John. Thanks!
And for You Sir? Surf, Turf or Frog Legs?
Does selling ice to an Eskimo really prove you are a good salesperson? Does sales success only come to those with 'natural' sales abilities? Is what your sales manager saying about you really true?
"Sales isn't for everybody. Sorry, we don't think you are cut out for sales."
Have you ever been on the receiving end of such a statement?
Most sales managers will emphatically state that a salesperson who is not meeting his or her sales quota simply doesn’t have the "Right Stuff.” Unfortunately, their judgment is based upon a major false assumption which is: A "good" salesperson can sell anything, the product or service is irrelevant, and in fact, a good salesperson could sell "ice to an Eskimo".
The Antiquated One Size Fits All Concept
In traditional sales training, all salespersons are lumped together without regard to the different approaches and temperaments required to best represent a product or service. A typical sales seminar delivered to a room full of participants will use general sales terms and can not afford to focus on any single separate industry. In addition, most trainers believe (falsely) that sales techniques are the same from industry to industry. In the end, what is delivered is a “cookie-cutter” seminar that fails to address any ones individual needs or concerns.
The Correct Concept
Sales people are not created equal just as the products and services they sell are not equal and the environments in which they are sold are not equal. Selling private jets to corporate executives is not the same as selling skin care products at a home party (in spite of what your sales manager may say).
The Universal Law of Purchasing: We are unique people selling to unique people who buy for their own unique reasons looking for their own unique results.
While it may be true that selling comes naturally to some and not to others, the product, service and environment, must fit and conform to the temperament of the salesperson and not the other way around.
In my experience, rather than telling my trainees that they are not cut out for sales, I suggest products, services or environments that I believe conform best to their individual style. The result is a huge savings in training costs, and the individuals find the best sales niche suited to their personality.
The Law of Harmonic Conformity: The human Core Motivator, Product/Service, and the environment in which they are sold, must all be in harmonic conformity.
The three selling environments are:
1. Surf (outside sales)
2. Turf (inside sales)
3. Amphibious (both)
These are not rigid categories, but rather each environment has a core set of attributes that conforms very well to some people and not to others.
The Surf Sales Domain
Surf Sales representatives do not have a single physical location, lack a home base in the traditional sense and must seek out their prospects. They must cold-call and warm-call daily to survive. They usually lack the comfort of a draw or base wage and rely 100% on commission. In cold-calling, they must create “needs, values, and benefits,” for the prospect. The sales rep may also need to “find” and “justify” the money spent on the product to the satisfaction of the prospect. Even warm calls, where there is a pre-existing relationship, requires cold-call skills to take the process to a close. Surf selling truly starts from nothing.
Examples of surf sales include Amway, Mary Kay, Longaberger or any other “door-to-door” or party style cold call selling.
Surf Sales are also for those who have greater drive and assertiveness. This type of salesperson is usually of high energy and self-motivation. He or she cannot afford to sit around and wait for the phone to ring, because they are self-employed and must generate prospects and clients solely based on individual determination.
The only limiting factor in obtaining clients is the world population. It is the drive and need for freedom that offsets the lack of security, health benefits or other advantages that come with our next category, Turf Sales.
The Turf Sales Domain
In Turf Sales, the representative has a single physical location acting as a home base or turf. Prospects are familiar and aware of the business location and seek out the sales representative. For this reason, the sales rep faces a “warm market” as opposed to a “cold market." This is common in many retail environments. There may be other staff members present to provide assistance, emotional support, advice and often friendship. Management is also present for additional authoritative support and guidance. Expectations are clearly defined to motivate and offer a sense of security. These people often prefer working in a structured environment where there are no surprises. Most importantly, they escape or only get slightly grazed by the bullet of rejection. There is comfort in having prospects seek them, rather than having to cold-call to find prospects. A car lot is an excellent example of Turf Sales.
With prospects being interested in what is being sold, the sales rep's self-confidence is immediately bolstered. The prospect is aware of “needs, values, and benefits,” along with estimated cost. This eliminates the need for the sales representative to create that which is already present.
Turf sales are for those who have a patient disposition. They may stand or sit for hours waiting for a prospect. They are willing to see prospects several times before the sale is made. It may take weeks or months working on a single lead and in the end a deal may or may not be closed. Turf Sales representatives are usually given a minimum wage or draw against commission that they can count on which provides further convenience and security.
The Amphibious Sales Domain
The amphibious style of selling is the “catch-all” category having both Turf and Surf core attributes. For example, in real estate, a sales representative may have to work under a broker and be accountable to him or her. Yet, the realtor working on commission only has a great deal of freedom. As long as he or she is producing, management will not attempt to micromanage them. Often the sales rep just uses the office as a place to maintain periodic contact with associates and clients.
The core issues discussed thus far have revolved around location, freedom, self-motivation and having to seek out prospects vs. having them come to you. However, there is one major factor running through all sales environments, and that is the degree of interpretive needs of the prospect and your comfort in satisfying those needs.
What are Interpretive Needs?
Studies show that we place all of our wants, needs and desires into one basket. However, the same research reveals that what we are calling a "need" is actually a want or desire. Thus, "needs" in general are a matter of interpretation and viewpoint rather than being based on factual evidence. Wants and desires are always conditional, being dependent upon an antecedent arbitrary cause. For example, I may say I "need" a car in order to get to work and have the freedom to travel. However, there are many individuals living in cities, such as in San Francisco and New York, who do not need a car in order to get to work and they do not have the "need" to travel beyond the city limits. In this context the "need" for having a car is actually not a "need" but a want or desire" based on external conditions.
In Turf sales, where the prospect seeks the product or service, their perceived need is greater than when the sales representative seeks them in Surf sales.
The Law of Interpretive Needs: The greater the interpretive need of the prospect, the less a salesperson is needed. The less the interpretive need of the prospect, the greater the need for a salesperson.
In Surf sales, the salesperson must create the need in the individual prospect. In Turf sales, the interpretive need is inferred by the prospect simply entering the place of business. In Amphibious sales it is a combination of both.
Where the Fault Lies
As you can see, if you feel you are less than successful in your current sales environment, the fault may not be you (in spite of what your sales manager may say). There are many factors that contribute to success and failure. Most often, those who are struggling in sales have just simply failed to find their proper environment for a successful sales career. In my experience I have never observed those suited for "The Turf", find success in "The Surf" or vice versa. If you find yourself unfulfilled in your current sales environment, a change of venue is in order.
Learn more about the author, John Voris.
Comment on this article
Posted by Kate Phillips, Seattle, Washington |
Mar 04, 2009
Posted by Jessica Le Jeaune, Monterey , California |
Mar 05, 2009
Thank you John, the distinctions in your essay helped me realized I was in the wrong environment of sales. I'll have all my friends read
Posted by Karen Floyd, Seattle, Washington |
Aug 01, 2009
Very catchy title John. I never ate frogs legs before I love Steak but I think I'm more into surfing!
Posted by John Voris, Carmel, California |
Aug 02, 2009
Thanks for the compliment. I have never found a turf sales rep have the same success being a surf sales rep or visa versa.
All too often, people have the potential for sales but fail to make this distinction and leave the business.
Posted by Renee Smith, Meridian, Idaho |
May 19, 2011
Love your style, John. I am 100% amphibian, but get "stuck" in the turf at times. Your refreshing outlook is inspiring, I applaud your work!
- outside sales
- inside sales
- interpretive needs