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Sales and Marketing Savvy

18:26 01 January in News

In a community more noted for its engineering excellence than its sales savvy, local companies turn to a sales consultant to boost performance.

by Lee Green

Huntsville MagazineSales may be the lifeblood of any organization. But what does a corporation do when the executive leadership sees that a transfusion might be in order?

Nationally, many companies have turned to sales consultants to diagnose their situations; the local community is no different.

Several Huntsville area companies in various industries have found that a profile developed by a world renowned national consultant was just the right medication needed to help the smooth flow of revenues.

The Dave Kurlan Sales Profile aided the growing corporations in determining what their sales goals and formulas were and which individuals were most suited to push toward achieving those goals.

The profile and other tools are all part of the process, say the company executives, of maximizing marketing plans in a business community more noted for its engineering excellence than its sales savvy.

“We understand the technology we produce, but the challenge is to market it in an environment where it’s not just a matter of the lowest bidder wins,” says Dr. Hal Pastrick, president of Cummings Research Park’s SRS Technologies. The company, which has 110 employees in Huntsville and produces such products as environmental management software and infrared/ultraviolet heat detection devices, has recently pushed into the commercial market for the first time in its 18-year history.

“We don’t have a sales and marketing force per se. Right now, it is our six division managers and myself,” said Patrick, whose company recently completed the Kurlan profile and analysis. The company leaders worked with local sales consultant Ted Gulas. “The bidding process with the government has become more competitive . . . but it’s still very laid out for companies. We knew we needed help in adapting to the commercial environment.”

Gulas and his wife Debbie own Performance Plus-a franchise of Priority Management Systems, Inc.-and Performance Max, Inc. in Madison County. Gulas has worked with the Kurlan profile for the past two years with numerous local and national companies. He has done consulting since 1989.

“I’d work with customers and they’d tell me that their biggest dilemma was how to find quality salespeople and how to evaluate their existing salespeople,” Gulas said. “Every year, companies invest millions of dollars in sales training with people who will never be able to truly execute. The profile finds problems that are undetectable with other instruments.”

Gulas said many of the companies that come to him for advice have actually had increasing sales figures over the past several years. “They want to know how much better their better can be,” Gulas said. “Companies are being more proactive today. They are looking to better develop process skills, not just task skills.”

Kurlan, who is with the Massachusetts-based Objective Management Group, Inc., came up with the sales and marketing profile in 1989. Since that time, 11,000 companies have taken the test. “Psychological tests can tell you if someone is outgoing,” Kurlan said. “But they won’t tell you if someone will execute.”

“I look at hidden strengths and weaknesses,” he added. “You don’t look for capacity for learning, you look at potential for growth, incentive for change, and ability to change. Active, not passive.”

Kurlan said the biggest concern he sees today with individuals in sales is an inconsistency between buying habits and selling habits.

“When your salesperson makes a personal purchase, does he or she shop on price? If you expect your people to close within four sales calls and your new hire can’t buy anything in fewer than 10 trips to the mall, there’s a problem,” Kurlan said. “Someone in sales will make the mistake of tolerating stalls and put-offs if they can empathize with a potential buyer, because that is the way they buy in their personal lives.”

Gulas and Kurlan said companies need to work at shortening sales cycles, to go for the quicker “yes or no” than the prolonging “maybe.” However, in most cases in the corporate world, that doesn’t mean successful salespeople should be too aggressive with their face-to-face sales techniques.

“The fast-talking, aggressive-to-the-point-of-manipulative salesperson is part of a dying breed,” Gulas said. “Today more than ever before, potential customers want more objectivity than subjectivity in the approach.”

Gulas said the Kurlan profile and analysis is for salespeople, sales managers, presidents and other individuals involved in the sales process. “It is only effective after companies react to the findings. Answers in the analysis alone aren’t enough to make for change,” he said.

Kerry Lovvorn said that change may be more visible in a company’s long-term profit margin growth. Lovvorn is the president of Scottsboro’s Telko Enterprises, Inc., a steel structure fabricator which deals mostly with the restaurant industry. The 10 year old company has 25 employees. “I was interested in how to improve the quality of sales in the extended scope,” he said. “The analysis helped us to better define our objectives and look at how we can develop better long-term customers.”

Even though Telko has been in the commercial market for many years, Lovvorn said winning a job was similar to winning a government job through the bid structure.

“This specific market was mainly directed by price alone. If you could offer the lowest price, you got the job. There wasn’t much sales to it,” Lovvorn said. “But that continues to change today. To do well in today’s environment, you have to seek out new customers who are doing things different ways. More factors are entered into potential customers’ decisions today.”

“We need a quality sales force today more than ever,” Lovvorn added, “but it doesn’t just happen overnight.”

A good corporate salesman has to realize that rejections are not to be taken personally, according to David Milly, president of Theatrical Lighting Systems, Inc. of Huntsville. “It takes someone who feels good about themselves and the environment they are working in. A good self image is very important,” Milly said.

TLS, Inc. serves mainly the entertainment industry with supply, operation and servicing of advanced lighting systems at concerts and other events. Since the company employs only 18 individuals but does business all across the United States, Milly and other top administrators at the company have had to wear salespeople’s hats on many occasions.

“This industry is about having the ability to understand customers’ needs,” Milly said. “It’s not so much selling as it is solving people’s problems. This is a glitzy field, but it’s a technical field. It’s not like selling cars.”

Milly said the Kurlan profile helped himself and several TLS employees identify strengths and weaknesses in sales and marketing. It has also helped company leaders realize how to better identify subtle differences between the serious customers and the “window shoppers.”

“I’m very happy with the people we have working for us now. But since we first started (in 1981), we’ve hired a few non-successful individuals in sales,” he said.

“Hiring a bad salesman costs you thousands of dollars and hiring a good salesman saves you thousands of dollars,” Milly said. “The better the screening process, the better chance you have of bringing in a winning individual.”

Is your company’s sales performance critically low or would you like to try a little “preventive medicine?” A sales consultant could be just what the doctored ordered.