Ariel has been in the service business for nearly three decades. To drive sales in his business, he has always relied on hiring and retaining competent salespeople. Whereas he once employed a half dozen salespeople, that number has now dwindled to a mere two, mostly because of retirement or relocation. Those who are still with him, says Ariel, “make nice money with one earning in the six-figures” by virtue of the commissions earned. But of late, he is having a very difficult time even getting resumes, let alone serious inquiries from competent candidates.
Ariel is not alone in facing this dilemma. Nor is it restricted to the service business, as it extends to retail in all areas. As bad as the shortage has been in the last decade, it became particularly acute in the post Covid era. More people were opting for jobs that were more flexible and allowed them to work in whole or in part remotely. Take a stroll on any commercial strip and you are likely to see posted signs of “Sales Help Wanted!”
Many leading business experts predicted that the shortage would be temporary, particularly in the post pandemic era. But, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “sales occupations are projected to decline between 2018 and 2028,” a trend that is bound to make it more challenging for employers to hire sales associates. It is safe to say that this shortage will greatly impact the economy. The future of retail is already in question and the dearth of salespeople will only compound the issues faced by retailers in the future.
It seems that the projections for most of the next decade are not optimistic. Sales jobs are projected to show little or no change from 2021 to 2031, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a rate slower than the national average for all jobs. One client who has been in business for many years lamented about the extreme uncertainty when it comes to hiring salespeople. “It isn’t as if there is a pool of qualified candidates waiting to take these jobs,” he says. “Even when I finally do hire someone, I have to pray every day that they have the smarts to perform their job properly.” He admits that he is most concerned that his company will be well represented by the new salespeople.
People who are good at sales drive the market and the business they work for to success. Opting for a career in sales makes sense. Jobs in sales are always in high demand, as there is a consistent need for salespeople in every industry. Salespeople with experience can earn six figures and beyond with some becoming extremely wealthy. But it takes a great deal of patience and persistence to be successful. The experts agree that sales are not for everyone. There is a good reason to go into sales, mostly because one can dictate the level of success, meaning the more one sells the more they can earn. There is no better example than real estate and automobile salespeople who have the potential of earning serious money.
It is said that the greatest automobile salesman of all time in the US was Joseph Samuel Girard. He holds the Guinness World Record for being the most successful salesman in the world. Girard sold 13,001 cars at a Chevrolet dealership between 1963 and 1978, and was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the seller of the most cars in a year (1,425 in 1973)
What Girard did differently that helped him set records in selling is a good lesson for anyone involved in sales. He would never lie to the customers which gave him impeccable trust and credibility. Very importantly, he would stay in touch with them after the sales and they became a major source for referrals. He was more focused on the relationship than reinforcing his sales pitch. In other words, when it came to the paperwork, he would turn it over to subordinates so that he could concentrate on the next sale.
The number one imperative for a salesperson is to make the customer feel that they are the only customer. This applies to retail sales as well. Store personnel are often under pressure with many customers waiting to be served. A customer who requires a lot of time may cause the salesperson to ultimately lose that customer. Here is what one sales specialist recommended: Tell the customer as follows: “As you can see the store is rather busy right now. I would like to give you my full attention. Could we make an appointment so that I can give you the attention you deserve.” Usually, said the expert, the customer will let you know whether there is an urgency to their purchase, or they would have the patience to get that special care.
The mark of a good salesperson is to quickly assess the customer and tailor the sales pitch. I recall an old-time owner of a Lower East Side men’s clothing store who would greet every customer with a special greeting. If it was a chosson, he would immediately say, “Let’s make you the best dressed chosson on the planet.”
All the experts agree that customer care should be the number one concern of salespeople. It is important for the salesperson to know the product they sell well and to appear self-confident. They should always appear to be fresh and ready to sell. One expert advice never to appear tired or less than prepared to give the customer the full attention, such as constantly looking at a cellphone. Obviously, being a people’s person is a must but most importantly is to be a good listener.
Many businesspeople like to promote from within, one article on hiring salesmen noted. The reason is that these people tend to know the company well and as a result turn out to be good salespeople. The key challenge is to motivate people who are used to working at a specific job and are edgy about taking on a job which frankly is far more responsible in many ways.
Meanwhile, the business world seems very much concerned where the next generation of salespeople will come from, so much so that advertising for sales personnel in major publications has dropped dramatically. Ariel seems to have resigned himself to making do with his two salesmen and hoping that somehow someone will come along to take on the mantle of sales in his company.