Home > Personal Selling > What would you do if you were me?

What would you do if you were me?

Let me first start off by saying I apologize for the length of this post, but I feel it necessary to get my point across, and get the most out of the vast experience on this forum.

I have a degree in Industrial Technology, and my first job was as an MWD engineer. (basically a navigator for oilfield horizontal drilling) After a year of never being home, I went to work in retail sales with my stepfather in the flooring business. After two years there, I hired on as an outside salesman with a Flooring Distributor, which I loved, however two years into it, hurricane Katrina dealt a massive blow to the company, and after "hanging in there" for a year, had to look for work elsewhere.

I am currently an outside salesman for an oilfield service company. I have been there just over a year, but I feel that my performance is much less than desirable. I wonder how different this field is from a "traditional" sales field. Let me explain the way things work.

My company has only 15 employees. The owner was the only one doing sales, but found he needed to focus more on running the business, thus I was hired. I am the only salesman, and generating new customers relies on just me.

The company manufactures and sales oilfield production monitoring equipment. Basically it is an alarm system like in your house, which constantly monitors pressure and fluid depth on the oil/gas/water coming up out of the ground. If anything gets out of specified parameters, our system shuts down the well, and can call someone in charge to let them know there is a problem. The old way of doing this was all with pneumatics, we however have invented and pioneered electronic monitoring, which is what our systems are based on.

Now, moving on, my customers are the people that say what company puts these systems on the producing wells. My normal prospecting consists of either cold calling oil companies, and asking for who is in charge of production. I am then directed to a voicemail, where I leave all my pertinent information, with a brief description of what we do, and asking for a time to meet with them. This method has not been very successful. I very rarely have anyone call me back, even to tell me they are not who I am looking for. Now, usually big companies have employees that go as follows: Production Engineers -> Production Supervisors -> Pumpers (Pumpers are the guys that drive around maintaining the production sites). Smaller oil companies have Production Engineers, but will contract out a consultant, who acts like the Production Supervisor, who then hires someone to be a Pumper. Normally my main target is the guy in the middle, the Production Supervisor, or Consultant. Pumpers are too low on the totem pole to make decisions, and Engineers let the Supervisor make the decisions, although sometimes the Engineers want everything ok'd themselves.

With oil and gas being at the price they are right now, everyone and their brother are starting up oil companies and drilling. I ride around with a report on the wells being drilled in certain areas. I stop at the drilling sites and talk with the man in charge, generally getting a number for the person in charge of production, or the engineer. Now, the well being drilled may amount to nothing, but if they make a good well, that site will have the equipment on it to separate oil, gas, and water, and we have the chance to put our system on it. Here are my problems.

1. I very rarely get anyone to return my calls, usually I have to catch them by chance while they are in the office and not in the field. Of course this only works IF they want to talk to me. One of our field techs told me he knew how hard my job was. While on the job one day he called the production supervisor to get a number for the pumper of that well. The supervisor answered, the tech told him he was with my company, and the guy told him he was busy, could not talk, and hung up on him. The tech called back and told the secretary what happened, then the supervisor got on the phone and told our tech, "Sorry, I thought you were a salesman" I had to laugh at that one, but it is the truth of how things work.

2. I get told that they have in-house systems they use, and people to install them.

3. They want to use pneumatic systems, even after I tell them electronic is faster to install and the materials are cheaper. They still say they want to stick with pneumatic systems.

4. They tell me they already have someone who does what we do. I let them know that those systems actually are a take off on our original design. This does not seem to mean anything.

5. They tell me that the next well that goes good, they will let me put in a bid for the job. This is great, except there has to be apples to apples comparison. My competition does what we do as an add-on service. So what they do is give a package deal, where they increase the price on the processing equipment, and give a much lower price on the safety system, thus making it look like we are way over bidding.

6. I do not hunt, fish, play golf, drink, etc. My company does not give money under the table, or take customers on big trips. Down here that is what the "perks" of the oilfield is. Even if I could do all that, I do not feel that I should have to wine and dine a customer to get their work. I prefer to do something like that after they give me work, more of a reward than a motivator.

The oilfield is a very rough and gruff place, they will tell you what they think of you, and hold nothing back. It seems in order to be a salesman in this field, you have to be just like them, or they think you are weak. I guess I am wondering if it is possible to be great at selling one thing, and completely incompetent in another.

When I worked in the flooring industry, I did great. I was loved by many of my customers, and I have been offered multiple times my job back at the flooring distributor in New Orleans. They however do not carry the supply they did before Katrina, and when I left, I struggled to get my customers their orders. As strange as it may sound, I am still loyal to them, to the point where I would never want to work for their competition. Many old customers want me to get back into the business, so I feel like I was good at what I did then.

I am wondering if I really am cut out to be a salesman, due to my inability to make my current job "click". I love giving my customers solutions, I love them to depend on me and me be there for them. I just really love helping people. I did notice one thing that I lack in the new job. I always got along really good with women customers. In my current job, there are no women customers.

Well I really have gone much further with this than I intended, and if you are reading this, then you have stuck with it, and I appreciate that. I would love to get as much feedback as possible, so please hold nothing back. - by MrLister
I guess I am wondering if it is possible to be great at selling one thing, and completely incompetent in another.
In my opinion, yes, it's possible to be great at selling one thing and completely incompetent in another. There are just too many variables (different industries, different selling cycles, different types of prospects and customers, male vs. female customers, white collar vs. blue collar, etc.). I do not subscribe to the thought that a salesperson can be successful selling any product in any industry.

When I worked in the flooring industry, I did great. I was loved by many of my customers, and I have been offered multiple times my job back at the flooring distributor in New Orleans. They however do not carry the supply they did before Katrina, and when I left, I struggled to get my customers their orders. As strange as it may sound, I am still loyal to them, to the point where I would never want to work for their competition. Many old customers want me to get back into the business, so I feel like I was good at what I did then.

I am wondering if I really am cut out to be a salesman, due to my inability to make my current job "click".
It sounds to me like you had success in a previous type of selling, but decided to leave because of Katrina-caused business issues. It even sounds like you loved that business. Therefore, I think you might be "cut out to be a salesman" even though your current position isn't working.

Without knowing you or your situation too well, I would offer the following suggestions, for whatever they're worth:

- Find a position you feel you can be successful in (short term or long term, but you must think you will be successful).

- If you stay in your job, you need training on cold-calling, prospecting, and business development. I like Ari Galper (he has some articles posted on SalesPractice), Frank Rumbauskas, and Art Sobczak. They all have unique points-of-view and you may find you connect with one of them.

- Read (or listen to the CD) of Seth Godin's "The Dip." It's short and wonderful and I think that, after you read it, you might be glad you did. I've shared it with lots of people who have been in challenging situations, and every single one has gotten something from it.

I look forward to seeing what others here at SalesPractice suggest to you.

The best to you! - by Skip Anderson
Here are some thoughts...

Regarding "cold calling" success or lack thereof, I think you need to use a softer approach. I would develop a script that you can use when you get someone on the phone, have to leave a voice mail message or as an email message. This script would solicit the person for a 20 to 30 minute telephone conversation where you will share "how oil drillers are avoiding losses and boosting profits through improved well monitoring systems." In the cal you can share some comparative information about your solution (in general terms) and pneumatic systems. Then you can ask the person how they are currently monitoring their wells and perform some additional qualification. If you find you are speaking to the wrong person (from an authority standpoint) you can get a referral up or down. I would start very high in the company and be willing to be told, "Mr. Bigwig is not the person you need to speak with. You need to speak with Mr. Operational Manager." Then you can reference your call to Mr. OP with, "I was talking with Joan in Mr. Bigwig's office who suggested that you might be the better person for the conversation I would like to have."

Also, if new wells have not made a monitoring choice, then these people might represent your best prospect bet because they won't be pre-sold on a pneumatic solution. It's easier to get people to install something new at the beginning than to change a current system.

Do you have problem - impact - solution - results type stories from your current customers that can show prospects the financial and operational benefit of your system (compared to pneumatics and compared to no current solution)? This will help differentiate your solution from "knock off" imitators or pneumatic solutions.

You can counter your competition with a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis, but you must set the hook for this early in your sales cycle so that your prospects will challenge your competition to do the same.

Overall, I think your solution must be sold at a higher level where the financial benefits have more strategic value. Lower level people tend to decide on operational issues and your value proposition may not be strong enough or clear enough to drive them away from the "same old same old." A financial solution sold to Mr. Bigwig will drive the operational people to jump on board.

Just a few random thoughts. Good luck and good selling! - by jcundiff
Here are some thoughts...

Regarding "cold calling" success or lack thereof, I think you need to use a softer approach. I would develop a script that you can use when you get someone on the phone, have to leave a voice mail message or as an email message. This script would solicit the person for a 20 to 30 minute telephone conversation where you will share "how oil drillers are avoiding losses and boosting profits through improved well monitoring systems." In the cal you can share some comparative information about your solution (in general terms) and pneumatic systems. Then you can ask the person how they are currently monitoring their wells and perform some additional qualification. If you find you are speaking to the wrong person (from an authority standpoint) you can get a referral up or down. I would start very high in the company and be willing to be told, "Mr. Bigwig is not the person you need to speak with. You need to speak with Mr. Operational Manager." Then you can reference your call to Mr. OP with, "I was talking with Joan in Mr. Bigwig's office who suggested that you might be the better person for the conversation I would like to have."

Also, if new wells have not made a monitoring choice, then these people might represent your best prospect bet because they won't be pre-sold on a pneumatic solution. It's easier to get people to install something new at the beginning than to change a current system.

Do you have problem - impact - solution - results type stories from your current customers that can show prospects the financial and operational benefit of your system (compared to pneumatics and compared to no current solution)? This will help differentiate your solution from "knock off" imitators or pneumatic solutions.

You can counter your competition with a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis, but you must set the hook for this early in your sales cycle so that your prospects will challenge your competition to do the same.

Overall, I think your solution must be sold at a higher level where the financial benefits have more strategic value. Lower level people tend to decide on operational issues and your value proposition may not be strong enough or clear enough to drive them away from the "same old same old." A financial solution sold to Mr. Bigwig will drive the operational people to jump on board.

Just a few random thoughts. Good luck and good selling!
Excellent post! - by Skip Anderson
MrLister why should your prospect(s) change how they are currently running their operations? What's in it for them? - by AZBroker
6. I do not hunt, fish, play golf, drink, etc. My company does not give money under the table, or take customers on big trips. Down here that is what the "perks" of the oilfield is. Even if I could do all that, I do not feel that I should have to wine and dine a customer to get their work. I prefer to do something like that after they give me work, more of a reward than a motivator.

The oilfield is a very rough and gruff place, they will tell you what they think of you, and hold nothing back. It seems in order to be a salesman in this field, you have to be just like them, or they think you are weak. I guess I am wondering if it is possible to be great at selling one thing, and completely incompetent in another.


Well, I have to say, and you know that I partially right Mr Lister - sometimes it is how the game is played. Being from Louisiana, I am all too familar with the oilfield (being from Bayou Lafourche, that should tell you). You are in an area that doesn't take change easily - they don't want to.

I am not saying bribe or become the party boy, but take it from someone who was a pumper during thier summer months of college - salesmen are rated on what they do for those people there. You should know that Louisiana is a socially driven state. It is rare that I go outside the book of knowledge in sales, but ladies and gentlemen, this is the rare exception.

You need to find a happy medium. This is big oil, good ole boy, business you are dealing with. - by Ed Callais
- If you stay in your job, you need training on cold-calling, prospecting, and business development. I like Ari Galper (he has some articles posted on SalesPractice), Frank Rumbauskas, and Art Sobczak. They all have unique points-of-view and you may find you connect with one of them.

- Read (or listen to the CD) of Seth Godin's "The Dip." It's short and wonderful and I think that, after you read it, you might be glad you did. I've shared it with lots of people who have been in challenging situations, and every single one has gotten something from it.
Thank you for the advice Skip! I will definitly run down those books. The ones I currently have are "How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling" by Frank Bettger; "The Psychology of Selling" by Brian Tracey; "The Sales Bible" by Jeffrey Gitomer; and "Your 1st Year in Sales" by Tim Connor. I always thought that I would find my own way of selling, and there was no selling formula, but while looking through some of these books in the store, I found I was wrong. I mean heck, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Again, thank you for your recommendations!

-Matt - by MrLister
Regarding "cold calling" success or lack thereof, I think you need to use a softer approach. I would develop a script that you can use when you get someone on the phone, have to leave a voice mail message or as an email message. This script would solicit the person for a 20 to 30 minute telephone conversation where you will share "how oil drillers are avoiding losses and boosting profits through improved well monitoring systems." In the cal you can share some comparative information about your solution (in general terms) and pneumatic systems. Then you can ask the person how they are currently monitoring their wells and perform some additional qualification. If you find you are speaking to the wrong person (from an authority standpoint) you can get a referral up or down. I would start very high in the company and be willing to be told, "Mr. Bigwig is not the person you need to speak with. You need to speak with Mr. Operational Manager." Then you can reference your call to Mr. OP with, "I was talking with Joan in Mr. Bigwig's office who suggested that you might be the better person for the conversation I would like to have."
I have often thought about doing this, but I worry that it will sound too rehearsed. I have been told I have a "radio" voice, so I have to be careful and concentrate not to overdue it when I am on the phone. Also, when do you stop leaving messages for soemone that does not call you back?

Do you have problem - impact - solution - results type stories from your current customers that can show prospects the financial and operational benefit of your system (compared to pneumatics and compared to no current solution)? This will help differentiate your solution from "knock off" imitators or pneumatic solutions.
I do, but would you use say who the current customer is? I have read that you are not supposed to discuss current customers with potential customer.

You can counter your competition with a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis, but you must set the hook for this early in your sales cycle so that your prospects will challenge your competition to do the same.
Please elaborate on this. What exactly is a TCO? Perhaps give me an example.

Overall, I think your solution must be sold at a higher level where the financial benefits have more strategic value. Lower level people tend to decide on operational issues and your value proposition may not be strong enough or clear enough to drive them away from the "same old same old." A financial solution sold to Mr. Bigwig will drive the operational people to jump on board.
I have found however going to the engineers, who pretty much deal with all things oil operations, tend to want to let such decisions belong to the production supervisors in the field. It seems that they do not want to be bothered by such minor decisions. Now, I have the same old problem of dealing with field employees who like the "oilfield" perks. These guys are more interested in what you can do for them, they like the salesmen that come out to the site with a bar-b-que pit on a trailer hitch, and cook everyone ribeye steaks and provide the beer to wash it down. Most could care less about cutting cost, I mean I had one customer tell me that they do not try and save money, because that raises the expectations to save that much later, they look at it as a noose around their necks.

I do really appreciate your interest in this discussion. ;bg - by MrLister
MrLister why should your prospect(s) change how they are currently running their operations? What's in it for them?

1. Lower Cost
2. Easier to use
3. Callout abitlity when there is a problem
4. Site monitoring from any internet connection
5. More flexibility to add components when called for - by MrLister
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Well, I have to say, and you know that I partially right Mr Lister - sometimes it is how the game is played. Being from Louisiana, I am all too familar with the oilfield (being from Bayou Lafourche, that should tell you). You are in an area that doesn't take change easily - they don't want to.

I am not saying bribe or become the party boy, but take it from someone who was a pumper during thier summer months of college - salesmen are rated on what they do for those people there. You should know that Louisiana is a socially driven state. It is rare that I go outside the book of knowledge in sales, but ladies and gentlemen, this is the rare exception.

You need to find a happy medium. This is big oil, good ole boy, business you are dealing with.
You are very right Ed. Yup, Bayou Lafourche, alone lets me know you know exactly what I am talking about. I may just have to admit the oilfield is just not for me. I have a few things against me anyway. My family is not from here, even though I have lived here since I was 2, now 31. I am blond haired and blue-eyed, with a fair complextion. That automatically puts me apart.

Where are you now Ed? What companies were you a pumper for, and how long ago? - by MrLister
I worked for Chevron back in the 80's. South Tim 151 to be exact.

I live in Tennessee now. I am an event producer who does competitions all across the United States.

You are right, blonde hair/blue eyes among all those dark, cajun locals does stick out. I am sorry that it is such a closed door there. There are those rare times that it is about who you know - period. South Louisiana is it. From Fourchon to Cocodrie, you have to know someone sha.

If you want my advice on how to get "in". Goto D and C (Danos and Curole) contractors, get a job as a pumper, meet a couple of right people then "go" into the business. That good ole boy stuff is how it goes there. Look at my last name, it should tell you who I am tied in with down there.....lol - by Ed Callais
Quote:
Regarding "cold calling" success or lack thereof, I think you need to use a softer approach. I would develop a script that you can use when you get someone on the phone, have to leave a voice mail message or as an email message. This script would solicit the person for a 20 to 30 minute telephone conversation where you will share "how oil drillers are avoiding losses and boosting profits through improved well monitoring systems." In the cal you can share some comparative information about your solution (in general terms) and pneumatic systems. Then you can ask the person how they are currently monitoring their wells and perform some additional qualification. If you find you are speaking to the wrong person (from an authority standpoint) you can get a referral up or down. I would start very high in the company and be willing to be told, "Mr. Bigwig is not the person you need to speak with. You need to speak with Mr. Operational Manager." Then you can reference your call to Mr. OP with, "I was talking with Joan in Mr. Bigwig's office who suggested that you might be the better person for the conversation I would like to have."
I have often thought about doing this, but I worry that it will sound too rehearsed. I have been told I have a "radio" voice, so I have to be careful and concentrate not to overdue it when I am on the phone. Also, when do you stop leaving messages for soemone that does not call you back?
[JIM SAYS] Funny, I used to work in radio. Seriously, the script is just a suggestion. Take the concept and make into a conversation you can have. Yes, you have to be assertive, but you don't have to be telemarketer to use this concept. It works for me getting C-level executives in Fortune 100 companies on the telephone all day long.
You call people three or four times waiting three business days between calls. If they don't respond to you after the fourth call (or email) then statistics show that additional calls are usually going to fail. Put them on the backburner for a month or six weeks and then come back to them. The only time you stop calling them is when they ask you to stop calling them, tell you they are not interested or book an appointment.
Quote:
Do you have problem - impact - solution - results type stories from your current customers that can show prospects the financial and operational benefit of your system (compared to pneumatics and compared to no current solution)? This will help differentiate your solution from "knock off" imitators or pneumatic solutions.
I do, but would you use say who the current customer is? I have read that you are not supposed to discuss current customers with potential customer.

[JIM SAYS]
No. You say, "for example, one my customers – an operator of 65 rigs in East Texas – used to use a pneumatic solution. They told me that they were having problems with the older system mis-reporting certain data. [PROBLEM] As a result, they were spending twice as much money (give an amount if you can) on repairs compared to maintenance costs. Plus, well down-time was costing them $X. [IMPACT] We provided a solution. [SOLUITION] Now, they have reduced maintenance and repair costs by X-percent and their well down-time is down Y-percent. [RESULT]"
Quote:
You can counter your competition with a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis, but you must set the hook for this early in your sales cycle so that your prospects will challenge your competition to do the same.
Please elaborate on this. What exactly is a TCO? Perhaps give me an example.
[JIM SAYS] Total cost of ownership shows the cradle to grave cost of your solution. It should include the cost of your solution – purchase price, installation expense, support costs, everything the customer should expect to pay over the useful life of your product. Balance the cost side against the savings side – depreciation, reduced well down-time, reduced operational expenses (don't forget the cost of the time of the people required), etc. If your solution offers a stronger (i.e., lower) TCO than your competitor, then you look better. If your TCO is always lower than your competition, then you need to make sure your prospect makes this part of their evaluation. This is the way you set traps for your competition.
Quote:
Overall, I think your solution must be sold at a higher level where the financial benefits have more strategic value. Lower level people tend to decide on operational issues and your value proposition may not be strong enough or clear enough to drive them away from the "same old same old." A financial solution sold to Mr. Bigwig will drive the operational people to jump on board.
I have found however going to the engineers, who pretty much deal with all things oil operations, tend to want to let such decisions belong to the production supervisors in the field. It seems that they do not want to be bothered by such minor decisions. Now, I have the same old problem of dealing with field employees who like the "oilfield" perks. These guys are more interested in what you can do for them, they like the salesmen that come out to the site with a bar-b-que pit on a trailer hitch, and cook everyone ribeye steaks and provide the beer to wash it down. Most could care less about cutting cost, I mean I had one customer tell me that they do not try and save money, because that raises the expectations to save that much later, they look at it as a noose around their necks.
[JIM SAYS] There is always someone in the organization who cares about cost. If you can find them and show them a business and personal "win" they will go to bat for you. I'll give you a hint. These people usually wear ties and sit in offices – not on oil rigs. - by jcundiff
Most top salespeople can be highly successful in almost any industry. They have learned a sales process that is universal.
Examples:
They are highly effective sales prospectors.
They know that leaving voice mail messages decreases sales.
They know how to find the person who has the authority to specify new processes and new equipment.
They know how to spend their time with prospects when they are ready to make a change.
They know how to develop deep relationships of mutual trust and respect.
They don't give up their dignity and self-respect for any reason.

Other successful salespeople have personality and behavioral traits that are easily adapted to a particular type of selling. They are typically good at that, but have not learned a sales process that transfers to other industries. Mr. Lister seems to be in the latter category. If so, he has two choices.

1. He can learn a highly effective sales process and apply it to his current oil industry job, where he has a lot of valuable industry and technical knowledge.

2. He can find a job with one of the many floor covering manufacturers or distributors in the USA. Of course, that too requires prospecting and selling skills. - by JacquesWerth
Jacques,

I think you're assessment at the end of your post is dead on. Mr. Lister can either develop or learn a process that translates into success in the oil field industry or apply his success in floor covering with another company.

He needs to decide. As a quick aside, when I first got into sales, I had a boss that had a motto displayed behind his desk that took me forever to 'get.' The motto was, "Not to Decide is to Decide." When I got it, I became a better salesperson.

I do disagree with one of your points, however.

You say, "They know that leaving voice mail messages decreases sales." I would say that leaving voice mail messages that do not add value to the process and serve to differentiate you from other salespeople decreases sales."

Voice mail is a fact of life and successful salespeople need to master it just like any other communications vehicle.


Jim Cundiff
The Complex Sale
- by jcundiff
wrote in small part:Jacques,
I do disagree with one of your points, however.

You say, "They know that leaving voice mail messages decreases sales." I would say that leaving voice mail messages that do not add value to the process and serve to differentiate you from other salespeople decreases sales."

Voice mail is a fact of life and successful salespeople need to master it just like any other communications vehicle.

Jim Cundiff
The Complex Sale
Jim,
Your post above makes sense.
And, I know that there is a very small percentage of salespeople who can consistently make voice mail work. However, I haven't found anyone who has a VMM formula that can be successfully applied by most intellingent salespeople. If there is one, I would like to know it. - by JacquesWerth
here is a very small percentage of salespeople who can consistently make voice mail work. However, I haven't found anyone who has a VMM formula that can be successfully applied by most intellingent salespeople.
Jacques,

It's a matter of training and messaging. A sales rep trained to compose and deliver a generic yet flexible VMX will be successful in booking telephone callbacks, conversations and meetings. I think the problem is that most sales people are lazy and don't sieze a VMX as an opportunity to convey a differentiating value message.

Sorry. We have really drifted off the main topic of this post.

Jim Cundiff
The Complex Sale - by jcundiff
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