I was top salesman at Rank Xerox UK selling the Xerox type rental agreement.  I wanted see if I really could sell anything and left to join a capital goods company selling new technology truck washing machines both directly but, generally, through a lease agreement.  I ended up running the sales operation.  There I learned how to bring people who really could sell into markets normally sold by people like engineers who were not salesmen.  Mine were high closing speciality salesmen from my kind of background, people highly trained in establishing precise needs, proving the solution within the product benefits they offered and closing for the order, if needs be over the desk at the first meeting.  So, while the engineers were away dealing with another technical query, my guys were signing up the customers.

Not many products are so technical it takes a specialist to explain (Xerox was high technology with selenium drums to transfer images and so on.  What sold the machine was the quality of the copies it produced); and, as any professional seller knows, once the conversation gets too technical, you’re on the way to losing the order. Within 2 years we had taken over the truck washing machine market.

This then became the seed of the idea I had in forming my own business.  I would contact start-up or early growth companies with the suggestion that I should run their sales operation professionally for them, take their product to market and help them establish their own particular market segment and sales culture. This would keep me in the exciting land of new company fast lane growth through highly trained and skilled sales professionals.  I could also get away from the vagaries of commission earnings by taking a share of revenue (not profit – owners can change the profits, revenue must be recorded) which reflects both past and future sales success.

The company was set up in 1969.  In 1974, Compelling Selling was first published by Macmillan and became a best seller in its field, the first book on sales/marketing to sell back to the Americans for publishing since the War.  I had found one or two lucrative contracts. Then one day the telephone rang. The call was typical -

“Hello.  My name is Jaime T.  I run a small engineering company turning over around £250,000.  I have a couple of salesmen.  I use the term loosely.  Between them they have over 100 prospective customers, all of whom are going to place their orders but none of whom ever do.  I have 20 people on the shop floor waiting for these orders to come in so they can feed their families. I don’t want to go on living like this, hand to mouth.  I have read your book Compelling Selling which I enjoyed.  It talks about selling products into truck industry.  Do you think you can help me sort out my problems?”  Thus began a business relationship which lasted for around 10 years and a friendship that lasts to this day.

Setting up a successful sales operation requires these things –

  1. Create a strong, interactive, self-motivating sales team
  2. Establish the right territories, the commission structure to motivate and the reporting that allows the factory to be planned and the sellers to manage their own operation effectively
  3. Understand who your customers are, get the products right for the market and the market right for your products; and the interactions that keep the whole thing bubbling along