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Buying - Your way to happiness?

Printing World

George Thompson of Harrison Scott tells those sales staff considering a career move into print buying to think again. Improving your present skills is the real answer to overcoming problems of career fulfilment.

Have you ever had the situation where a business associate, colleague, or friend tells you about their brilliant idea, and although they think it is new, you have heard it before? Politeness, letting that person have their day, common courtesy - call it what you like - we British normally let the scenario unfold, and nicely tell the exponent of this great idea, that it has in fact been thought of before, and it might not be such a good idea for a number of reasons.

For most people this situation might only happen once or twice a year, but for recruitment consultants it happens as many as five times a day. Here is a scenario.

A sales executive of a medium sized printer calls me and says: "I've come up with a real gold nugget of an idea I'd like to share with you. I've been selling print for ten years and have come to the conclusion I think I'd make a great print buyer. If you think about it, I know print inside out and back to front better than a lot of these buyers do, and have been on the other side of the table. Therefore I know how all the best buyers operate. Great idea, eh George?" And this is the fifth presentation of the great idea on a Friday afternoon. Even someone like me, who is well known for diplomacy, finds it difficult to tell him it is not. Whether we like it or not, the classic job function of a buyer, as we know it, is diminishing. Put in statistical terms, for every 50 sales positions we have, there is one vacancy for a buyer.

Having considered the demand for buyers, is it likely that a large manufacturer would appoint a salesman to this job when there are many, many candidates with years of buying experience and professional relevant qualifications? The chances of a print salesman securing a job as a professional buyer are very slim indeed.

So what drives professional salesmen to the idea of becoming a print buyer? My conclusion is that the years of cold-calling, pressure from sales targets, increased competition and traffic congestion takes their toll on a number of sales people and they see the job of print buyer, sitting in a warm comfortable office as an easy way of making a living.

So if you are a salesman and you now realise that you have a better chance of becoming a Formula One driver than being a print buyer, what is your Plan B? The answer is, analyse all the elements of your job. Identify the facets of the job which are demotivating you and eliminate or minimise them. Is a high level of rejection having a negative effect on you? If so, become better at selling.

There are a number of sales people out there who experience a very low level of rejection. What have they got that you do not have? Read books on professional selling. Find out what characteristics the highest performing sales person in your company has and mimic these (US companies call this "modelling"), and get more training. If your company will not pay for training - pay for it yourself. Sales is your profession, getting better is an evolutionary process which is down to you!

Fed up with the targets? Then work harder, smarter, better and beat the targets! Heavy traffic taking its toll stress-wise? Get up earlier in the morning, when the traffic is less heavy, to go to your first appointment. Think more carefully about appointments and plan them in relation to local fluctuations and traffic relative to that area. Use your car time productively. Listening to Radio 1 will keep you abreast of who is in the Top 20, but a good sales training cassette will do much more for your learning curve.

Improve call planning and time management and reduce stress dramatically by minimising the chance of running late for appointments. Remind yourself of the positives involved in selling. In what other jobs can you be top of a league? How many people in your organisation, out of the total workforce, enjoy the privilege of a company car?

In conclusion, take yourself out from the spiral of negativity and become positive. Today's employers look to minimise potential risk by employing people who already have a good track record of success relevant to the vacancy on offer. They do not want to take the risk of employing someone from another job function because that person thinks they can do a great job of it.

In my many years in recruitment, I have found that people who really enjoy what they do are those that are very good and focused in their job. When you improve at selling and really begin enjoying the job again, you certainly will not be contacting me, looking for a job as a buyer.

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