Articles providing practical, field-tested advice to sales professionals.

Location: Houston, Texas, United States

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Winning Combination (Part One)

What do you think is the most important 3 feet in your company? Is it the distance between you and your computer… your desk… your banker? Let’s think about it.

Maybe these quotes will give you some clues:

  • Powerful men know the secrets of persuasion: that is, they know how to sell… Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca believes that sales technique is the key to advancement for anyone in business.
  • Harvard MBA teaches that marketing is important, but selling is where the rubber meets the road… Thomas Watson, Jr., former CEO of IBM said the key to the company’s growth was not being the first in a given technology, but in knowing how to sell it.
  • The way American companies train the people who work for them is a national disgrace,” Tom Peters – Co-author of In Search of Excellence and Thriving on Chaos continues, “only 30% of them given their sales forces any training whatsoever. Sales are where the money comes from.”
  • W. Clement Stone, founder of SUCCESS magazine says, “Most sales are made because of the way the salesman, not the prospect, thinks and acts.”prospect and your salesperson.”
  • Marshall Field, the department store entrepreneur, said, “The only problem with advertising is that it misses the last three feet, the most important yard in the yard business, the distance between your This has been referred to as “The most neglected, most misunderstood, and most important three feet in your business.”
A football analogy: a back-breaking, time-consuming, super effort can be made to move the ball 99 yards down the field, but you still have three more feet to the goal line. And all the effort and all the time counts for absolutely nothing unless you can cover the last three feet!


“If nobody sells anything something bad happens… Nothing!” This sign is on the door of a professor of Economics at Purdue University.

Everything is “outgo”, expense until something is sold to get “income”, sales, and hopefully, profits.

The name of the game is to have more “income” than “outgo” and that spells profits. It is trite but still true - you can’t have a profit without a sale.

AS YOU REVIEW YOUR RECENT RESULTS AT “THE LAST 3 FEET”… If you are not completely happy with your current sales and profits… consider these facts:

STATE OF THE ART: “80% of the business is done by 20% of the salesmen.” - Sales & Marketing Executive International.

  • IMPROPER PREPARATION: A national survey discovered less than 5% of salespeople had decided upon a selling career while they were in high school. – Carl Stevens & Associates.
  • POOR SELECTION: Six out of ten salespeople should not be selling at all, regardless of their training, because they do not have the innate characteristics it takes. Journal of Psychology.
  • ECONOMIC LOSS: “90% of all the work salesmen put in is worthless – only 10% of what they do earns money for them. Nine-tenths of all their efforts is lost motion – utterly wasted.” - Prentice Hall, Inc. Survey: 4,000 salespeople.

If, indeed, these things are true, maybe it would pay us to learn more about selling?


Let’s play the what if game, ok? What if… all the sales producers in your company brought in as many premium dollars as your best sales producer… what would happen to your total gross sales $_____________? Your net profit $______________? What would these extra dollars do to help improve your agency/company _____________________?

What are those top 20%… the super-producers doing that produces their superior results and how are they doing it?

Again, “what if”… we researched those top 20% to determine their “success secrets”… exactly why and how are they selling so well? Suppose we did interviews over say 8 to 10 years and asked several thousand of them to share their methodology. Next, suppose we take this information and consult with 4 or 5 professional learning theorists as to how our research information can be translated/converted into a teaching curriculum so our findings can be shared with agents who want to improve their sales productivity. Suppose we were to invest a healthy budget to develop a body of knowledge that could teach us how to use their proven sales procedures. Then we could determine the effectiveness of our research and development by testing it.

ALL OF THE ABOVE WAS DONE. Nine and half years of research, $100,000 invested in curriculum development with 5 learning theorists, the test involved property and casualty agents from 13 states with an average of 14 years sales experience. These sales professionals studied a 171 page illustrated sales manual that had been custom-designed for their industry. The executive secretary of the sponsoring trade association wrote – “The results are in and the average sales increase for those attending was a whopping 144% the first ninety days!”

A survey of several thousand salespeople found that their most frequent needs are:

  1. Specific methods for improving sales – not what to do, but how to do it.
  2. A complete understanding of the principles and techniques of salesmanship – and how to apply them in day-to-day selling.
  3. Training in capsule and digest form – readable, educational material that is short, explanatory, illustrated and believable.


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