December 4, 2018
The Hallmark of Success
Any new business venture comes with some financial risk. No matter how steep the investment, it’s important for entrepreneurs to be informed about the risk, and the potential upside for reward. A large part of working in sales is helping your clients to understand that risk and reward balance and steering them towards the best option for their business. During my first job in sales at Hallmark Cards, I learned two important lessons: the importance of creating a personal connection with the client and seeing things that are not and asking, why not?
“Helping my clients understand which risks to take and challenging them to set goals led me to be a more effective salesman and a trusted associate.”
Many of the smaller stores I worked with only sold greeting cards, so in order to get started they needed to invest in infrastructure, display racks and increase their product mix to include gift wrapping, wedding products and gifts. Why not? So I helped them to carefully plan their work and then work their plan. From arranging financing to personally installing new fixtures when the store was closed, I was right there beside the owners working many long evenings. I worked with the home office to design the new space and inventory that was needed, and coordinated delivery schedules that would not interrupt the normal business hours of small business entrepreneurs. Because we worked together to ensure we only took the right risks, they almost always paid off.
Once the ball was rolling and the revenue took off, one of the toughest decisions was when to expand. Many of these stores increased their sales in the converted shelves from 20 percent profit on sundries to 100 percent on the Hallmark products, so it was tempting for the store owners to commit more space to the higher profit product. Though I could have sold them more product initially, I didn’t want them to overcommit too soon and devote too much space to cards and lose the profit margins they established. Once they were stable, we worked on integrating holiday inventory to provide their customers with more choices for last minute shoppers — and we all need those!
Helping my clients understand which risks to take and challenging them to set goals led me to be a more effective salesman and a trusted associate. I was learning first hand what makes a good entrepreneur and began thinking of how someday I would like to also be the owner of a closely held business. Ultimately, business is done by people for people. By strengthening these personal connections and working with the right people, both parties can look out for each other and work towards success together.
Author: Michael Lyman