For some time now, I have meant to do an article about sales and marketing for rental and staging, how they are different from the rest of our industry, how they are the same and how they are changing. I was not sure when I would put this on my schedule, but this week I received the news that one of the unsung heroes of our industry is gone and it has prompted me to do a lot of thinking about the subject.
To our great loss, Bill Sharer has passed away.
For those of you who may not have had the privilege of knowing him, Bill served our industry as a sales and marketing consultant for nearly 40 years. He was a perennial volunteer who wrote many of our most popular training courses on sales and served the industry over and over again on many of our most important committees. He had also been selected for many of our honors, including AVIXA Educator of the Year. Beyond that, he was incredibly thoughtful and engaging as a presenter, and taught many of us techno-types a lot of what we knew about sales and marketing. I could say a lot about Bill, as he was also a close personal friend, coworker and co-presenter of more than 30 years. He was also a lot of fun. Classes with Bill were engaging, active and produced some of the most lively discussions I have ever been part of, to which Bill would contribute from his incredible stock of illustrative stories. When I first entered the industry, one of the first people I took a class from was the young Bill Sharer. I was the only staging salesperson in the class at the time and that led to a lot of post-class discussions with Bill about how selling a service like staging could differ from selling hardware or installations. Those discussions became the seeds of the association’s first course on rental and staging sales, which Bill and I wrote and taught together for several years and which proved to be some of our most popular courses. I will fully admit that the course evolved from Bill’s massive knowledge of the subject, with me helping him add rental and staging “color.”
As I said, I could go on at length about Bill. But I believe that it best serves his memory, and our industry, to pass along a reminder of some of the things that Bill taught us. With Bill, simple ideas were always the most powerful, and many of them have stuck with me throughout my entire career.
- Everyone is a salesperson, although most don’t like to admit it. Bill would often introduce himself with the line, “Hi, I’m Bill Sharer. I’m a salesperson. Please don’t tell my mother.” But this is a fundamental truth in this. In an industry where service is king, the best salespeople are the service providers because they spend the most time with the client, and the client develops trust in them. Therefore, in a rental and staging organization, Bill firmly believed that the entire company should be engaged in sales training.
- Bill was a true believer in the idea that every encounter with a client represents “a moment of truth” — that there are no neutral encounters with a client, and that everything you do either raises or lowers you as a representative, and your company with you, in the eyes of the client.
- One of the best things I ever heard from Bill was what he referred to as the sales beatitude: “Blessed are the persistent, for they shall inherit the world and all of its large accounts.” In my first year as a rental salesperson, I was pursuing one of our city’s largest accounts, which had been a loyal client of my major competitor for a decade. It took several years, but I landed the account, and held it for the remainder of my time in that job, mostly because of Bill’s constant reminder that all situations change, and that I needed to be there when they did. In fact, he constantly reminded me using a quote from George Burns 100th birthday, in which he attributed his long life to smoking cigars, drinking and chasing women. When it was pointed out to George that many of his friends had done the same and died young, he quipped that they just had not kept it up long enough.
- Mr. Sharer believed in training, discipline and organization, although he felt that they had to fit the user and the company. I have listened to him several times tell a class, “I don’t care what system of sales organization you use, just don’t let me catch you not using one.” I was the kid in the class who believed in using computers for what we now refer to as CRM, Bill was a devotee of the classic paper Daytimer, but those were equivalent in his mind. In order to achieve sales results, you have to be organized and your results have to be measurable.
- One of the best (and most amusing) things that I ever learned from Bill was how to STOP selling. In the early days of learning how to sell, the techno-geeky side of me really came out and I usually insisted on presenting all of the amazing technical details to a client, just plowing ahead until I got through my entire pitch. Often, it meant that I would run right by signals from the client that they had heard enough or even that they were ready to buy. Bill told me (and lots of others) that, “1,000 philistines had been slain with the jawbone of an ass, and a like number of sales had been lost with the same weapon.” In other words, when the client starts asking if the product is shippable, stop telling them about the accessories that are available and take the order.
- Everyone was a client to Bill. If an organization was out there, dealing with the public, in Bill’s opinion there was always something that we could do for them and he would be willing to sit and talk to them about possibilities that no one had thought about yet. One of his favorite phrases was, “there’s a deal in here somewhere, we just have to find it.”
- In preparing for a class or a sales presentation, Bill liked to have his facts together, but did not like to over-prepare. Every class and every meeting was going to have its differences, and Bill was always ready to work with them. One of his favorite phrases was, “we will just hit whatever is pitched,” which he would do with both an enormous knowledge of his area of expertise and with a wealth of amusing and illustrative stories.
I am going to miss working with Bill.
He hit what we pitched to him — always.
Image via Navigate Consulting Management