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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 22, 2008 • Issue 08:12:02

Book Review
The archetype in the mirror

When merchant level salespeople look in the mirror, who do they see? Is it Parker the Performer? Paula the Professional? Craig the Caretaker? Or Sarah the Searcher?

In The Four Kinds of Salespeople: How and Why They Excel and How You Can Too, written by Chuck Mache, these four personas represent the four basic types of salespeople.

Parker the Performer is the extro-verted, hard-charging top closer. Paula the Professional is the organized, meticulous, reliable achiever. Craig the Caretaker is the lazy and stuck-in-his-ways sales rep, but with the potential for being much better. And Sarah the Searcher is the competent professional who chooses sales for all the wrong reasons.

Mache, who spent 25 years as a sales manager in a variety of hyper-competitive industries and now is a speaker, executive coach, consultant and writer, brings a novelist's sense of character and detail to his motivational, self-help book.

Mache takes on the role of the leader presenting at a one-day seminar for sales professionals. Through a series of stories and encounters with a gas station owner named Steve, the leader fleshes out those four personas in his presentation for the gathering of salespeople, knowing full well that each participant in the audience fits one of those four types.

Parker the Performer

Parker is the star of his sales organization. He ranks in the top five sellers every month. But the flipside to this talented producer is that he can be selfish, petty and quick to throw tantrums if he doesn't get his way. Another characteristic of Parker is that he is not really happy, neither personally nor professionally. Despite enjoying all the trappings of success - the fancy car, the expensive suits, a lifestyle that would be the envy of many - Parker recognizes something is missing in his life.

That's where Steve comes in. The gas station owner is 80 years old, but he has the spirit and outlook of youth. He is kind to everyone who comes into his gas station and goes out of his way to be of service to others. He is wise and happy with his lot in life. He is also quick to impart the value of his wisdom to people like Parker.

An encounter one day with Steve and a little girl changes Parker forever. The once selfish and ego-driven salesman learns the joy of selflessness and giving to others.

It makes him a better co-worker, willing to tutor a younger colleague eager to learn the business. And because Parker has more peace and perspective in his life, he enjoys his job more and becomes a better seller.

Paula the Professional

Like Parker, Paula is considered a top producer at her company. Although she lacks Parker's razzle-dazzle, Paula excels with her organizational skills, attention to detail and ultimate professionalism. In fact, Paula has excelled at everything in her life - school, sports and business. She is the classic achievement junky.

But, also like Parker, Paula recognizes her life lacks something. She realizes that, despite all her achievements, she plays it safe. For example, she knows her company's services are superior to a competitor's. She covets one of her competitor's biggest clients and knows her company could make that client very happy. But a previous meeting with him had made her fearful of approaching him again.

Instinctively, she knows she will never reach her full potential following the safe route. And then, with Steve's help, Paula has a breakthrough moment. She finds new strength and self-assurance that propels her career upward.

She is no longer afraid to approach her competitor's big client. While she doesn't win him over that day, she has overcome her fear of him and established communication, which could potentially lead to that client switching to Paula's company.

Craig the Caretaker

Unlike Parker or Paula, Craig is not a top performer. Occasionally he has a good month. But, for the most part, he is content with mediocrity.

He doesn't make that extra effort - that extra phone call or that extra push to close a deal. He is lazy and unmotivated. When his manager confronts him about his lackluster performance, he grows defensive. Like a sheep, he socializes with the other average sellers in the office.

But Craig has talent, and he knows it. He only needs a trigger - once again supplied by Steve. Confronted with a challenge, Craig finds the courage to meet it. That moment transforms Craig and breaks him out of his comfort zone. With his career revitalized, Craig is set on the path to becoming a top performer like Parker and Paula.

Sarah the Searcher

Sarah, bless her soul, is not cut out for sales, although she doesn't know it. She labors under common illusions about what a life in sales is like - namely that it's easy money. Her illusion is rudely shattered by the reality (cold calling can do that) less than one week into her new job as a sales associate.

Steve helps her understand that sales is not for everyone. You have to love it to excel at it. Armed with that knowledge, Sarah wisely moves on.

Recognize that reflection

Mache hopes sales reps will see themselves in these four characters. As Steve relates at the book's conclusion, self-knowledge and knowing what you want are keys to finding your personal path to breakthrough achievement in business and in life.

end of article

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