Steve Hasenmueller, owner of sales workshop program Effort Today Enterprises, speaks before an audience at the Salem Convention Center in Salem, Oregon, as part of his work serving as director of international sales for Marquis.

The Art of Selling Well

Can good salesmanship be taught?

Even when hot tub demand was through the roof, closing a sale sometimes still came down to who was doing the selling. As sales have slowed, honing the sales craft has become even more important.

Few people know this as well as Mallory Bjekich-Wachowski, a 17-year veteran of pool and spa retail sales, who now co-owns sales training and consulting business, Toolbox for Excellence. “Many new salespeople can do a great job getting to the bottom of why somebody wants to buy, but never ask for the money,” Wachowski says. “They still need to learn how to close, and that is something that is taught.”

Many new salespeople can do a great job getting to the bottom of why somebody wants to buy, but never ask for the money. They still need to learn how to close, and that is something that is taught.”

Mallory Bjekich-Wachowski, Toolbox for Excellence

Wachowski isn’t the only person willing to teach it, either. However, according to fellow instructor Steve Hasenmueller, who owns Effort Today Enterprises, most spa retailers overlook sales training, and in doing so miss out on what he considers the most important investment a retailer can make.

“Even at the last two trade shows I attended, there were no sales seminars,” says Hasenmueller, who before starting his own business had served as director of international sales for Marquis for more than 30 years. “When calling for speakers, they never call anybody to talk about sales. In all industries, it is the weak link of getting products to market, but in our industry, it is the greatest barrier to market.”

These days, Wachowski says, if a consumer makes the time to go to the retail store, they have likely already made up their mind to make a purchase. However, she says, retailers should not be satisfied with a one-time customer. 

According to Wachowski, a salesperson who is trained in how to listen to and build a relationship with a customer can make the difference between a one-time purchase, and someone who returns for all future purchases of tubs, chemicals, accessories and more, or who recommends the retailer’s services to friends and family. “With great sales training and proper knowledge, you could make millions of dollars over a 10-year timeframe,” Wachowski observes. 

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Hasenmueller believes that much of the hesitance from retailers to fully invest in sales training comes from a stigma that many associate with salespeople, even among those who do the selling. “There are studies that ask people to picture a salesman and write down a word that comes to mind,” Hasenmueller says. “From that they made a word-cloud. It was just full of words like ‘pushy,’ ‘slimy,’ ‘aggressive’ and ‘worthless.’ ” 

In Hasenmueller’s own experience speaking to rooms full of spa retailers, he asks the audience, “How many people here are professional salespeople?” There aren’t many who raise their hand. “So, you’re getting paid to do it, but you don’t consider yourself a professional?” Hasenmueller says.

From left, Jane Merritt and Mallory Bjekich-Wachowski, co-owners of Toolbox for Excellence, participating in a sketch for a sales training video.

It is often said that a good salesperson must believe in their product, but both Wachowski and Hasenmueller argue that equally as important is a belief in themselves. Part of getting them there is helping them change their perspective on what a salesperson does. 

“I had an employee who could sell anything under the sun, but he didn’t want to,” Wachowski says. “I had to teach him that if he’s thinking about the benefit to the customer, and showing them what those benefits are, and they buy from him, then that’s still sales.”

By showing the employee that being a good salesperson was about helping the customer, not about tricking them, or feeding them memorized talking points, they were able to make sales without feeling as if they were imposing their will. “The pitches he was giving before were failing because they weren’t genuine,” Wachowski says.

The negative stereotyping, Hasenmueller explains, is born of untrained salespeople looking at the customer as an opponent to be conquered, as opposed to a person that they can help. “If I think I’m a salesperson and you’re a customer, it’s me versus you,” he says. “I’m going to try to bend you to my will, right? And that isn’t good. That creates conflict and discomfort.” When done right, Hasenmueller believes, a salesperson should see themselves as offering something of value, and helping the potential customer understand that value. In general, he says, people want to do right by others, and that includes salespeople. “It is all about being a better person,” Hasenmueller says. “That makes a better salesperson, a better coworker, a better husband, a better wife, a better friend and a better member of the community. Being a better person is the key to selling more.”

Workshops from either Toolbox for Excellence or Effort Today Enterprises are available at toolboxforexcellence.com or effort-today.com.