From the August 1996 issue of Entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, you have two things in common with every other entrepreneur on the planet. First, you've got to sell. And second, no matter how well you sell, you could always sell better. So wouldn't it be wonderful if you could bend the ear of a top sales and marketing professional to get advice that would jump-start your business's growth?

Five entrepreneurs got that wish. We enlisted five stellar sales and marketing experts-from Brian Tracy to Tom Hopkins-to give them "sales makeovers" for problems you may be struggling with, too. Because, let's face it-the same few sales obstacles stand in the way of large-scale success for many of us.

Of course, you can't hit the road to success without the right equipment, so we've profiled the latest sales tools to power up presentations, cold calls and more.

Ever thought you had a sale within your reach, only to find it slipping away? It's happened to everyone, even the big names-but you can turn it around, as our sales experts prove. In each makeover, they reveal their secrets to reeling in "the one that almost got away."

And since one little sales tip is often all we need to transform ourselves from also-rans into superstars, we asked our five sales gurus to share their all-time number-one sales tips. It's advice you can't afford to miss.

Power Play

The Entrepreneur

Simon Scott

The Expert

Brian Tracy

Simon & Co. creates a high-end giftware line-porcelain boxes, candles, and the like. Started in 1994, this West Hollywood, California, company has experienced remarkable growth: It hit $100,000 in sales in '94, grew to $250,000 in '95, and projects sales of $750,000 in '96. From the beginning, Simon Scott focused on product development and subcontracted about half his manufacturing. He also put sales in the hands of four independent sales representatives (who sell other lines too) in Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle. Today, Simon & Co. has 300 accounts nationwide including prestigious department store chains, such as Nordstrom.

The Problem

Although aware that his business's growth is enviable, Scott is frustrated by his comparative lack of penetration in other markets. Scott also finds himself in a continuing conflict with his Los Angeles sales rep, who wants to broaden her territory and handle Simon & Co. on an exclusive, national basis. "Should I terminate my relationship with her and take part of the sales effort in-house, handling it myself?" Scott asks.

The plot thickens here, becausethe Los Angeles rep was Simon & Co.'s first rep and, over the years, has generated about 75 percent of the company's sales. However, "the attention she spends on us has become diluted. As our success has grown, so has hers, and we're now one of 20 or so [companies] she reps," says Scott.

Another consideration: Besides Scott, Simon & Co. has just two full-time employees, who handle final product assembly, shipping and receiving, and the like. Scott handles contacts with his subcontractors and also does all product development-which is crucial to Simon & Co.'s future: "We are in a fashion business and continually need new products that reflect current tastes," says Scott. Does he have the time to adequately supervise an in-house sales staff?

The Solution

We put Scott's case to Brian Tracy, author of Advanced Selling Strategies (Simon & Schuster) and himself an entrepreneur who has built a multimillion-dollar seminar and consulting business through a global network of outside sales consultants. Tracy expresses grave concern about Simon & Co.: "It is in trouble," he says. "In business, you are only as successful as the options you have for selling. You don't want one outside rep handling most of your sales because [then] you don't control your own destiny.

"Scott needs to reduce the L.A. rep's share of his sales from 75 percent to perhaps 15 percent as soon as possible, especially if he feels her attention has become diluted." Plus, if Scott is unhappy with her, she may feel the same. Is she thinking of dumping Simon & Co.? "How would that impact the company? Right now, their fate hangs on this one rep."

In that case, should Scott take his sales effort in-house? Not so fast, cautions Tracy, who says there are better ways for Simon & Co. to seize control of its destiny without taking steps that would lessen Scott's focus on new product development. Better for Simon & Co., says Tracy, is "to spread the sales effort over more reps-perhaps 10 or more. That will better target the sales effort to specific markets and also lessen Simon & Co.'s dependency on any one rep."

Tracy points to his own company as an example of how this works. "We have 200 associates selling our programs worldwide," he says. "If our biggest associate stopped selling for us, it would impact 15 percent of our business at most. We've spread our risk. Simon & Co. needs to do the same as quickly as possible."

The One That Almost Got Away

Some years ago, I was in negotiations with a major corporation about a $3.5 million deal. We'd held many meetings, talking about the deal for six months, and I had given them extensive background material. Finally, one day I sat down with the president of the company and his senior managers and, at the end of the meeting, they said: "We want to study this further."

It's never a good sign when the client says "I want to think it over." I could see the deal drifting away. So I said, "Look, you have all the information you need to make a decision today. And, besides,"-and I just pulled this out of my hat-"today is my birthday and I was hoping we could close this deal on my birthday so this would be the best birthday of my life."

There was dead silence in the room. Finally, the president said, "We're not going to learn anything more about this deal. Cut him a check."

Incidentally, it was my birthday. I am absolutely adamant about being perfectly honest with clients. But it doesn't have to be your birthday for you to say "You have all the information you need to decide." Often, that's exactly what the client needs to hear-and exactly how you will get the sale. That's because, at the moment of a major decision, there's always hesitation. The professional salesperson has to find a way to nudge the prospect past that point.-Brian Tracy

Top Tip

Do your homework. The most important part of professional selling today is conducting as much pre-call research on the prospective client as you can. To get a serious hearing-much less a sale-you need credibility. The more research you do, the more credible you are. And the bigger the sale, the more essential research is.

There's nothing more impressive than to go in and say, "I've been looking forward to this call so much that I've done research on your company and found out the following." Call the company in advance to get product literature, visit your local library, get on the Internet-however you do it, do your research. That's the biggest distinction between those who are serious about selling and those who aren't.-B.T.

Contact Sources

Canon, 2995 Redhill Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, (800) 848-4123;

Mary J. Cronin, cronin@bc.edu;

The Glass Protectors, P.O. Box 455, Antioch, IL 60002, (847) 395-9115;

Mark Victor Hansen, c/o Mark Victor Hansen & Associates, P.O. Box 7665, Newport Beach, CA 92658, (800) 433-2314;

Tom Hopkins, c/o Tom Hopkins International Inc., 7531 E. Second St., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, (800) 528-0446;

Danielle Kennedy Productions, (800) 848-8070;

Lightware, 10035 S.W. Arctic Dr., Beaverton, OR 97005, (800) 445-9396;

ManaVision Inc., (513) 299-9982, (http://www.manavision.com);

Microtek Lab Inc., (800) 654-4160, (http://www.mteklab.com);

Model Office Inc., 4815 W. Braker Ln., #502-332, Austin, TX 78759, (800) 801-3880;

Motorola, (800) 548-9954;

Owen, Koester & Ederer Inc., P.O. Box 6129, Bellevue, WA 98008, (800) 552-3112;

Seraphic Springs Health Care Agency, 28 Emerson Ave., Gloucester, MA 01930, (800) 777-3595;

Simon & Co., 8659 Holloway Plaza Dr., W. Hollywood, CA 90069, (310) 659-3882;

Symantec, 10201 Torre Ave., Cupertino, CA 95014, (800) 441-7234;

Brian Tracy, c/o Brian Tracy International, 462 Stevens Ave., #202, Folana Beach, CA 92075, (800) 542-4252, (619) 481-2977.