The death of the salesman

In the largely male world of sales, the best deal closers invariably carry the conviction they are irresistible to the fairer sex.

While the latter may be questionable, there is little room for self-delusion when it comes to chalking up numbers on the sales board each week.

The real challenge in the early days of running a company is learning to become effective at sales. If closing a deal doesn’t come naturally, it’ll hurt not only your chances of breaking even, but your pride. That said, if you’re committed, you’ll get used to a few knockbacks.

Hilary Devey, founder and managing director of pallet distribution company Pall-Ex, started her business in 1996 with £112,000 after selling her house and car. Added to that, she was a single parent with a seven-year old child. ‘I couldn’t fail,’ she says.

She not only took the knockbacks but dealt with being ‘a female in a man’s world’. Today Pall-Ex is turning over £27 million a year, but from start to finish it’s been a struggle. ‘I can’t stress how hard it was in the beginning. When I set it up, I was literally working from my conservatory and had no money at all. I had to write the manuals and drive around 2,000 miles a week, visiting different sites.

‘A typical day would be leaving home at 4:45am, getting back at 9:00pm, putting my son to bed and then sitting down at the computer and writing to all the people I visited that day, as well as introducing myself to other companies.’

Devey’s business took off because she realised her proposition met a specific and unmet need. ‘I knew it would work because I knew the concept was right. If I got the hauliers to stand back and think about what I was offering, they could see that it was the simplest solution.’

While others may not reach the giddy heights of Devey’s Pall-Ex, her focus and understanding of what her business was about partly explain how she was able to sell it so effectively. And she believed vehemently in what she was doing.

The death of the salesman, after all, is self-doubt.

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