My mom imparted many nuggets of advice but two pearls of her wisdom in particular have stayed with me: always wear clean underwear and nothing is as easy as it appears.
And so it is, clean underwear present and accounted for, I introduce you to Jef Dueck, retail sales manager for Oldies 96.7 FM in Peterborough Square.
It was at Peterborough This Week, where Jef was a sales representative, that I got to know him a bit. Our paths didn’t cross often – the we-do-our-thing-and-you-do-your-thing line between sales and editorial remains a necessary reality – but our encounters were always cordial. Jef clearly understood and respected the demands put on the newsroom. In turn, I held equal admiration for his profession, although I admit to not expressing that nearly enough to him or his colleagues.
Many in my age bracket still conjure up an image of salespeople that was served up, with great effect, by Frank Bonner. Who? If you guessed Herb Tarlek of WKRP In Cincinnati fame, step to the front of the loud suit line. Overbearing, full of himself and plain obnoxious, Bonner’s character was everything that real-life successful sales representatives like Dueck are not. But confidence in one’s self and one’s product is key, as is the ability to forge lasting business relationships based on trust. Jef has that in spades.
Besides my respect for Jef based on his business acumen, I’ve always harbored admiration for those paid by commission. I was fortunate to draw a regular salary, which provided great peace of mind. I couldn’t imagine not knowing week-to-week what would be going into my bank account. As a freelance writer, I’m getting a taste of that now and it’s cause for more than a few sleepless nights. It’s a different animal, for sure.
“It definitely takes good planning to be prepared for slow times but you can’t dwell on it or let it affect you,” advises Jef who, in his current position, is paid straight commission with bonus structures built into the mix.
“You do the best you possibly can but sometimes things are out of your control that keep people from buying your product…a recession, a flood and so on. To persevere, you have to find ways your products can help. So long as the ratios are fair, commission is great for both employers and employees. The more one makes, the more the other makes. And in my experience, good sales people often seem to be the safest jobs in a volatile industry or in times of restructuring.”
Jef adds most salespeople he knows are paid based on some kind of commission structure. That makes plain good sense – businesses want their salespeople to hustle; to maintain existing business relationships while drumming up new leads and subsequent sales. Making money is the tie that binds in the employer-salespeople relationship. When it works the way it’s envisioned, it’s the classic win-win scenario.
Jef certainly has the background to speak well on his profession. He started in radio while still a high school student in his hometown of Swift Current, Saskatchewan. After a stint doing food sales door-to-door, he returned to a radio station environment in Lethbridge, Alberta and has toiled in media sales ever since.
“While all businesses want their salespeople to be as successful as possible, they typically focus most on the dollars,” notes Jef.
“For many salespeople, money is a significant driving factor but not for all. Some of the best salespeople I know make average livings but they know their product inside and out and are awesome at serving their customers better than anyone else. By always putting my clients first, I’ve been able to build great relationships and earn a good living.”
Do commission salespeople do better than their straight salary counterparts because of the money-based incentive to be successful? Jef says that’s very much dependent on what they define success to be for them, and their commitment to the customers they serve. But, he adds, it’s a two-way street that sees the employer play an important role.
“Knowing your salespeople’s value is essential to them maintaining a positive and productive attitude. When you get good people with good attitudes who feel essential and valued, you create a powerful and positive work culture. From there, the rest often takes care of itself. Then only complacency becomes your enemy.”
If you’re considering a career in sales, there’s money to be made, says Jef, but, whether you’re on commission or salary, passion has a huge role to play in your success.
“There used to be a saying that a good salesperson can sell anything. Those days have passed – any schtick sales approach can be smelled from a mile away. In today’s world of knowledge and information, you have to a specialist of your product/category and be able to present it with genuine passion in order to be a true asset to your company and solve the needs of your customer.
“Whatever you like and are passionate about, I recommend finding a way to make that the base of whatever product you sell. I love music and talking and debating issue, so I do pretty good in radio.”