I knew Darrel Sharp as someone to say hello to at the Black Bear Yacht Club. I even recalled somebody mentioning that his company, GoTeam, had recently become a much hotter player in its industry. But he’s a golfer while my passions are sailing and tennis, so we don’t run into each other a lot.

By the time Darrel called to talk about the deal his people are working out with Victor Herstad, I was already thinking I should get to know him better. His company has a way of operating that I want to understand.

I strongly suspect that GoTeam will have the answer to Amstand’s sales-performance problem. That is an enormous relief to me. But it’s almost a greater relief to know for sure that there is an answer out there—I mean, regardless of what happens with GoTeam. Now I’m certain that a value-added sales force not only should be but can be a terrific differentiator and the foundation of a winning strategy, even in the Age of the Internet.

I’m watching that kind of differentiation unfold in real time, as GoTeam’s own value-added salespeople pursue our business. I see the proof every time I look into Victor’s face and behold a newly energized executive who is filled with confidence—contagious confidence—that he’s going to turn this ship around.

‘The magic has to lie in the way they sell and the value they add in the course of selling.’

Victor’s new attitude doesn’t come from any pitch GoTeam made for a particular product or service—a better mousetrap or a magic lamp with a genie inside. Evidently they haven’t actually pitched anything at all yet. That means the magic has to lie in the way they sell and the value they add in the course of selling.

In other words, their salespeople do exactly what our sales force is supposed to do. They do what I have always believed a great sales force could do. They add value. That’s why I have kept Amstand on the value added path for 20 years, ever since I became CEO.

About a year ago I began to doubt myself. Believe me, self-doubt is not something I’m used to. I built Amstand into the No. 1 company in its industry. No brag, just fact. On a tennis court I can beat the pants off players half my age. Want to know why the Black Bear Yacht Club sponsors nationally known sailing regattas? Because I organized them and put Black Bear on the map, that’s why.

But for many months a small voice had whispered depressing thoughts. Maybe I had become a dinosaur, unable to see new realities or adapt to a new environment. Like many industries, ours has been turning into a straight commodity business, with customers buying on price alone. Most of our competitors now take the low-cost commodity route, using the Internet as their primary selling vehicle, with skeleton crews of salespeople as backup…

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling. He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations. Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).