Paul Cooper, TSG Business Development Manager has consistently exceeded his sales targets for TSG UK. I caught up with Paul to find out a bit more about him as a member of the TSG Team, and how he had achieved such incredible sales.
Q. Did you ever look at other careers before Sales?
I could have followed in my Dad’s footsteps.
After he failed to convince me to join the R.A.F. (He did only National Service but was so proud of it) He had another idea of me being an accomplished pianist. Many piano lessons and school concerts later and in moments of quiet reflection, I still wonder what the outcome could have been.
Both Dad and the pianos are long gone R.I.P my original Piano Man.
But I do remember, with some deep thoughts not following his dreams. Sorry, Dad.…. I’m still doing OK though!
After leaving school I had a choice of working as a tool cutting designer in the steel industry near my hometown of Barnsley, in God’s own County of Yorkshire or, becoming a trainee salesman with Dixons, selling cameras and Hi-Fi…. technical photography and proper music quality are two of my interests.
Given the state and decline of the UK steel industry over the last decades, I made the right choice and went with Dixons! From Dixons I moved into furniture and carpet retailing … I am still proficient with the skills to measure, plan and fit carpets!
Q. How long have you been in the industry and with TSG including your time with Tokheim?
From the furniture trade, I started with Mobil Oil, Company in June 1980 as site manager for two sites in Sheffield ironically, they are now both modern redeveloped sites operated by one of my loyal customers!
After leaving Mobil in 1988, I started with Forecourt Facts, a back-office systems company, then in 1990, to Micrelec as ePOS Systems Sales Executive, subsequently bought out by Meggitt (the Aerospace Company) and again, ironically, who also bought Forecourt Facts. The 2 companies formed what was to become Meggitt Petroleum Systems, then VBi.
From VBi, I was headhunted into HTEC, another forecourt systems house where I was the Systems Sales Specialist.
And then finally I was approached by Tokheim in March 2009, so I’m in my 13th year with Tokheim /TSG but I’ve spent 42 years in this wonderful industry of ours!
Q. Did you get any formal sales training?
Dixons started me as a trainee salesman. On day 1 …straight from school, I was whisked off to their Head Office in London where I was taught the art of listening to customers, selling the benefits of equipment and products to fit their needs, all at a retail level.
This attitude of listening and reacting has stayed with me ever since. Although, as years have gone by I probably react before listening these days!
Now I’m in business-to-business sales, these attributes are still relevant, however, the focus changes to a good return on investment and total cost of ownership of equipment. A different sales approach when compared to retail sales.
Sales training and development have been mainly on the job and experience following other sales professionals and gathering skills on the way.
Q. Has the industry changed much while you have been working in it? If yes, how have you changed and adapted to keep the sales flowing in?
Crikey yes, and how it has changed!
Gone are the days when fuel retailers were making enough profit margin per litre to survive on fuel sales alone with a few bits of car polish, bulbs, fanbelts, confectionery and tobacco items, now even though margins have recovered slightly, the focus is on more profitable convenience offering where higher margins are achievable. A filling station is now a convenience store where fuel sales are a means to get customers on the property, in most cases, fuel sale margins are now secondary, but still important.
More diverse profit centres are being added all the time. For years automatic car washes have been a great source of profit, now electric vehicle charging is starting to show its benefits on some sites.
It’s good to be part of TSG which can offer all the facilities that a modern station needs, making us the “one stop shop”.
The range of products and services that we offer has allowed me to cross-sell. For instance, I might be meeting a client to discuss fuel dispensers, but I can offer ePOS systems, car vehicle cleaning solutions from Kärcher, and electric vehicle charging points, including the installation, service and maintenance and that’s only half of it, not to mention site survey’s and DSEAR Assessments.
Q. Has the past year during ‘lockdown’ meant a change to the way you approach a sale?
The approach is the same, …… contact, qualify, propose, negotiate, close. The personal visit that used to help to clinch a deal has gone. I do miss the face-to-face “craic”.
The main difference is the distinct lack of driving miles. I used to cover 35k miles per year, last year I did a great deal less, but still exceeded sales targets. Due to less time spent driving up and down motorways, I have been able to spend more time on the phone making a sale happen, the downside while working at home it means you don’t know when to shut down for the day, although, I didn’t know that before lockdown anyway!
Lessons to be learned on this, more efficient remote working…laptop and phone at the side of a pool will work just as good, I’m dreaming again!
Q. Do you set yourself personal targets or was there a bet involved to motivate you to reach the amazing sales figures achieved?
Whilst TSG Management set targets, that’s just what they are, a goal to achieve.
I really do have personal targets for maximising every opportunity. To me, this is a better way of looking at achievements. Whilst I am proud of my achievements, I am truly modest in my admission of success.
For part of my past life, I really did need to earn to keep my financial head above water so a mantra/motto for many years has been “Sell to Survive”. So, not a target but a self-inflicted condition!
Your idea of this sort of interview to expose my personal success is alien to me. I don’t usually “blow my own trumpet” I just “gerronwiit” as we say in Barnsley.
Q. Which part of marketing helps most with generating a sale?
Before we had the recently structured Marketing Team at TSG, my success has been due to self-marketing.
When I was at Forecourt Facts, I found that liaising (usually at lunch meetings or evenings out) with regional oil company managers, who were in contact with their own fuel station operators, created an instant network of influencers. This philosophy continues to this day. Influencers aren’t just a 21st Century product of posh ladies and gents in London, Dubai or Monaco. If ever one of the Oil Company Retailers needs advice or guidance on forecourt equipment, my name was usually offered as a solution to all their woes! “Paul, can you help?”. This was my “way in” to a retailer, there to help and advise but most of the time I would sell them something.
This way of conducting business in our industry is still key to a lot of introductions where business is done by like-minded people, who have a piece of great industry knowledge.
The TSG marketing team has enhanced this basic, but highly successful “Pie n Pint” approach and now, with a functional CRM and telesales operation, the profile of the company is higher than ever.
Gone are the days that Tokheim was classed as a service-only company. TSG is a fully-fledged sales, service, installations, and construction organisation. “Give me a patch of land and I can build you a fuel station Mr. Customer. All from one quality supplier”.
The Marketing team keeps us at the forefront of our industry.
Q. What is the toughest part of the job?
I wish you’d ask me what the easiest part was!
That’s getting into a site, getting in front of the customer from scratch, and getting stuck into a meeting, (on-site or virtual) sorting out the customers’ needs for new equipment.
The hardest? ….. Over the last few years, it has been battling against competitors who have no sales skills other than “we are cheaper than them” and sell on price alone. A lot of the fuel retail operators forget about quality, the total cost of ownership and return on investment.
Unfortunately, this is the way of our industry right now.
Oh and admin ….don’t get me started on admin. I used to be top-notch at getting my paperwork in order. Now, with all the battles to get deals, and all the associated admin, it takes me a few attempts to get things right the first time. My head hurts!
Q. What is the best part of working for a company like TSG UK?
What a team!
Since the years of being known as a service company, we have developed into a proud, professional organisation which realises that, without sales AND support, we have no income. Our customer pays TSG so we as a team can be paid and enjoy our lifestyles with our families. Without a sales income, a company is nothing.
The best part is knowing that we are all pulling together, and the team effort shows through and makes the whole of TSG a pleasure to work with.
Q. Looking back at your career would you have any words of advice you wouldn’t mind sharing with the next generation of aspiring, young salespeople?
OOO Eck…How long have you got?
All of the decades in sales have taught me that every day is a school day. Learn from your experiences, success and failures. You will have many failures. Don’t panic that you missed a few deals due to inexperience. You’ll get others. Respect your customers. Keep your promise to them. Even if they are …..erm, not to your liking! Respect yourself. The passion for the job and getting involved too deep can take over your life, I know this for a fact. Keep it all in perspective and use the influencers to the “n”th degree…Then you can mop up easy deals!
My Sales Director at Forecourt Facts used to tell me “If you let others do the selling, and support them, you’ll have the best garden in your neighbourhood”. I won’t comment any further on that one 😊
Above all, remember, you are working for your lifestyle, your family and your future. Yes, work hard but don’t forget the reasons you are doing so.