“Just reflecting on my sales career and I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned. Where to start? Probably from the early days at the start of the journey”.
Creating A Need
When I first started selling photocopiers, I was trying to generate opportunities by door-knocking businesses. Nobody had taught me anything about selling but I had been told it was a “numbers game”. So, with all the enthusiasm of a new sales guy wanting success I knocked on as many doors as I could. Eventually, though I had to tell my boss that there weren’t enough hours in the day because I couldn’t find anyone that wanted a copier or was interested in talking to me about a copier. Nobody had trained me in “creating a need”, “selling benefits”, asking “open-ended questions” and relating my product to resolving business issues or generating cost savings, etc. I had been a busy fool really!
Training, Pays Off!
I then moved to Telecoms and attended a two-week sales training course. It was a revelation. With a kit bag of sales skills and my energy and enthusiasm, I felt invincible. Back in the field, I tried out my new sales skills. It took 6 months though for things to click and I went from “the guy who has been on a course” to a more natural style. I learned to listen and relate what I was offering directly to the agreed needs. At first, I thought I had forgotten all I had learned, and I was just having better conversations. However, I went to the top of the sales ladder and I genuinely loved my job. I think “empathy” was important. Putting myself in the shoes of my prospects and their business.
Empathy, Rapport & Punches
One of my colleagues moved sales areas and I picked up some of his accounts. One company caught my eye. They manufactured chess sets and high-quality wooden furniture. My colleague John said that the Telecoms Manager was a nice enough guy and I would get a warm welcome and a cup of coffee, but nothing else. I went to the top and organised an appointment with their MD, Mr Dexter. I had a very good meeting and presented Mr Dexter with a compelling ROI case to change his phone system. He called the Telecoms Manager into his office to explain that he was very interested in what I had presented. I could see this guy was surprised that this had happened. He tried to elongate the process by saying they needed to explore the market. However, I had managed to build great empathy with Mr Dexter and her signed my order there and then. This was for a decent sized system. I came out of that office and punched the air on my walk to my car. Confidence and understanding the customers business enabled me to sell a solution.
“A no brainer. So, the lesson thereafter was I always took my steer on what was possible. Not taking what colleagues said was achievable. I set my bar. I was in control”.
Always Keep Things Simple, Silly!
Through my career, I have always stuck to the fundamental building blocks of basic selling skills. They are as valuable in Enterprise Accounts as they are in small businesses. Try and keep things simple and compelling. I have embraced TAS Selling, Miller Heiman, SPIN, 7 Steps, MEDDIC and many more. However, I still maintain the basic skills. The ability to have conversations at all levels and create the desire to act.
So, I think the overriding lesson from my perspective is that methodology also needs a personality. Enthusiasm and an absolute desire to solve business problems sprinkled with persistence and determination…. Make it happen. Be in the game. Make a start. Have a written plan. Sharpen the axe before cutting down the tree. It isn’t rocket science. However, I wished I knew all this before when I started my career door knocking trying to find someone who was interested when I asked them the closed question “are you interested?”. I needed my guardian angel to fly down and teach me the six honest serving men…. Thank you, John Powell, Sales Trainer and Telephone Rentals Plc.