Wednesday 28 November 2007

Sales- How the Process Really Works

It's one of those funny jobs.
Tell people you are a doctor, they nod in respect.
Everyone needs doctors.

Tell them you're a salesman, they go 'Oh, Really?'
Well, in my case, no, they smile and say 'Of course. What else would you be?'

But we are not a respected profession.

'Profession????', I hear you say.
Yes, profession.

Paid liars, I hear you say.


Being a salesman involves very tight ethics indeed. Plus a lot of REAL skill. If you intend to survive.
And a bit more.

Time and time again, I have been at meetings where the issue of training has come up. It always will, because it's the kind of industry where the majority of people taken on by a company, don't last more than a month. And my point of view has been simple. It's not about training, it's about recruitment. Recruit the right people.
The job is 20% product knowledge, 30% strategic thinking, 50% personality.
The company can only influence the first part.
You cannot MAKE a salesman.

Because a really good salesman never lies.
A good salesman, is like a good lawyer.
A good lawyer cannot stand up in court and state something he knows to be false.
He states the facts concerning his client in the best light he can.
And a GOOD lawyer, acquits his client, with the TRUTH and the TRUTH alone.

Just as a good salesman, sells with the truth. He just knows how to package it.

It really is the easiest job in the world, if you can do it.
If you can't, I'm sure it must be Hell.

Now you cannot make a salesman, but you can teach him tricks of the trade. So here's the rules. And yes, let's call them ethics. Because that is what ethics are. Rules that govern our conduct, because life doesn't work unless you keep to guidelines.

  1. Never allow boundaries. Never be formal. If you are, you create barriers you yourself will have to dismantle. Be familiar from the moment you shake hands. A tiny minority will take umbrage. Who cares? In most cases, it saves you the 'John- I can call you John, can't I ?' later.
  2. Football and Flirting. Perfectly simple. Emote to them as people. If they are male, find out who they support, divert the conversation with a chat about how that team played at the weekend. And remember 'I thought you were unlucky' or 'Great win', MUST pass your lips. If they are female, drop the tone of your voice, be seductive (Never of course, take it further. It's purely business. It really IS unprofessional to meet customers in a personal capacity, if she sees it as more than a bit of fun, the company could loss credit. My friend The Baker made this mistake once; he had to keep seeing her for over a year for fear she'd kiss and tell)
  3. Make them sell to you. Don't go in there and preach to them. Your first comments should be totally irrelevant. 'Nice little office you have here.' 'Your receptionist is a little darling isn't she? How long have you had her?', that sort of thing. Then make them tell you what is they are looking for. Make them tell you what they want to be sold. Then, sell them back their own vision. They've told you what they want. You can either sell it to them, or you can't. Keep the probing, the open questions, the chit chat going as long as possible. You may well find that you haven't a cat in Hell's chance of selling them what you thought you were going to sell them, but they DO have a need you didn't expect- that you can satisfy.
  4. Never lie. Cover your back. A satisfied customer tells four business contacts. A DISsatisfied customer tells eleven. Fact. Never put yourself in a position where you are open to accusations of mis-selling. Before you close, remind them 'Of course, it IS my job to say this, but I DO think this is in your interests.' Why? Because it may not pan out. That's not your responsibility. But handle it right and even if it doesn't, they won't hold it against you- in fact they may STILL use your company even if the delivery doesn't initially deliver. Because they actually trust the salesman who sold them in the first place. Brutal honesty is actually the best tool a good salesman has. Why? Because sometimes you have to tell them straight; 'It's up to you. What I'm offering you, means you can make three members of staff redundant. I can see why you hesitate- you like those particular three as people. You don't want to tell them that a new machine means you don't need them. I understand. It would be a hard decision for me too. How much do you want that cost saving? That's really what it boils down to.'
  5. Be you. That's the bottom line. Good salesmen are genuine people. Make it clear you are just doing your job. That way, they listen more, because they'd like you if they met you in the pub. Show them the person you are.
  6. Never lose control of the conversation. Use the principle of attack and lull. Talk as long as you want. Out of a half hour conversation, five minutes (if that) should be nitty gritty. The rest should be getting to know the man or woman you are talking to. Give them a bit of you and every now and then draw the conversation back with 'Anyway, you're a busy man/lady, so I don't want to waste your time...'.
  7. Know when to close. Know when you have enough information to block off their options. They have told you enough now, that now you tell them what you want them to buy, you can handle every objection they raise with the ammunition they themselves have given you.

Pictured above: Dizzy Bizzy, our slightly offbeat, but eminently foxy admin girl. (Yes she IS texting whilst hula-hooping, it's a real pleasure to watch.)

It really is one of the most beautiful jobs to do. Sometimes, I thank my lucky stars. So many, many people have to do such tedious jobs to get paid. Me? I do what I'd do if I wasn't at work. Chat to people.What better way to have money enter your bank account every month?


Anonymous said...

I don't think I like people enough to sell them anything.

Your second point, emoting with your client; if I think a man is resorting to flirting with me in order to entice me buy something off of him, I don't want it. It puts me off completely. Which I suppose is a bit of a double standard because I'm not innocent of flirting to get money off of stuff.

Part of me sees it as ego and underhand. A little bit of me finds it offensive that a man thinks all he needs to do is switch on the charm and I'll sign up for whatever it is.

Sometimes I let salesmen (especially the flirty ones) go through their entire spiel, let them think I'm coming round to it then tell them 'no' anyway. I'd never any intention of saying yes. I just like wasting their time. I am a bad person :)

Anonymous said...

The only sales job I ever had was selling art to businesses. The drawback was I had to use my own car and there was no comp on that expense. I could have been good at it, even though I wasn't as persistent as I should have been. I sold a few pieces, some Salvador Dali's and some vintage theater poster-style prints. Even my mom bought three gorgeous and expensive gold-leaf framed, full-size prints from Van Gogh's Starry Night series for her office. The clients at her work love them.

Then my car overheated and the radiator blew up on the third day, which cost much more to be repaired than what I had made, so I found another job. Too bad about that, since it was fun talking to people, and I had my eye on purchasing tons of things at cost from the place.

I'll use this as a guideline if I ever get back into sales.

Useful post, indeed.

Anonymous said...

What do you sell anyway? I imagine that it is quite lucrative and keeps you outwardly happy.

I think we are all salespeople, selling pieces of our Soul for a little peace.

Anonymous said...

Such a sincere profession, Crushed. :)

Anonymous said...

OMG when I first saw the title, I thought you were gonna post stories of our illustrious hero Slime. Obviously not, and now I am highly disappointed!!

I didn't mind selling when we were under Matey and co, even though Slime was there (as you know, he could easily be ignored), and I didn't mind it much when I landed in Si's team, because I was a top salesperson on our floor (even beating you month in month out as you'll recall lol) but what I didn't like, was being FORCED to move to Customer Services, and have to bloody sell shit through the incoming calls that we took. The pressure there was far worse than the other building, and I hated it, which is why i've been off sick ever since, with stress.

Your job sounds fab, and you're obviously enjoying it. Everything happens for a reason, and I hope you realise how lucky you are, after everything that's happened, for you to find such a good job which you enjoy so much. Don't lose it or quit it without finding something even better first! Good jobs, where you enjoy the job, and the company, are hard to come by!!!

So, when ya gonna post about Slime then? lol.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post Crushed. I can see why you might be a successful salesman. especially if you are good at reading the client.

For me product knowledge is the first requirement that I look for in a salesman and flirting would definitely be offputting for me, but I assume you would be able to read that and back off immediately before any harm was done.

In my career in the pharmacy/medical field I came across many salespeople of both sexes and for different types of products and usually found them very knowledgeable.

However drug representatives have a very hard row to hoe, for they certainly are not respected on the whole. Partly because of the industry itself as it duplicates medications with slightly different chemical make-up as patents lapse and generic brands become available so that they can keep their high prices with basically the same drug. The rep then tries to convince everyone of the advantages of the new drug with everyone very sceptical.

While bribery flourishes with drug representatives in some countries, India for example, where they shell out microwaves and similar large objects for doctors, in latter years the free lunches disappeared at the drug company inservices and we could not accept even a pen or a nerdy pen holder which we loved to protect our lab coats.

One of the greatest gifts in life is to work at a job which you love. Lucky you.

Anonymous said...

We had a salesman in yesterday from a software company. I had researched the product on their website and had invited them in as I had already decided we could use the product for an up and coming major project I'm running.

Myself and the procurement manager ran through the requirements and scope, support contract requirements etc. All that remained was "how much".

Then followed an incoherent ramble about this that and the other, pricing structures and "doing us a deal". Procurement and I looked at each other for a moment… "Can you just bloody tell us how much?" My colleague exclaims.

I'm quite tempted to call the tech guy and ask him to get another salesman assigned, if it hadn't been for his competence we would have just sent them packing.

Procurement called me an hour later … "What a fu**ing Muppet, are you sure you want to use these guys?"

Anonymous said...

Oestrebunny- You are right, you DO have to like people to do the job.

As for flirting, you have to remember the chances of me pitching anyone in their twenties is slim- it does happen, but more often than not these are seasoned career women. They like to be reminded that they are women. One never does it overtly, but the idea is to make them think they'd like it if their daughter brought you home. Since I tend to flirt without thinking anyway, it's just my nature, it isn't actually underhand.

Eric- I think you just learn over the years that glib, fast spiel fly-by-night is see through to anyone with half a brain. It's as much about finding out what they REALLY want, as having a good spiel.

My usual way of starting is to give a broad outline of nwhat can be offered, then ask them to tell me how they see that relating to them.

Alexys- It's a bit complex, but the company I work for helps producers of Industrial equipment find markets- though we do have a few clients in divergent sectors.

It pays OK. Not lucrative, but I can live comfortably.

James- In many ways it IS, in fact. I have worked for some cowboys in my time, but in the sector I'm in now, you have to be pretty ethical about it. You cannot afford not to be, too much is at stake.

SS- Nostalgia time, eh?
I've spent five years NOT having to see Slime on a daily basis, why did you have to remind me of him?

As for the 'month in month out', that's not how I remember it :)
But to be fair, I do remeber those days fondly, it was a buzzing floor to work on.
We earned fat bonus cheques at the end of the day, but I still find business to business a lot more my cup of tea. It has a different dynamic to it. It doesn't have any of the customer service element to it, it's a bit more matey matey.

Post about Slime? If I start a blog just on horror stories, maybe.

jmb- Oh, I have made some awful first moves, it's whether you are quick thinking enough to pull yourself back.

Product knowledge is good, but often the customer knows realistically that sometimes, you won't have all the answers straight away. Rather than blag, you need to say, 'I'll get back to you on that.'

Over time, of course you build up technical knowledge, through coming across strange queries.

Wolfie- I would have thought software was quite easy to come up with a ballpark figure on spec, although I know a lot of ERP systems aren't straightforward in price at all. But then again, if he'd been listening to the pair of you, he should have known what the specifications were and what he was quoting.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't specifically referring to you :)

I just mean in general. The types of people who are trying to sell to my age group are the mobile phone salesmen, the various and many charity collectors and representatives that litter the high street. Perhaps not in underhand in your line of work or manner, but in these cases? Definitely.

Anonymous said...

Your job sounds a bit different to what I was doing about a decade ago. It involved trying to sell life and endowment assurance to people whose incomes were already stretched to breaking point.ABC, always be closing, yeah closing the door. KIS, keep it simple,"Your insurance has gone up Mrs. Muggins", and write another £2.00 a month on little Wayne. The FSA put a stop to all this of course; no more man at the Pru.

Anonymous said...

All excellent advice. The job is great when it's easy and impossible when it's hard. I think of it as floating, staying in that smooth confident mindset, not falling into the trap of listening to yourself sell and only feeling the successes not the failures. There is something of the oldfashioned adventurer in being a commission only salesperson, living on your wits, which has always appealed to me except in the tough weeks when I dream of a job digging ditches for a wage.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff. As a Purchasing /contracts manager I can assure you that we know all of the tricks. And often use similar tactics when in haggle mode.

But the fundamentals about specifications, offer, acceptance, consideration and the intent to create a legal relationship are a constant. If the tendering / purchasing process is robust the rest is pretty irrelevant.


Anonymous said...

Great post , Crushed. You tell it like it is.

Anonymous said...

As it seems is your way, you've put passion and thought into yet another thing you do.

Although I would put some passion and thought into better developing my hula-hooping abilities!

Anonymous said...

I usually don't like salesman, 'cos I don't like feeling pressured to buy stuff. Good tips on selling stuff; useful, cos in the end, everyone is a salesman, whether they like it or not. It may not be stuff; it often is ourselves, our ideas, etc... so having a talent in that field is never a waste...

Anonymous said...

Oestrebunny- Anyone who forces docs on you in the street on a clipboard, tell to go to Hell.
We have a prob in Brum with the scientologists. They prowl New Street like prostitutes plying their trade.

Shelley- I used to sell loansyears ago, but was crap at selling the insurance on the loans. I think for me, it only works if I can see benefits which would me buy it. Most forms of insurance to me, seem a waste of money.

Paul- Well, I'm lucky enough to get a reasonable basic anyway.
But I think it's always good to credit your successes to you, and your failures to the product. After all, self belief is essential :)

Grendel- Yes, but this is where buyers who get the point, are your allies.
Then your attitude is 'Look mate, you're doing your job, I'm doing mine, we both want brownie points, do our mutual interests run together here?'
People will actually make buying decisions as part of a personal game of oneupmanship betwen themselves and other departments.

Welshcakes- A lot of it is just common sense and a bit of lateral thinking. If you don't ask questions, you don't get the answers you want.

Princess P- There are days when I feel pretty un-passionate about it, and it takes a large mug of coffee and several cigarettes before Mr Bubbly replaces Harry Hangover.

But on the whole, the day goes quickly, bearing in mind it's quite a long day. You don't have time to be bored.

Eve- Don't get me wrong, there is more than one type of salesman.
I've met several who were complete arses as people, but somhow adopted a persona in front of clients which worked.
I still maintain that on the whole, the best salesmen, are pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get types.

Anonymous said...


If it does it will you have it?