So You Think You Can Sell – Sales 101
Everyone knows this scene from The Wolf of Wall Street: Jordan Belfort to his salesmen ‘Sell me this pen.’ The salesman ‘Do me a favour. Put your name down on that napkin.’ Belfort ‘I don’t have a pen.’ Salesman ‘Exactly supply & demand.’
It’s been quite a long time since my college days are over. Five months and seven days, to be precise, depending on when you read this post. And these were not exactly the fun kinda days. Although I have entered the corporate life, the corporate life is yet to enter me.
Nevertheless, that’s not the point here. The point is, I am learning. Learning new things and doing so each day.
One of my major subjects at my b-school was Marketing and naturally, I did several Sales & Marketing subjects. But I would not have done justice to this post had I written it back then.
The reason: it was as theoretical as it could be. I mean, we did a hell lot of case studies and projects, but that’s not the real game. You know what I am saying.
The idea and content to write this blog-post came from my recent project where I am very much involved with the sales team of our client. Also, I got some insights from my summer internship at one of the ‘Sales & Marketing’ juggernauts of India. My project was about sales & distribution.
I am not Philip Kotler!
I think selling is not just an art but also a science and involves a learning element. Someone once said salesmen are not made, but they are born. I think otherwise. To sell more or sell effectively, one can pick up and imbibe some qualities.
I am not Philip Kotler and this blog post is not the holy grail of Sales & Marketing Management. This post is simply my take on what are the essential qualities a Salesman a.k.a Salesperson a.k.a Sales-personnel a.k.a Sales-Executive a.k.a Business Development Executive should possess to be more effective in the field.
You can sell everything.
As I posted in my Instagram stories (where this post appeared first), everything is sellable. Ideas, person, goods, services, events, words and anything you can think of. An example would clear this. In crude words, we sell ourselves each day. To prospective employers, to prospective customers and to prospective partners. I hope you got the gist.
I think that’s enough build-up and context.
So, what does it take?
After observing and interacting with tons of salespersons & sales managers I learnt a lot about what it takes to be an effective salesperson and sell more (isn’t that the end goal?). I discovered the qualities listed below, which are essential if you want to remain relevant in the game.
Correct me if I am wrong. I’m open to discussions or debate.
Like an introvert guy who is scared to approach that pretty girl in the party, I see a lot of salespersons who are scared & hesitant to approach the customers. The apprehensions of ‘what would happen’ take over. This has two negative effects. First, you would not be approaching the customers. Second, even if you did, your sales pitch would not be as effective as it could be otherwise.
Go berserk & shameless when it comes to prospecting and approaching customers. The bigger the pool the better it is. You know what is better than 1% of 100? 1% of 1,000. Remember most successful salesmen see opportunities everywhere.
Imagine, you want to sell a candy and you don’t know how it tastes like, what it is made of, what are the different flavours, how is it better than the candies that the other guys are selling, how much discount is there on the candy, how can this candy satisfy the kid’s need and so on. How would you sound, or more importantly, how would you sell it?
In short, to be a more effective salesman, knowledge is a must. And when I say knowledge, it is not only the product knowledge, rather it is about each and everything related to your offering.
Sharing a personal anecdote here. I was lucky. During my internship, my project was to enhance sales the market share of a category which everyone loves. I was in ice-creams or to be precise, frozen desserts. I could naturally connect with the product. I was convinced with it. I knew it is good, it is sellable and it will sell. I thoroughly enjoyed my work thus the whole project. On the other hand, during finals, I was very choosy during my placements. Contrary to common consensus, I applied to very few companies. I could not connect with IT products, sanitary ware etc. So, I didn’t apply. Having a strong conviction and belief in the product you are selling is a must. It makes the whole process a fun ride. So, before selling it to others, you need to sell it to yourself first. Even if that belief is wrong.
Know Your Customer
People complicate things. In my opinion, selling becomes much easier once you know the customer. Selling without knowing your customer is like shooting in the dark. An example is required here. During my undergrad, I wanted to pursue an internship. For that, I made one simple CV and forwarded to 50 companies I was interested in along with a standard template cover letter.
No. I didn’t get a single satisfying reply apart from a few ‘Thank you for your application.’ I was sad, obviously, but being sad doesn’t get you jobs. I changed my strategy slightly. I inserted just two lines specifically about the company I was applying for in the cover letter. Sent it to 25 companies. And yes, I got rejected by most of them this time as well. But most of them, not all.
Bottom-line, I got an internship. I hope you got the idea. And yeah, this is the opportune time in the blog post to quote Lao Tzu: ‘Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories’
Possess Interpersonal Skills
I would not write anything under this heading. It is the simplest point to understand, but the most difficult one to implement. All I will say is, the customer does not buy the product. First, they buy you and then, your offering.
As my boss once said; ‘If you possess great interpersonal skills, you can sell a comb, even to a bald guy.’
Selling is like any art. To achieve a level of mastery you need to be consistent & practise it like painting, music or dance. I know it sounds too didactical but my friend, that’s the truth. Connecting this to the first point, being consistent also means being shameless, especially in sales.
As one of the sales managers told me, ‘The salesman should follow-up with the customer till two things happen, 1) The customer buys the offering, 2) He starts abusing the salesman’.
And I completely agree. Repeated failure yields to success & hard-work triumphs over luck & talent.
Listen and then talk, talk more
Thank you if you are still reading this. Being on-field for the last 4 months and observing close to 40 salespersons, I have arrived at this solid conclusion. They don’t let the customer talk more.
The most important part of any sales process is to listen to your customer. Probe them. As my marketing professor at MCI, Austria told us, every sales process has 5 stages.
- Opening; Where you start the sales process,
- Probing; This is critical. Ask relevant questions. Let the prospect talk. Ask open-ended questions,
- Offering: Tell them everything about what you’re offering.
- Supporting; This is the time for you to shine. Talk now and talk a lot. Tell the prospect of your offering in details. Highlight the features of what you’re selling that addresses their concerns, and lastly,
- CLOSE THE GODDAMN DEAL (with a smile, of course)
So that was it. Hope I could SELL this blog-post to you!
Drop your reactions in the comment section.
Till then, keep selling!