Posted by: peterhact | June 23, 2010

Sales 101 – the advanced version

Many years ago, I was an arrogant salesman. I was right, everyone else was wrong. I started to view my clients as idiots, and treated them in a way that I would find sickening if it was done to me. Then I got my comeuppance.

It has been suggested to me that I should be looking at sales training and mentoring as a career. I am not a role model, but I am well versed in the sales techniques from several organisations and teachers. I learned from heavyweights of the industry in the early ’90s, and, back then, when you lost a deal, some of them would catch up with you and explain where you went wrong. These days, no chance.

The fundamentals of sales will never be effective tools if there isn’t one key component – fire in the belly with a hunger to succeed.

There are several things that you need to ensure that you can be a success.

1. Be prepared to have a good and bad day on the same day – Sales isn’t easy. There are days when nothing seems to be going right, meetings are cancelled, quotes are lost and the clients seem to be a bit nasty towards you. This happens. There are ways to deal with the bad day to make it a good day. Take time out to do something else other than the things that aren’t working. I like to research new companies, new potential clients and draw up a plan of attack for them, not necessarily for that day, but as a positive step towards the moment when all seems right again. The reason that you are having a bad day may be totally out of your control, but it also may be something you have done. Remember, many clients won’t get your quirky sense of humor, and may have taken offence when you called them and asked for the order. “where’s my order” sometimes works, but it depends on the delivery…

2.  Cold Calling – How do you feel about speaking to strangers? is it a daunting or exciting prospect? The best place to learn to deal with cold calling is in Retail. True. In retail, every customer that walks through the door for the first time is a stranger to you. The way you deal with them reflects your success with them to make a sale. If you are a new salesperson, don’t be afraid to let them know it. This allows them to understand why you are so nervous, and you can engage with them in polite discussion until you feel confident to ask them as to what they are looking for or are in the store for. Cold calling on the phone is harder, best to start with a script that you can refer to while speaking to the customer, and remember to smile. Smiling can be “heard” on the phone. If you get a rejection, don’t take it to heart. In the course of your sales career, you may get many more knock backs, but, shining like a beacon in the darkness,  you will get a positive response from time to time. I used to have a system when I was doing door to door sales, I would say to myself, “for every ten calls I make, nine will be no. one will be a yes. Aim for the yes.” that is the key. don’t focus on the 9 people who weren’t interested, focus on the one person who is. After a while, when you think about what you did to get the yes, you will discover your rhythm, and cold calling can become fun.

Another way to gain experience and overcome nerves when meeting people is to join networking groups – business to business groups that hold events where you can meet others and discuss business with them. One thing to ensure you have plenty of at these meetings is your business cards, you will gain many contacts, and you will hand out plenty of your cards, too.

3. Product knowledge – understanding the products you are selling, including services, helps you articulate it to the client. There are different levels of knowledge, there are sales people who have never owned a computer, but can sell them just fine. there are sales people who go overboard and can recite the tech specs with their eyes closed.  The best sales person to be is the one that can sit and listen to the customer, formulate a solution that matches their needs and can go through the solution  with the customer, step by step. These sales people are very rare, and cannot be pigeon holed into any other career, the ability to visualise solutions usually takes a very long time to master.

I am a solutions salesman. this is a problem for me in my current role, as I am not in a position to create solutions for my clients, as they have their own clients. I am one step back from the coal face, and I sometimes miss the thrill of the won quote, the negotiations, the rapport developed with the end users. The one thing I will never miss is responding to the RFT, the RFP and the EOIs.

4.  Why do I need to respond to Tenders? why can’t the Government just buy from me? – The government department can just buy from you. but the purchases need to be below a certain level of value. Above that level, and you either find that a Request for Quote needs to be responded to, or, if it is a really big opportunity, a Request for Tender.

Tenders were originally designed to weed out the unsuitable solutions from resellers who either didn’t understand the department or what the department was trying to achieve. Unfortunately, over the years, the Tenders have morphed into massive documents, often requiring acceptance of every single clause and sub point, compliance to any number of requirements, in some instances the requirements are scattered through the document and contradict each other, and they end up being a massive response that may take a month to put together before submitting. One point to note is that a business doesn’t go on hold to respond to tenders, so the sales people may find that they are up until daybreak per day until the damn submission is finished and submitted. oh, and if you have a question that may be the make or break of your submission, if you ask the tenderer, everyone gets to see the answer… not very nice to lose your competitive edge in a single answer.

5. Have fun – if the prospect of going to work and selling day in, day out isn’t appealing, maybe it isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you bounce out of bed and are raring to go straight away, then maybe you have found your calling in life.  Don’t forget that sometimes you may slump, so if you think it is all getting too much, maybe look at taking a day off and relaxing. Recharging your batteries may re-kindle your spirit, or it may lead to soul searching about what you really want to be doing.

I realised that my direction in a career was going to a roadblock, my only options are to remain in the same job for many years. I want to be able to grow personally and professionally. So I am now looking to re-evaluate my career and my directions.

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