Roll up your sleeves

Of the 1.3 million US college graduates in 2007, more than 50% became professional sales  people.1  That same year the total number of graduates from US med schools was 16,000.2

I can see how some might find this statistic shocking.  Particularly those who feel that sales is beneath them.

Make no mistake, even though most sales people do not save lives or rainforests, sales is what makes the world go ‘round.  That’s the bottom line.

Too many times I have seen entrepreneurs fail because they were ‘too good’ to roll up their sleeves and go sell their wares.  Too many times I have seen glossy business plans shrivel up simply because those who master-minded the idea refused to hit the road (and the phone) to look for customers.

As a serial entrepreneur I’ve learned first hand how important selling is to any business venture.  Even after years of specializing in business development, sometimes I feel stuck and find it hard to get motivated.

It’s because of the following principles that I’ve been able to roll up my sleeves, without feeling that I’m compromising my professional integrity – or that I’m crossing over to the dark side.

To celebrate Diwali3, let me enlighten you:

Golden rule:  Forget closing techniques.  When you ask for the business, you’re OPENING a relationship, not CLOSING a sale.  Some might find this to be a simple play on words.  In my experience this approach is what has made a world of difference to my track record.  It’s like dating.  If you’re attracted to someone and want to move beyond a friendship, you either hope and pray that you get kissed or you ask for a kiss.  If there’s consent, a kiss doesn’t close anything.  A kiss is what moves the relationship to the next level.  It’s the same in business.  A sale is what advances the relationship.

Know your product:  It’s possible that you got the job in large part thanks to your charm and even your good looks, but without product knowledge neither will get you the sale!

Know your client:  From the get go, get into your customer’s shoes.  Tell them what’s in it for them if they buy from you.  Focus on their needs and how dealing with you will be a different experience to dealing with all the other sales people (the other 649,999).

Supermarket test:  This one is particularly important if you’re employed within an organization.  Treat customers like you’re 100% sure that you’ll bump into them at the supermarket while you’re with your family – and can’t hide behind a company logo.

Build trust:  Trust takes time to build.  Start by keeping your word.  Do not over promise to get the sale.  You’ll be risking the long-term relationship.  Always remember that clients who trust you will refer you to others. 

Guard your reputation:  Whether you’re selling widgets, crunching numbers behind a desk or teaching yoga, your professional reputation is always on the line – not only your employer’s.  Particularly in sales the messenger (i.e. you) will be shot.  If you’re known for your integrity, the likelihood is that your clients will follow you wherever you go.  Show integrity by making claims that you can back up with sound data.  Data that you believe in.  Be transparent – like you, prospects aren’t idiots.

Question prospects’ current buying habits:  It’s not rude to ask someone why they are currently buying what they are.  It’s actually in their best interest to review their buying habits.  Ask them respectfully. 



1. Thanks Huthwaite

2. Thanks AAMC

3. Diwali: “…the Hindu festival of lights…extends over five days.  (It) celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance…” (thanks BBC)

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