Sales – Is it a Lost Art Form?


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We all sell. Allow me to correct myself… we are constantly selling something; an idea, a venture, service, a product, etc. Selling is an activity we do everyday. We do it consciously and unconsciously. We live for the thrill of the deal. One day, my supervisor asked me to train a new colleague in sales. So this young lady and I visited a few of her clients in her district. I was just the “ride-along” senior sales person. My job was to observe, take note and provide a few coaching moments. What I discovered was far more revealing. As I sat in the passengers seat, as a disengaged observer, I discovered the following selling principles.

1. Prepare wisely

The most common area of preparation has to be your “elevator pitch”. In other words, what will be the one sentence or two, which will captivate a gatekeeper, a decision maker or even the front desk receptionist? It is not just a “one-pitch” liner but it is also a combination of pitch variables working at the moment depending on the need. One must be able to juggle a client’s current need with a masterful delivery at the right time. Here are three critical areas of preparation:

a. Product Mastery: You must have mastery of your product or service, and how it relates with and benefits your customer. Not all customers’ have the same need at the moment.

b. The Tailored Pitch:  In your brief interaction you must collect enough data so you are able to communicate a Tailored pitch, which appeals to the need at the moment. In your brief conversation you must be able to discern the “inner” dilemma of the decision maker, and the customer’s challenge within the organization to make a Tailored pitch fitting the need.

c.  Problem Solver: You must be able to communicate how your service can be the “problem solver” for their current challenge. Since every business is looking for a deal, you must be able to make them salivate not only at your pricing but also your capacity to perform up to your promises.

2. Cultivate your presence

Many of salespeople are not well prepared when they enter the foyer of a business to make a sales pitch. Often times, we carry the pressures of making our monthly quotas, perhaps of past failures, or personal problems from the home front. We think to ourselves; “Am I adequate enough for this job?” Your negative demeanor cannot be covered up so easily. Any discerning person will be able to read through your layers of insecurity. Your presence is more than your polished dress code, your manicured nails and stylish hair. Cultivating an inner presence has to do with an inner light exuding confidence, which draws people in to you. You presence has three layers:

a. Your Physical Presence: Yes, your dress code and other physical features such as grooming, fresh breath, and odor (cologne or perfume) matter but they only last for a few moments. At some point you will have to communicate your message.

b. A Presence of Soul: This area is critical. Your soul exudes presence in a good or bad way. You can be all smiles but you cannot fool people for too long. Since your eyes are the gateway into the soul, your eyes will tell a story. People can discern sincerity or disguise, passion or passivity, competence or incompetence.

c. A Spiritual Dimension: This presence is not cultivated over night but it’s a constant work of spiritual dimensions.  I tell those who I coach to read through the book of Proverbs over and over. It is the businessperson’s handbook that creates enduring success. The principles contained within can shape your character and integrity, which are the pivot points of creating trust.

3. Persist with Subtlety

During our sales venture, we had just finished visiting with a client. As we left the foyer I began to coach my trainee on a principle I use regularly. I said, “Great job! You got the receptionist to pick up the phone and call Human Resources. However, when the receptionist came back to you and said, “She was in a meeting”, you should have persisted by saying, “Okay, I don’t mind waiting in the lobby fifteen minutes.” The receptionist has tremendous power to allow you in or not; many times covering for Human Resources. At this point you have to persist with subtlety. I call it the Persist Subtlety Principle.

So on our next meeting, the same scenario played out like the previous one. This time the gentleman running Human Resources was on the phone. My trainee said, “Okay, we will come back!” At this point I intervened, “Excuse me, my name is Joel. How are you? We will wait a few minutes, perhaps he will be done with his call soon.” The receptionist relented. A few minutes later, a gentleman from Human Resources comes out to greet us and says, “How can I help you?” At the end of the conversation, we had a meeting scheduled for the following week. It was because we persisted with subtlety.

4.  Make Powerful Connections

The purpose of a visit is to make powerful connections. What I mean is a connection that goes beyond mere generalities and introductions. A connection that lingers, that leaves a residue of your person and purpose. On our previous visit (noted in point #3) I left a gift with the gentleman in Human Resources. It was stress doll in the shape of a mid-sized man, round in shape. The funny part of this stress doll is it resembles my body type and shape. On it is our company’s name and brand. As we departed I handed him a stress doll with my business card. He asked, “What is this for?” I said, “It’s a stress doll. Squeeze it when you get stressed out.” As he was closing the door he gave it a squeeze… I then replied, “Ouch!!” He looked at me (not making the connection with my body shape and the stress doll), and I responded, “It is my business card… it’s shaped like me! So be careful how you treat him!” He then laughed out loud. As he closed the door behind him you could still hear him chucking down the hallway. When you can make people laugh, you know you have made a powerful connection.

After several visits to clients that morning, I advised her to step away and reflect on each visit. I then coached her to ask herself a few questions; what did you learn at each visit? How can you interact better next time? How can you make powerful connections? Each encounter is a learning experience. We can always do things differently, say something better, and be more or less aggressive in our approach. Simply put, each encounter is a learning encounter.

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