A few months ago my adult daughter surprised me with an announcement that she has been offered a position as a sales rep. Before this move, she had gotten a Master’s Degree in Speech Therapy and practiced her trade for a few years both in public schools and in private practice. So, I was quite surprised to see her make such a bold move into a different profession. Though I would argue that in both careers you are devoted to helping others.
What wisdom should a father, who spent most of his adult life and some of his childhood selling stuff, share with his newly minted sales hunter?
First, I told here "there are no naturally-born salespeople". My second piece of advice was,“be yourself and make the approach and words you use your own.”
Sales is a trade that must be learned like any other. Sure, innate intelligence and confidence play a part, but the skills and discipline to be successful must all be acquired.
It is so easy to be wowed or intimidated by that top performer that has the gift of gab, knows all the right moves, or just looks the part. There is no single right way to make a pitch, gain the customer’s trust, or deal with objections. Everyone is an individual with their personality and style for communicating and building relationships. The key is to play to your strengths and be authentic.
So fatherly advice aside, I purposely did not tell her how to sell. She will need to learn that for herself both through training and the best education of all; the school of hard knocks and customer rejection. Still, it made me think about the following question; are there specific rules for sales success that you should follow? Here is my list. (I look forward to seeing your list in the comments section below.)
Always be closing (ABC). Yes, this phrase is both the biggest cliché and truism in the sales profession. Does it mean you should be using all the slimy tricks and high-pressured tactics depicted in the great movies like Glengarry Glen Ross or Tin Men? No, of course not. You may or may not ask for the sales order on the first call. It depends on the specific process required for what is being sold. Regardless, each action and milestone will move you one step closer to closing.
Never do anything that violates Rule#1. That sounds like a riddle or a conundrum. Does it mean if I am not always asking for the order or closing the sale, I broke the cardinal rule? Not exactly. But, as stated in rule#1 there is a definitive sales process and every step must be defined and completed before the next. You should not skip a step. But the mistake that is often made is salespeople put additional steps or roadblocks that lengthen the sales process. It can easily be an inadvertent mistake. If you have already accomplished your specific objective for a meeting or presentation, conclude the discussion and do not add more information that could delay getting to the next step.
Always have integrity when following Rule#1 and Rule#2. I guess I am starting to sound too cute. There is only one rule then. That rule is not “Always be closing.” The cardinal rule is “You should have integrity in everything you do.” No dirty sales tricky, no lies about the product, no false offers or fake incentives, no guessing an answer to a product question.
I believe most professional salespeople behave appropriately. But integrity goes deeper. Honesty, moral character, ethical principles are basic tenets in any profession. But being true to them and authentic to yourself are keys to success in sales. A salesperson must instill trust and confidence with their prospect that they have their best interests in mind and will deliver something of value with clear, useful benefits. A single doubt in the prospect’s mind about your integrity and all is lost.