It’s the Ultimate People Business

There are hundreds of different jobs and, to some degree, all of them require sales techniques.  However, the art of sales is that undiscovered country where only a few rare souls live.  As Ben Stein stated, “Salespeople are where the rubber of production meets the road of consumption.”  Dr. Brian Lambert noted, “Sadly, the term ‘sales professional’ is often seen as an oxymoron, in much the same manner as plastic silverware…”  Yet, the most important profession in the world is sales, because nobody else gets paid unless someone sells something FIRST.  The true gift a salesperson brings to a company is security for everyone else.

Recognizing the bad salesperson is easy and they provide the stereotype of the profession.  My father-in-law, who is one of the best, made this comment about salespeople, “I don’t know what it takes or if they can be made or not, I just know a great one when I meet them.”  For the untrained or inexperienced interviewer, this can lead to a lot of problems, but once you understand it you can easily recognize them.

What to Look For

Over the years, I have discovered a few characteristics that the best possess.  First, they have a “competitive spirit;” this is why the great ones usually have some athletic experience.  Second, they have a keen sense of ethical balance.  The code of ethics for the salesperson is “serve the customer.”  It is not to serve the company or themselves, which is why I use the word “balance,” because a salesperson is challenged daily with “Whom do you serve?”  Management must realize this in order to have a truly productive sales force.  The true character of the salesperson is what raises them above the rest.

The sales profession is the ultimate art form; simply stated it is the ultimate PEOPLE business.  A weak salesperson must discuss the product; a great salesperson can sell any product.  If you truly understand the profession, then you realize that you are developing relationships that build trust.  You want to become the trusted advisor or as Joe Pici states, you want to “build rapport.”

Confrontation and conflict are a part of life for the salesperson and the good ones see them as opportunities.  It is impossible to make everyone happy all the time, but conflicts reveal the depth of character and the relationships the salesperson has forged.

Unlock Their Potential

If you are compensating your salespeople with salary, then you are limiting their income and the potential of your business.  You are creating order takers who churn a machine.  Cut salespeople loose, pay them only commission and don’t be shy about it.  The hunter mentality of “you eat what you kill” must be sustained in the salesperson or they become ineffective.

Selling is not marketing.  Marketing uses all kinds of techniques to create a perception – salespeople make it happen with or without marketing.  Marketing can help refine the selling process, but it will never make the process easier.  Sales is a mathematical equation whereby poor skills can be made up with more numbers and better skills increase your effectiveness thus lowering the total numbers necessary to achieve your target.

The process can be boiled down to four steps:

  1. Prospecting,
  2. Presentation,
  3. Follow-up, and
  4. Asking

Most sales trainers provide scripts for prospecting phone calls and presentations.  Basically, this is the “boiler room” sales force and it is for the non-sales people.  There are no two clients who are the same, so how in the world can one script work?  You must adjust according to the personality to whom you are speaking, which means you must learn how to read people quickly, which Joe Pici does a great job in training people to do.

“The fortune is in the follow-up” and the number one failure of salespeople is knowing when and/or how to ask for the order.  Closing the sale is a natural act of doing everything else correctly – if you are forcing the close you have failed in the beginning stages.

Just Scratching the Surface

Obviously, there is much more to cover about sales than what can be offered in this article.  I encourage you to attend on March 22 the Founders Forum meeting.  I will be teaching the “The Art of Sales” that evening and no matter what your profession is, I believe you will learn something.

Zig Ziglar defined the art when he said: “If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Remember, it is never about you, but it is always up to you.