Reflections on Sales and Selling
Selling and Being Sold
There are plenty of rules, tips and tricks I've heard through the years to help make you a better salesman. I've seen plenty of different ideals and books about the subject. I've been sold on lots of products, movies, books, devices, gadgets, gizmo's and cleaning supplies by some of the best in the business. There have been many times I've been happy I was sold and there were times I felt I had gotten taken. Either way, I love sales.
What it means to sell someone
People hear the words "salesman" and they think cheesy suit, they think coffee, they think pressure. They think a lot of not nice things. However, I contend that salesmen can be more. They are product experts, they understand better than anyone at least 100 reasons why you should buy something.
There's something beautiful about when someone wants something, they want something in the abstract, and you help them take that abstract dream and make it a reality. A reality that they can hold in their hand, wear on their head, or drive off in from the lot. They weren't sure what they wanted, but you took the time to listen to what they were saying and took their ideal and made it a reality.
That's sales in a nutshell. It's understanding what it is that someone wants or needs based on what they have and what they use and matching it up with a product. Sometimes the consumer doesn't even know they want or need a product. People with a horse and cart didn't necessarily "need" an automobile. If you have the I-phone 4 you don't really need the I-phone 5. It's a want and a desire to own that which you consider to be better. A lot of the time it's simply done through a commericial, sometimes its done through osmosis, your friend has it and you use it so you must have it. Sometimes it's a salesperson, showing you features and how they will benefit you that gets you to pull the trigger.
The Emotional Decision to Spend Money
The reason I hold sales in such esteem is that there is nothing more valuable to people than time and money. Time is the one commodity that once we use it we can never get it back. Think about it, once a second has come and gone, it will never come back again. It will be devoted to memory and that is where it will stay until the end of your life.
Now considering that people generally spend a great percentage of their time awake involved in work of some kind to make money, that is a great investment. The money itself from work can be made and lost. However, the time it took to get that money, that is something that you will never have again. Which is why so many people take time to consider their options before making large purchases. They will look on line at reviews, they will comparison shop, they will look all over the place for the best price they can find or the cheapest version of a particular product and they will not buy until they've exhausted all their avenues for success.
Which is why a salesperson, a good sales person, can make contact with the person on an emotional level. They can get the person to see past the cost of the object, past the money they'd have to spend or the hours of work they'd have to put in to make that money again. They can get that person to see the joy they will get from driving their new car, the money they'd save overall on the price of gasoline for that car, the money they'd save from having to take their old car to the shop again and again for repairs. They disconnect you from your thoughts of wasted time and money and connect you to thoughts of joy and thoughts of pleasure from owning the item right now.
Writing your own paycheck
I've said this all the time, "no matter what the economy is doing, no matter the product or the competition, no matter the company or business, if you can get people to buy something right now, today, and it's not the cheapest thing on the market, you will always be able to make money and have a job..."
If money were limitless, then there would be no need for salespeople. People would be buying things, and companies would be happy. They could simply hire clerks to ring people up and all would be great.
Unfortunately, for most of us, money is not limitless. As previously stated, people work hard for their money. Therefore if you can get them to part with it at will, you will always be able to write your own paycheck. Telemarketing companies can charge companies in the range of $20-$25 per hour for their services. Now multiply that times 50 to 100 agents, over the course of a 16 hour calling window and that is literally thousands of dollars a day. Some of you may be thinking, "but how can they do this? Why would someone pay $25 an hour for a person to call people all day?"
The answer is simple, because of results. Because call centers can touch mass amounts of people and cause them to make buying decisions in the hundreds per day. If you can get past the initial "take me off your call list..." and build their interest and convince them to say yes. That consumer may be using the product you are selling, the service your company provides, or the supply your company can fulfill for the next 5 to 10 years. Think of that, a customer purchases a credit card and pays $100 to $1000 in interest over the course of the next 5 years, it's worth the $5 they paid for that phone call you made to sell the customer. If you can make someone change their mind or open their mind over the phone, you will always have a job, call centers are always hiring and if you don't like the one you are at, move to the next, tell them you understand how to hear buying signs, how to close a sale, and you will be on the phones for them in the next 10 minutes.
So yes, being able to sell, particularly when times are hard, will give you the opportunity to work when many other people are struggling to find jobs. Just find a call center, a car lot, or a door to door sales company and you can always find work.
Why Salespeople are much maligned
So even with all the aforementioned thoughts on sales people, the good things that they can do and the ability to earn money, they are still regularly abused by ordinary citizens and even those who make the products they sell. The sales person is the typical goat to be "thrown under the bus."
In the world where, "the customer is always right," then of course the sales person would be at fault when the customer wasn't happy. Which is why I've often told salespeople that by cutting corners and not fully selling a consumer on what they are getting will simply lead to cancellations and buyers remorse. It will make you look bad in retrospect. Bad to your employer, bad to the customer, possibly bad to whatever legal bodies if the law was violated, if something was not told to the customer that it's illegal for them not to know.
So it's important that sales people have that integrity to understand that the numbers game is often in your favor. For every person you think you have to force to buy or lie to in order to manipulate them into purchasing, there are 10 more out there you can talk to that won't need that lie or won't need such a high level of manipulation. Sometimes it's important to just let someone go. Plant the seed and wait for it to come to maturity. If it's a product or service that is really in someone's best interest, then they will buy it eventually.
With that said, it's important for you to understand the hard no versus the soft one. Sometimes people are just saying no to you, not to your product. As said in the movie Boiler Room, "tell me you don't like my fuckin necktie, but don't tell me you can't put together 2,500 bucks." That statement goes for a large $2500 purchase to a small $3 increase to supersize your fast food meal. People may not want to part with money more than they don't want the product that you are trying to sell. In essence, it isn't what you are trying to sell, it's the fact that it's their money they don't want to give up that is the true issue at hand. As a salesperson, we have to understand this and overcome the objection. We have to hype up the product in order to let the consumer know it's a sound investment of their hard earned money and will be more satisfying to own and not a waste of their valuable resources.
Unfortunately it is this never die attitude, this need to change someone's mind, to turn that no into a yes that has created the image of the "pushy sales person. It is this desire to succeed and not take no for an answer that causes some people to feel embarrassed when asked at a family barbeque, "what is it you do?" It causes them to say, somewhat meekly, "I'm in marketing," or "I'm in customer service." I think they should take pride in what they do, not be afraid to tell family, friends or loved ones, "I'm a sales person."