My Personal Sales Primer
Although I started my career in the Navy and then into the private sector with a more technical technology based background, over the past 5-6 years I have made the transition into the sales world first with inside and now into outside and customer facing account manager responsibilities through the sales cycle. At first I was nervous to a degree—although confident in myself and able to deliver a presentation and proposals, the idea of “slamming product” to me harkened visions of the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman from the ‘70s or ‘80s or snake-oil salesmen on the midways and at carnivals in days of yore.
Sales can be a daunting prospect—there are timelines, goals, numbers, forecasts, expectations, and immense pressure to close year over year, month to month, and even day by day. However as I get more plugged into the ecosystem, there truly is no one absolute truism or a “one-size-fits-all” approach to sales. Just like personalities, there are many different styles and approaches to sales and it is so important to find techniques and strategies that are tailored and fit one’s own unique personality.
For me that approach has been to do your homework first on a company or organization. My father has been notorious and very helpful over the years to my brothers and sister and even our friends and at times significant others in job searches, resumes, and more specifically the interview process. Indeed, we call him affectionately, “Yoda Dad.” One of his best pieces of advice is to research a company or organization heading into the interview. The same applies to sales. “Oh I see that your university has a new college of engineering, what are you doing for an eLearning strategy?” Or, “I see that your company recently acquired XYZ manufacturing what are you doing for a unified communication approach?”
The most successful thing that I have found is to be genuine and authentic and understanding. Get to know your customer but from a heartfelt perspective where you truly understand how they tick, what is important to them, what makes up their organizational culture and how they fit into that structure and in a way that connects on a more (but not too) personal level. Most importantly facilitate conversation and points/applications to think about but LISTEN. Understand the organizational culture and makeup. Understand where there are pain points. Offer suggestions that will not only save the company money but ease your contacts’ burdens in their own job (whether it is IT, HR, Finance, Operations, etc) as well as the organization at large. I try to work every day to work on the small things so that the big things really will take care of themselves over time. Be that trusted advisor, and eventually those end of quarters/end of year pressure sales will not be so important and with time a thing of the past.