A PRIMER ON SALES
I dedicate this book to my Grand Mother, Smt. Geeta Devi. She has been and still is the inspiration for my reading.
I used to call her “A Walking Dictionary” as she could tell me the meaning to every word I enquired from her.
Though she was married to a very conservative family many decades ago, she has the guts, courage and above all knowledge to translate three books into Bengali. The books are Barrets of Wimple Street – , Great Hunger and Love is Eternal by Irwin Stone.
Though I am not even near her by any standards and in any way, she is my guiding star behind this endeavour.
CPBA, CPVA, Trimetrix, E DISC, 4MAT
Consultant “Life Skills”
Flat 2D, 370/1 R N Guha Road,
Dum Dum, Kolkata – 700074
SELLING – TOPICS
1) Introduction to Sales as a profession.
- Qualities required as a Sales professional.
- Positives and Negatives about this profession
- Difference between Marketing & Sales.
- Paradigm shift in sales from 70’s to 21st century
2) What is Selling?
3) Selling a concept and a product – are they different?
4) Different types of sales men.
5) Some preparations before we take the plunge
6) Steps in Selling 1: “S P A N C O”
7) Steps in Selling 2 – “A I D A S”
8) Setting Targets – the SMART way
9) Route Plan and Beat Plan
10) Some Sales Reports.
11) Different types of customers.
12) The first few crucial moments in a sales call
13) What is probing?
14) Conventional Selling V/s Consultative Selling
15) The Art of Listening – the most abused and least used
16) Understanding Buying Signals and using Trial Close.
17) Different types of Closing:
- Assumptive Close
- “Yes” close
- Step by Step close
- Small order close
- Alternative close
- “Ask for it” close
18) Ensuring customer satisfaction
Chapter 1: Introduction to Sales as a Profession
Buck Rogers in his very popular book, “The IBM Way” had stated, “The sales man is the most important person in any organization and should be treated as such”.
This actually sums up the Sales Profession. Let us go slightly deeper. I am going to make a motherhood statement: “Everybody lives by selling something everyday.”
Surprised? Well it is true. Let me prove it to you.
Let us go back to our childhood days. Say we are 4 – 5 year old. I am sure, you would remember the time when you wanted an ice cream and your mother was not ready to heed to your request as you had caught a cold or had a sore throat. What did you do?
Initially you pleaded (like I did), then raised your voice a little, again a little and at last started creating a tantrum (howling and crying and creating quite a scene, much to the embarrassment of your mother, in front of a crowd).
So what did your mother do to appease you?? Bought you the ice cream!!! So you actually sold your desire of having the ice cream.
I am not at all suggesting or even remotely indicating that you should do the same today if you want to sell something!! (Don’t even try it!!!).
A professional singer sells his or her voice. A professional speaker sells his ideas and his voice. And if you are reading this book, probably I have been able to sell you through the cover, or the preface, or through the title of this book.
Before going further, let us imagine a situation where there are different types of products, like TVs, Washing Machines, Air Conditioners, Microwave Ovens etc stacked up neatly in a large departmental store. You have to go in look for the right product (according to you), pay the amount at the counter and come out with the product.
Do you think this departmental store would do a Great business? May be yes but most probably no!! And why? Because there are no sales person guiding and assisting you!!
This little introduction would probably interest you to go ahead.
Yes Sales is one of the most paying, rewarding and fulfilling profession, both financially and intrinsically. I have been a sales man all my life and love every moment of it. I believe, ones a salesman always a salesman.
But for the sales man products would have remained in the go downs, production would not continue, employees would not get their salaries. In one word business would come to a stand still.
So sales man is that genre who meet all kind of prospects, some friendly and some other wise, in rain and shine, heat and cold. Convinces them after clarifying their objections and ultimately, when the prospect decides to buy the product by placing the order and giving him the cheque, the sales man has literally won a battle. And this battle goes day in and day out for the sales man.
Because the sales man brings home the sale and the green bucks (I mean the money), the business runs and prospers.
So are you interested to join this band of GO GETTERS!!! Good I hear a resounding YES!!!!
Now let us discuss what are the qualities required to be a part of this band of brothers.
Qualities Required as a Sales Professional:
I am reminded of a story. It goes like this. There was a temple being constructed in a town. There were many stone cutters who were chipping the marbles to pieces. One passerby asked one stone cutter, “ What are you doing?”
The stone cutter looked at him, shrugged and answered, “ I am just cutting these marble blocks sir. I get Rs. 20/- every day for this.”
The passerby asked another stone cutter the same question. The second stone cutter replied, “ There is some construction happening here and I am cutting these marble blocks and I make Rs. 20/- per day”.
The passerby asked the 3rd stone cutter. The stone cutter looked up smiling and said, “You know sir, there is a temple being constructed here and I am cutting these marble blocks which would go a long way in making the temple look beautiful. I am contributing in a small but significant way towards it.”
Out of the three stone cutters, who would you think would do the best work? The first, second or third stone cutter?
The answer is of course the Third stone cutter. Do you know why?
Because he is working with a Passion, Dedication, Concentration and Focussed Attention.
These are some of the qualities (and a few more) that is required to be a part of the Sales Profession.
a) Extrovert: The person should have an Extrovert nature. He should be ready to go out and meet new people.
b) Accept Challenges: The person should be ready to go beyond the “comfort zone” and stretch himself to go beyond what he thinks possible.
c) Target Oriented: He should be focused towards the target given to him.
d) Organized: Should be organized in his work. He should plan his day so he could spend the day in the most productive manner.
e) Accept rejection: He should not get dejected when he is rejected. Please note NO means actually TO KNOW. We would be learning a lot of how to handle rejection in a short while.
f) Humor: He should be able to laugh and enjoy his work. One word of caution. It is good to joke, but bad to be termed as a joker. So should be cautious while cracking a joke or passing a humorous comment.
g) Positive Attitude: The person should be full of Positive Attitude. He should be ready to accept that every thing is not perfect and there may be failures. He should learn from the mistakes and learn from it and move forward. We would be dealing with Attitude in detail in a shortwhile.
h) Ability to communicate assertively: He should be able to assertively communicate with people. Should be able to speak clearly, slowly and confidently.
i) Ability to listen actively: He should be able to listen attentively without interfering.
j) Ability to create a Rapport: He should be able to create a friendly atmosphere in a group.
k) Courteous: He has to be courteous while speaking to the prospect.
l) Enthusiastic: This is one of the most important quality required. He has to be enthusiastic from morning till from one call to another call irrespective of the success of the call.
m)Presentable: Since you are meeting others, be sure you are presentable. By presentable we mean are you dressed for the occasion. Neat dress, polished shoes, clean nails etc.
n) Smart: When you are smartly dressed, your attitude also goes through a change.
- o) Articulate: Be specific and to the point while speaking.
p) Open to learning: He should also be open to learning and correct the mistakes he has made. After all everyone makes mistakes.
There could be many more as this list is not exhaustive.
EXERCISE – You can take the help of your parents or friends to help you with this exercise.
Do a self analysis to find out which of these qualities do you possess and which of these qualities need to be developed. Have it reconfirmed with your parent or a friend.
Now you can focus on the qualities which you want to develop and continue developing the qualities which you already have.
15 + Excellent
10 – 15 Very Good
5 – 10 Good
< 5 You may have to develop a lot to be a sales professional
As Oscar Wilde once said, “Experience is the name we give our mistakes.” He also said that the one thing people rarely lament are their mistakes; when you make a mistake you were in the game doing something. It might not have worked; but you were there, it was real, something happened, and you felt real and human.
If you do not share that point of view, and have a glass jaw where one hit knocks you out, sales and entrepreneurship are certainly not for you.
Tip: Sales people are like dogs; kick them and they come back again. Cats are like buyers, one bad look, and they are gone for good. Good sales people have to be more like dogs than cats.
The best writer on business is certainly Peter Drucker. His book Managing for Results remains a landmark and my Bible some 30 years after original publication. He gets most things right. The one area I have found myself disagreeing with is his conviction that good managers can be good entrepreneurs. My belief, and practical experience, is that good managers can be good entrepreneurs–but will they? Is their temperament suited for the job?
The exact same problem exists in sales.
Many people can do it; but will they? In this case, will you? Does your temperament permit you to do the nitty gritty job of selling versus the more elegant, but less useful task of managing or marketing? This is a boulder. You have to deal with this before starting to refine your talents. Otherwise you are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. As the Captain of the Titanic, you may have the skills, but are you paying attention to the warnings about the icebergs? Or do you believe you can out tough them? Or they just do not matter?
1. You must genuinely like and care about people. Today, people are experienced and worn out by all the sales pitches and ads machine gunned at them. They have become more skilled in evaluating the real from the phony. The first turnoff is if they feel the sales person or advertiser is not genuine or real.
If you go back to the examples of Palmer and Olsen of Digital, both of them were elite non-social types. They did not enjoy mixing with people. Palmer was known as a fashion plate; Olsen as a down home, red shirted Maine type. People were not their thing. If they would not sell, they had to let someone else try. The same goes for you.
Gerstener of IBM and Bill Gates of Microsoft may be doing a lot of things, but they obviously get a kick out of people. They like to mix it up. Gates even played golf with President Clinton! Gerstener loves to talk to people.
2. You have to be able to listen and re-evaluate based on new information received. A sales person is like a waiter. You go out with a menu and come back with a tailored, individual order. If one person likes steak and the another chicken, neither one is right or wrong. The same principles apply to dealing with customers; each has their own requirements. These needs are not right or wrong. It is especially not the function of the waiter, or sales person, to pass judgment on customer requirements. Far too many sales people spend time criticizing the issues raised by buyers instead of addressing them.
One reason French restaurants really never worked in the US is Americans do not like to be told what is right and what is not and be made to feel foolish because of their choices or the condescending attitudes of the French waiter type. All too many sales people come off like French waiters.
3. You should be quick, short, and respect their time. Nothing is respected by a buyer as much as brief, concise, documented presentations. Buyers number one complaint is that sales people do not have the facts. The number two complaint is that sales people take too long and do not get to the point. Nothing is remembered better than giving buyers the gift of their time back. Just because you have flown 3000 miles does not mean you should spend a long time on the sales call.
4. Stick to their needs not to your opinions; Knowledge is king. Keep “I” out of your presentation and put “you” in. This is not trivial. Learn their business; understand how your products or services could better their situation. Tailor your presentation accordingly. Some might view this as phony. Buyers acknowledge that, yes, this is an obvious tact; but they also state that it is all too rare and the sales people who do bother to scout the territory always make better recommendations. In other words, it is a blunt, boulder approach; but it works for both sides. Beware Veblen’s warnings–the obvious is OK and usually preferred!
5. Do not interrogate the buyer. Do your research in advance. They are not the library. If you have questions, call the library. The buyer should not be subjected to cross examination. It is not the inalienable right of the sales person to ask or the requirement of the buyer to answer. Questions usually frustrate and irritate the buyer; most want to just say, “Tell me your deal and get on with it.”
Tip: Never ask a question that the answer will not change a decision.
This advice is contrary to most sales advice. Most of that advice relates to trapping buyers with questions. Bad idea; overused; good sales people do not need it. Miller in Strategic Selling is an exception to this rule. He recommends sales people do their homework in advance and present their case accordingly.
Do not fall off the other side of the horse and never ask questions. Ask appropriate questions as a sign of respect and interest, but not as a means of entrapment and false empathy. Comments indicating you know about their business are good; I often get Annual reports of public companies that are prospective customers. I enjoy reading the chairperson’s letter. The good companies have a clear written mission; the bad ones do not. The best companies follow through on the leader’s comments; most do not.
6. Do not Demo unless required; then do so cleanly and quickly. Modern technology has a lot to answer for with regard to the assault on the senses. Tell the story; have a written presentation; wait for interest before demoing. Demo to close the order; do not launch into it. It tends to be a “me, me, look how smart I am/we are” thing. Be cautious here.
The first step in improving any high tech approach is de-teching the sales force. Stop the techno talk; people talk counts–what will all of this techno virtuosity do other than cost a lot of money, blow up, drive me nuts, require a lot of feed and caring, and make me the laughing stock of the company? Nice, clean facts are appreciated and remembered.
As Tom Hopkins says brilliantly in Selling, people buy with emotion and defend with logic. They want to be satisfied emotionally that this purchase is not just another dumb deal they should have passed on; they worry it is too good to be true; that it will cost a lot more than quoted. Use your facts to answer these key emotional questions. If you doubt the truthfulness of this, just think about your purchase of most big ticket things such as a car or a house. Didn’t you worry it was “too much,” you would “change your mind” later, there is a better “deal somewhere?” Your buyers are no different. Deal with these questions directly, not by trying to out-demo or out-smart them. That approach just raises the anxiety level of the buyer –“whoops, I am being taken again.”
7. Good Manners. Good manners are appreciated; if they ask you to have coffee, have it. As I get older I am starting to realize why many Indian tribes killed people who did not accept hospitality. Take your coffee black; it will endear you to the buyer. Do not hassle the receptionist, secretary, or assistant. Brush up on your manners. Think of your visit as going to a foreign country. Don’t be the ugly American. Fit in.
The pleasant, polite sales person is all too rare a phenomenon. Cut the jokes; most buyers can not remember the last funny one they heard. Watch out about crossing the line into personal subjects. Most buyers feel vulnerable enough without being questioned in this area. Well mannered people have the best luck in getting the second or third appointment.
8. Minimize or Eliminate Your Corporate Rulebook. God used just 10 Commandments to run the world. Do not add more for your customers. Be easy to do business with. Do not treat your customers as potential bad debtors. Check out whether you will sell them before you see them; no credit applications should ever be inflicted upon potential customers in this day and age. Enough information is available today to get a D & B (Dunn & Bradstreet report)on most customers; at a minimum, you should know a few vendors they buy from to check out credit if required. Casual inquiry can get their bank and a trade reference or two.
Credit Applications are a sorry institution to harass and put customers in their place. All of that information is available elsewhere. Once you get the customer’s first check you have access to all of it anyway. Do not be self-deceived; most credit managers do not do your firm any good. Otherwise, why the big bad debts. Big bad debts occur because credit managers do not check back on the story with your customer base. You do not lose money on new customers; you lose money on good customers that go bad–and the folks in credit did not pay attention. So don’t try to bail your credit department out by harassing prospective customers with forms.
Excellent examples of this credit manager failure are Pharmor and Ames. Both showed signs of huge problems 18 months before going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Find out customer needs; get the order written; and then fight with your own company to get the order approved. Do not waste time on jamming a rulebook down the customer’s throat. If you handle the first part all right, you can usually get the customer to conform to a few relatively minor rules, if you must.
9. Practice and refine your pitch. It is imperative you keep working to refine your presentation. Find out from buyers afterwards what worked and what did not; be careful about the analysis since a lot of success comes from emotion and that is both hard to describe and hard for people to admit they are susceptible to. Again, As Tom Hopkins says, “People buy with emotion and defend with logic.”
A simple example of this is brand loyalty to Coke or Pepsi. Taste tests show they are virtually the same and loyal users can not tell the difference. Yet, some of us are Coke (me, for example) and some are Pepsi (not me) drinkers. Emotions are tied up with even these seemingly smallest of decisions (although, I must admit, Diet Coke is a big deal to me).
10. Be Organized. Use a contact manager such as ACT!. Have your travel case packed; use the big salesperson type–it looks serious and there is always room for one more thing. Always have your data there so you can fill out the forms on the spot, close the deal, and get the order.
Again, back to Veblen. Most sales people like to look sleek with a small, thin briefcase. They never have the information required to complete the deal. Buyers love the information right there. As one buyer said to me as I pulled one thing after another out of my salesperson case, “Got a corn muffin in there too?” He loved the joke; told it often; and loved all the data I packed in the case. He especially liked it because I was the President of the company and thought enough of him to pack completely for the sales call. Do not let Veblen get to you here. Have the nitty gritty with you.
There are positives and negatives of everything in life and Sales Profession is no exception. So let us discuss the positives and negatives of Sales Profession.
|POSITIVES OF SALES PROFESSION||NEGATIVES OF SALES PROFESSION|
|1) It is totally Target Related||1) Work outside in the field – Hard work|
|2) Performance is totally Quantifiable – hence easily observable||2) Late hours|
|3) Incentives and promotion linked to performance only
|3) Prone to other vices like drinking etc|
|4) Reward and Recognition linked to performance||4) Unethical practice may occur|
|5) Ability to meet different types of people||5) Sacking due to non performance|
|6) A challenging profession||6) Become very aggressive even at home|
|7)||7) High Tension job especially during month ends|
Difference between Marketing & Sales:
Many times I have come across people who are confused with the terms Marketing and Sales. They feel that they mean one and the same. In reality they are totally different. This section would try to make the difference easy for you to understand.
The difference between Marketing & Sales could be best explained as a corollary – difference between Chicken and Chicken biriyani.
The chicken biriyani is the final outcome (product) which is the Sales, whereas a lot of ingredients, time and effort are required to make the biriyani delicious to the eaters. This is Marketing.
Marketing starts much before the product hits the market and ends much after the customer uses it.
Let me explain this difference with an example.
Godrej has launched a new range of Refrigerators recently under the name Eon. Though the Bio is the final product, the idea must have come in much earlier after years of studies done on the customer profile and what they expect from a fridge.
Initially the plans were drawn up, discussed, debated and then final Blue Print was drawn. This Blue Print is then given to the Technical Team for working out the viability and feasibility of the project.
The marketing team, along with an external agency does a market survey studying the market, competition (both present and imminent) and the possibility of acceptance of the product with the customers.
Based on the market survey feedback, a product goes through a series of iterations and modifications. The pricing, packaging, selling process are finalized.
At this juncture the sales team gets involved. The sales team now gets the sales process in place. Appoints distributors, dealers, merchandisers demonstrators etc.
Starts training these teams with relevant product information, strategies for selling and gets the team fully ready for action.
In the mean time the marketing team comes up with the promotional plans. Advertisements are flashed through the print and electronic media. The merchandisers, with the help of the marketing team, put up the promotional materials in all the distributors and dealers places. The sales team ensures that trade has sufficient products available.
The marketing team then launches the product with great Fan Fare and media blitz. Now the Sales Team works full throttle.
The work of marketing is only half done as of now. They now analyze the feedback of the promotions done and design more innovative and attractive promotional methods through schemes so as to Pull the customers to the dealer point to buy.
Only when the product is fully accepted by the customers and sales is happening as per plans, the marketing team can relax (for the time being). As the market is very volatile, both the marketing and sales team have to work in tandem to be one step ahead than that of the competitors.
Paradigm shift in sales from past to the present:
Let me begin by asking some questions. Are you the same what you were about 10 years back? Do you deal with your friends the same way as you dealt with them 10 years back? Do you spend your time the same way the way you spent your time 10 years back? Do you buy your clothes the same way you bought 10 years back?
The answers to all these questions is a big NO!!! So in that case should you sell the same way you sold 10 years back? The answers is again a NO!!
A lot of things have changed in these 10 years. With the advent of globalization, we are using many imported products, foreign travel is very common, imported cars are affordable due to easy instalment payment options. We are more aware about our rights and responsibilities.
About 10 years back, any person who had a “gift of the gab” used to be taken as a sales man (though a sales woman was rare). The focus of the sales man was only on Closing and pricing was a major objection. He used to talk talk and talk and expected the customer to listen.
Today the things have come a full circle. Today we expect the sales man to be a good listener, not a talker!! He is expected to focus on the customer’s requirement rather than only closing. He is more focused on sharing with the customer the benefits which his product would give him, not so much on the price.
The customer also is more interested to know how the product would help and benefit him and not only on the price he has to pay. In case the benefit is more important to him than the price, he is ready to buy it.
Today the sale is Consultative not only Casual talk. He is more of a consultant to the customer not merely a sales man.
It is more of SMART work than HARD work today.
The objective of this book is to make you a SMART sales person. So read on.
Career Progression in Sales:
All of us have a dream to be somebody in life. No one is satisfied with the position, the salary or the standard to living you are in today. In sales there are innumerable instances where a person has grown many times over not only in salary and the other perks but in designation as well.
What I am going to take you through now is the career progression of how a sales person can improve on his career and grow up in life. I have taken the career progression in general spanning various companies and products, though sometimes the nomenclature or the designation or even the time frame may differ. This is just an indication and would be more or less factual.
You would be interested in knowing how you can go up the ladder in sales. The following chart would give you some insights:
|SSE||SENIOR SALES EXECUTIVE|
|ASM||AREA SALES MANAGER|
|NSM||NATIONAL SALES MANAGER|
|VP – S||VICE PRESIDENT – SALES|
A person joins the sales profession as a SE. At this point in time, his area of operation is only his own target and its achievement. Usually he joins on a 6 months probation. Based on his performance and his efforts, he gets confirmed as a SE.
His performance is closely monitored and guided by his Manager. What is looked into is not only the performance, but his effort, his communication and convincing abilities, stress handling capabilities and finally his attitude, ethics and values.
In he is consistent in his performance and shows a managerial and decision making qualities, he is promoted to SSE. From SSE level he starts getting a team.
On very important thing has to be kept in mind while promoting a person from his present position. Not only should he have been performing much above expectations consistently month after month, he should be showing managerial, team building and decision making qualities as well.
There are many instances, where a SE was promoted as a SSE due to his performance, but since he did not have the requisite managerial qualities, his performance took a plunge. And in effect we had lost a good executive and now have a bad manager.
This should be the guiding principles while promoting anyone up.
You would notice, in case the sales person is performing consistently, he is getting promoted at regular intervals. On a broad spectrum, a SE could become a Sales Manager in about 4 years and a VP – Sales in about 26 years. Of course this is only an indicative figure and not fixed. Lot would depend from company to company, their policies and procedures, their Sales hierarchy etc.
As you grow up the ladder, your leg work reduces but your brain work increases many fold. For example as a SE you would only be concerned with your targets for that month or for that quarter, whereas as a SM, you would be looking at the over all Sales Strategy may be for an year. And as a VP you would be looking forward to the next 5 years.
So thinking strategically, logically and being a visionary becomes the most important qualities a manager should possess.
SOME IMPORTANT TERMS USED IN THIS BOOK
|Suspect/Cold call||First meeting with a person whom the sales person does not know|
|Prospect||A person who is remotely interested in the product/service|
|Hot Prospect||A prospect who is convinced and has taken a decision to buy with a committed date|
|Warm Prospect||A prospect who is interested but has not yet committed to buy|
|Cold Prospect||A prospect whose interest is at a low level.|
|Appointment||Time fixed for a meeting|
|Area Coverage||Area looked after the sales person.|
|Beat Plan||Plan in which a sales man covers an area.|
|Route Map||Route which the sales man would make to make his calls|
|Foot Rule Method of calls||
Logical method of making calls – the effective way
|Negotiation||Discussion regarding the price|
|Close||Closing the order – where the customer has decided to buy|
|Order||Where the customer has paid the amount for the product|
Let me end this chapter with another quotation, this time from a renowned Dramatist – Bernard Shaw: “Life is nothing but mutual pick – pocketing.”
To get something you have to give something for a price. And that is Selling for you.