I never intended to be in sales for all my years. But, what was supposed to be a temporary task while taking some time off from school have made me a career out of it and I work full time into sales. From pharmaceuticals, to financial services to packaged ERP, Enterprise software to Cloud-based IT solutions and CPG, selling products/services have always made me more interesting life relationships and career progressions that I never learnt so much in my early stages of my career. This blog was only intended to share those lessons and help wherever I can to enhance, develop the natural talent within yourselves.
What is SALES? (To a SDR)
What's the definition of sales, from a sales leadership perspective? Let's define sales. It’s plainly an exchange of any commodity/services for money as per a dictionary. A better one might be to transfer (goods) or rendering (services) towards purchase. Or, we can also use the term 'dispose off' a commodity above the purchase price. The last definition, is purely out of desperation, perhaps due to factors that affect a sale, like – customer asks for more features at a very less price.
The second factor that makes 'disposing' more pronounced is "free consulting". People use you when required, and never pay you back for your time, and it’s more a common trend these days. When it comes to development/design, a lot of consultants are not paid for their work. Their work ends up in the hands of competitor for RFQs. In short, it’s never always as simple to earn a dime. One struggles hard to do sales, and its wise people respect that effort. In short, sales is a process of communicating "value".
Let's go the root of sales. Sales in the word was coined as sometime in approx. pre-1050AD, taken from the norse word "sala", or proto-germanic "salo", and swedish "salu", and danish "salg", PIE- proto indo european - "sal" (which meant to grasp, get, or take!).
The Roman soldiers used to be paid in salt. Interestingly the greens the Romans used to have was pretty bitter. And, when they mixed salt, it worked better. This is the origins of the word 'salad', the root being salt. Back then, salt was a commodity like barn cereals, and the demand for salt was more in land-locked areas as making salt was difficult around these places, plus salt was more necessary for livestock, horses et all.
The word salary is derived from the world "salt", and if you ever heard the expression 'worth the salt', or 'earning their salt', it more resonates to the the meaning of "value". Value is what you derive in sales. And, in sales, it’s not necessarily the question of money, but if the transaction was worth-its-value.
FACT: Alibaba's singles day sales hit 31.82 billion last week!
One of the key things that you do as a sales person is prospecting. You look around for veins of gold, some fish to catch, people to buy your stuff. It’s hard, but also the first step in sales. If you are into sales development, and believe your company will hand over your golden leads, you might be wrong. Here's few questions – Have you ever interviewed someone for a position. Have you ever looked for a date? Have you ever shopped for anything? In each of these above steps, you are simply prospecting.
Prospecting is looking for a match - In case one, it could be a husband/wife, or best employee for your business, or check-out which products are worth its price, value and discounts. You "reach-out" too many, and end up choosing one between a lot of options, and that's a wise lesson. Congrats, you are into sales, and you didn't even know it. Ever tried to convince your kid, an interaction that makes him/her do something, like yard work, giving those allowances, not buying an ice-cream, but placing a bargain for one? That’s a sales negotiation. We are involuntarily prospecting, seeking options, understanding people, recognizing talents and more in a more subconscious state. Sales is more about employing methods to sell a product, a service.
Ever wondered why it is easy to convince a kid? When you don't know much about something, your confidence levels are all-time low. This asymmetrical knowledge makes the person holding the high end of the sales rope, gain more vantage or upper-hand. Often the people in streets, used this advantage to rip-off people selling medicinal oil. And, that became the expression 'selling snake-oil'.
When few don't know something, few enterprising people used that ignorance to their advantage. This is not something new. Ecommerce stores use your laziness to their advantage. Food-delivery apps use your gluttony to their advantage. The problem with sales is all more about trust. And, to earn it one has to involve a lot into the process of getting himself ahead in every deal. How does one convince their client into buying a car? Obviously you learn about the mileage, the factors, tech specs, the ground clearance, and numerous number of advantages the car has over another.
If someone approaches you telling that you can save a lot of money buying product A, over B, they are obviously stupid. People are inherently curious, and today more of them get overt suspicious and want to prove they have a lot of intel. It’s pretty insulting for every salesman in an air-conditioned showroom to see their prospects referring to prices off the internet when they are buying a product.
Everyone has the right to be suspicious, but you need not paint everyone with the same brush. In any of these cases, we all created sales situations, and we can't complain too much about it. Over the course of time, information is now cheap, and its easy to get. But too much information obviously hurts relations in the process. One has to sacrifice a lot of time, efforts to convince their product/service is good, but people end up being flip-flops choosing the other side of the river bank for greener grass.
Sales in today's perspective
Sales is today more about seeking out to people who need our product/services. You can have everything in life that you want, 'if' you will just help enough other people get what they want, pretty honorable work. Sales is what you do for your clients, and not sell them. You help people use what you sell in sales. Be truly interested in people. People buy from people, and refer more people more if they like your product/services. If your conventional textbook sales is more about finding a desperate buyer, don't. Think about their lives and help them with value.
Most of the sales conversations usually begins with a question, an intent, and that's pretty much adds to the perspective of who knows better. Try something interesting. "Here's an interesting fact! ... "And, you begin your conversation. In sales, people want to win, or at least have a perspective of power. When you talk a deal, it’s more of a primal conformation and people always love wrestle back at your jabs to grab a cherry on the top!
When it comes to conversations, you control who has the 'perceived' power and use that knowledge well to negotiate. When facts are on your side, questions are more persuasive of your statements. Your knowledge is best used when you use it to your best advantage. In an sales exchange, its more about power-sharing.
Questions usually give a perception of demanding a way of thinking. But, questions alone is not going to win your decision making. You can channel a vision, but not demand selling your product. Asking too many questions is recommended, but not agreeable in all cases where you confront the buyer asking him/her too many direct answers. As a sales man you can acknowledge, agree, ally or align with the buyer. The perception you wish to share must be shared in a non-conflict way to recognize your customer as the king!
The reason we stress on the word "non-conflict" is that in any encounter, a sales call, or 1:1 handshake you reduce your perceived power when you wish to get a sale. In sales, your customer wants to hold on the call long enough to make them believe you are into their zone, agree with their math, and believe what they pay is right. The big problem is too much information ends up being a nose-pick. It’s more about solving their immediate problems, than what features you provide in the deal.
Clients have their own zone of problems, and they want everyone to put on their shoes to understand their problems and issues. They demand free consulting or largely discounted prices with a condition that they will walk away if their demands are not satisfied. Their perception is a not always the actual reality and this is often reffered as scope-creep! Reminds the film 7 samurais - "The farmers aren't really poor". A good sales man knows how to steer away from such low-ballers and time wasters. Remember time is a great asset.
Act/assume you are the one with the least power. But remember, that does not stop you from taking back what you have lost. While they may be good at calling the shots, you'd understand what is the script going on, and that's how shrewd you have to be.
Give your client a reason to believe you understand the issues. It gives them a perspective that you listen them well. Remember, there is an opportunity, and there is a problem. Find a middle ground to understand and travel into their zone to recognize the problems. But, don't get too much emotional about their problems unless they are your paying clients. Humans are natural born mimickers. You end up copying people's attitudes, and that should regrettably avoided. Read about body language in Allan Pease's book, and that gives you an insight into what's really a customer telling us without talking.
What are the things that you typically see from sales?
#1 is Commission based sales for one, they are quota based (get dollars, or you are fired). This could be annual, or in pipeline percent, how many deals you end up closing, or that sales which are active. Average sales person usually are good in front of people, might be bad or poor perhaps with whatever they are selling.
#2 is Retention, The attributes of a salesman is basically to grow accounts or retain them. In a sales perspective, you sell a product like car, and its annual maintenance plans along with the product. Third is target acquisition. Act of acquiring accounts. These would perhaps be cold calls, and prospecting.
#3 is Being Independent – The usual traits of a sales person is that, they donot work with others in a venture they work. They mostly handle all the sales, and encourage brokerage to help their clients land a better deal. Usually all accounts are handled by independent departments, but when you encourage a sales person to understand communication process within each of these accounts, it enables your organization grow.
#4 is Hunter Attitude – Working with sales people, they basically work alone. They are confident, and lack of humility makes them alienate other team members.
#5 is Rolodex - Resource for customer success. The basic friction between sales rep and a company ends up in the rolodex. A sales team takes a lot of effort to curate contacts, weigh them wise and make sales independently out of these connects. The problem often ends up with lead ownership. Who owns what? Not many sales representatives would be happy to use existing client database, or share their leads with the company owing the fact that it took them too much effort to earn their connects. Let's face it - Who wants them to put out of job?
A typical sales engineer in a company are basically programmers. They usually work in development, research, design, bug-fixing, and could be creating new features, new releases, or Tier3 support to their existing customers.
One the common things you can spot a sales engineer is quite opposite to a 100% talking sales guy. Sales engineers are rarely used sales resources. You can spot their titles mostly like developer, manager, and programmer. They are technically proficient unlike their other sales representatives. But, they could be poor and unexperienced with people. Talking about compensation, they are not performance compensated. But, it takes these perennials to transform a company and its growth curve.
In the perspective of value addition, those in sales management are competent to train VARs (Value added resellers). The bottom line about VARs is that they sell multiple products to their clientele, and sales is all about perspective. A VAR can decide which product is good for their clients, and benefit their sales.
In conclusion, a sales manager is good at functional, people level, go-getter. They end up crafting proposals, RFQs. In short they are "bartenders" to the foot soldiers. They handle a lot of sales development representative’s perspective and direction. This helps each SDR them provide a unified and coherent experiences to each of the prospects they talk to. A sales manager is an outstanding public speaker, a good sales trainer and understands how sales works and have good relations with management team. Last words - Sales Managers have more skin-in-the-game when their clients offer a really good compensation/bonus, and put their best foot forward work for you.
While a sales engineer is proficient technically and mostly works on data, analytics. They are mostly into pre-sales, and work on the product/service demos. Obviously, a sales engineer is comfortable in many programming languages and exhibits technical confidence. Responsible for creating whitepapers, proposals, web content, graphics, click-funnels and everything related to the product/services. One advantage of a being a sales engineer is that everyone works with you. You interact with marketing, finance, legal, field sales, sales management, customer success and even client-support.
Bridging the gap between these two is life of a sales consultant. As a sales consultant, identify and qualify your buyer. Explain them what you are selling. Remember, everyone needs to sell.
Keep selling. Stay motivated, Always!