Posted by: peterhact | February 11, 2010

Sales 101 for me, anyway

When i started selling, it wasn’t in the computer industry, it was in a little store that smelt of oranges, and sold Art, and Gems. Funnily enough, it was called ArtGems. It was in a new complex in Hall, and was surrounded by other new stores, with interesting people and products. I really enjoyed helping people buy things in that store, and the owner, Pat Walker was a very good teacher. She taught me a few fundamentals, that i have used even to this day. Most people buy things because they are drawn to them, either by its appearance, or because they feel connected to it. They don’t care what it will do for them, it is all about their initial attraction.

fast forward to my first computer sales job, for computech. I sold to the hardest market at the time, which was government, and I was a lad of 21 years old. I sold a lot while I was there, not because it sounded great on paper, but because I was listening, and I formed some great relationships with my customers. I was probably one of the youngest sales people in canberra at the time, but I loved my job, and wanted to see how far it would take me. Unfortunately, I had a problem, actually, two. I was developing a drinking habit, and a gambling habit. added to that, i was smoking and I was starting to slide away from the job and into the oblivion that arrogance fueled by alcohol was creating. Basically, I lost the lot.

It took me a while in retail at Harvey norman to work out where I went wrong, and I approached the mainstream ICT community again after hitting rock bottom. This time, I had a plan. I was going to get a job in account management, but I wanted to understand the backend processes first. I worked for Approved Systems, a really good reseller, and learnt as much as I could about account management from my peers, some giants in the industry like Pat Kelly, Bill Murphy, Ralph Scott, Chess Krawczyk. These guys helped me understand what was required from me and from the company.  I moved into an account management role of sorts, looking after the Industry Associations, and was poached by Southmark – to be their Apple representative and sales support. This was the grounding that I needed. I knew nothing about sales support, and even less about the internal system used at Southmark. My big break came in the form of a guardian angel, a really tough one, who was a big softie if you got to see it. Robyn Nancarrow took me under her wing. I am eternally grateful for the insight she provided me, the assistance, the encouragement. when Southmark merged with Fujitsu, I was retrenched.

This ensured that i knew what reality was. I have to point out, this is going somewhere.

I worked for PC Connections, then back into a big player – CSC as sales support again, then to Harris Technology as an Account Manager, then to OPC, then to Express Data, where I am now.

That, in a nutshell is my IT Industry experience.  17, no, 18 years…

Now for the other sales jobs, that you may not know about…

I worked for a door to door company, commission only, traveling around ACT / NSW selling of all things, Torches and calculators. Not an easy sell by any stretch of the imagination. But I did well.

I worked for an insurance company or two, one not so good, one a market leader, and got to see the differences between a script and free discussion in sales.

I was a kitchen hand and worked on a bay marie – serving food. this is, funnily enough, the easiest selling job i have ever had.

What did I learn from all this? what is the secret to selling well?

here are my fundamentals that i still use.

1. Thou Shalt not Lie – Honestly, the biggest mistake a sales person can make. Lie, and you will be found out. And then, your name is mud. People you never heard of will be talking about you, and it is never positive. The only way to save yourself is to work really hard at redemption, and that can take many years to do.

2. Thou shalt not steal – There are two types of theft, stealing from the company usually springs to mind, that is just dumb. The other is found in the hearts of the arrogant ambitious sales person – “I could look after that account far better than the person currently looking after it, I would be hitting target if I had that account…” You have accounts given to you, or taken away from you by your manager. No-one else. To covet another account is leaving your accounts out in the breeze for someone else to get. Focus on what you have, not what someone else has.

3. Thou shalt admit when thou don’t know – If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Try to find the answer for the client.

4. Thou shalt treat the customer as one of your family – Not literally, but how you would treat them if they were your brother or sister. with respect and honesty. I class most of my clients as my friends, when I am at work. The friendships extend to a couple outside of work, but that is after many years of engagement with them.

5. Thou shalt ask for help when you need it – If you are in trouble, snowed, unable to meet deadlines, ask for help. If you feel you need training in a product or service, ask for help. Asking for help is better than failing because you didn’t.

6. Thou shalt LISTEN – says it all.

7. Thou shalt pay Attention to Number 6. – PAY ATTENTION!! LISTEN!!

8. Thou shalt help the customer understand the proposal – if the proposal is in your own eyes a thing of beauty, remember that the person reading it may have no clue about the technology, the jargon and what it is you are trying to achieve for them. If they are interested, sit down with them and go through the proposal so that they completely understand. Some instances this isn’t an option, but always ask if there is a chance you can discuss what you have submitted with the client.

9. Thou shalt treat the customer with dignity and respect – don’t badmouth the client. ever. telling another client about how bad the first one is in your patch may end badly. They may know each other. Aaaah!

10. Thou shalt have fun! – at the end of the day, sales is fun, if you make it fun. Enjoy yourself. Don’t stress out about things you cannot sort out, accept that you will have bad days, but always try to be positive.

I have read a few books over the years, some of which have stuck in my memory – worth a look if you can find them.

The power of positive thinking – Rev NV Peale

Sucking the Marrow out of Life – John Maclean

One minute salesman

The success system that never fails – W Clement Stone

Thus endeth the lesson….

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