1 marca 2010
Everyone is a salesman sometimes

If there is one thing that I really dread, it is taking on the role of salesman. It is something that has always seemed such foreign territory to me, not only because I automatically feel like some kind of a telemarketer (with all due respect for this profession), but also because it is something that does not go well with my personality.

Somehow through the years of my professional development, I had managed to avoid extensive practicing of my sales skills - but not this time.

My company undertook a project that required extensive researching and ‘selling' of the idea. As a result, we had to make a lot of phone calls and hold meetings to get people's opinions on the subject and initially sell this concept to potential partners and clients. Okay, I must admit, I could have dumped the work on junior colleagues, but this project was particularly interesting to me and I wanted to get involved.

So there I was, confronting my old sales demons. I doubt that I am alone in thinking that selling, whatever the product, is a difficult thing to do. And not very often does the product sell itself - you have to work on it.

So what do you do if you are not the world's greatest salesman, but you still have to sell? Here are some tips that may be useful:

1. First of all, remind yourself that everyone is selling something all the time - companies, management boards, CEOs, politicians, designers, movie stars, sportsmen - so you are not alone in feeling like a pushy peddler.

2. It is not intimidating only for you. Many of us don't like it, but live with it.

3. Get prepared. As with everything we do, the better you are prepared, the more relaxed and confident you will feel. You may not be comfortable with this new role at first, but being prepared will make it easier and more enjoyable for all parties involved. To achieve that:

a. Collect all the information you may need. Know your product well.

b. Know your potential customer or recipient well. Try to establish the best time to call them; arrange to make a presentation at a time convenient for the client; don't try to sell anything on a Friday evening when everyone just wants to go home and relax. Do your potential clients want you to be brief or do they need more information? Do they prefer written materials or will an oral presentation be sufficient?

c. Know what to say and how to say it. Prepare some notes if necessary; adjust your speech or presentation to circumstances and have respect for other people's time; say what needs to be said and no more. Don't bore others with repetitive thoughts.

d. Identify the strongest points of anything you sell and then learn how to present them or argue them if necessary.

4. What is the worst case scenario? Once we define what is the worst that can happen, we can relax a bit. Usually the worst is no more than hearing ‘Sorry, we're not interested'.

5. Befriend your enemy. Try to find something positive and enjoyable about selling. There is always some kind of benefit from anything we do in life, even from the least enjoyable things.

6. Finally, practice. Practice makes the master and it really is the key to success. We may not become fonder of selling, but at least we will be professional ... and more relaxed.

Three weeks on I still get tense when people I call put me on hold or ask me to call them later (a codeword for ‘never'). But I did survive the experience, learnt a lot, and actually got much better in the selling business. So bring on the vacuum cleaners and kitchen knives: customers, here I come!

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