Time, sales …. WOOF

Sadly there was no large bag of cash under the tree for me this Christmas, merely a male grooming kit, some mints and a pine needle straight through my novelty slippers, the ones that light up and play Silent Night – to all my family, a really, really big thank you. And so one returns to ones desk, organises the bills into three foot piles, and turns one’s thoughts to…..SALES. We need more of them, they need to be more profitable, more sustainable, and we need them yesterday, but what to do?

Now I’m no Victor Kayam, I’m unlikely to make millions with my genius sales techniques; although on the upside I won’t be buying a company that makes a device to de-fuzz your cardigan. On that basis let’s begin by looking at what I’m fairly sure are the ‘what not to do’s’ in the sales department, although I confess now, this is merely opinion.

The unnecessary use of business speak. This seems guaranteed to disturb any sane customer – if you find that you have run an idea up the flag pole and it has failed to fly, if it has gone south, fallen out of bed and refuses to wash its face; if you have been forced to park the Porsche, if your skill ball is in the long grass, or worse still you are stuck behind the eight ball, it may be time to re-evaluate your logistics and your solutions. If you insist on using business speak though, it is important to get it right – don’t as one of our customers recently did ask for a ‘ball pool figure’.

And this is merely the beginning of a worrying trend that can only end in one dark place…..the irrelevant use of Latin. You may have the best product in the world at the cheapest price, but if your modus operandi vis a vis the quid pro quo comes up in conversation, unfortunately I will find myself, reductio ad absurdum, unable to buy from you.

While we’re about it, can I mention a personal hatred of mine? Because I would like to warn against an epidemic malaise that has also crept into the world of sales, namely the moronic interrogative. This is the ascending ending of words initially transmitted in the mid nineties by people returning from their Australian holiday. Now everything is a question; if you tell me that a T-shirt costs £1.00, I’m not sure if it does, or if you’re asking me if I know how much it costs – makes it harder to know what to buy.

So hopefully we’ve lost a few affectations, now what should we avoid when talking to customers?

The telephone is a tough one, and there are of course companies still using it as a vital sales tool – it might just be me, but calling up and asking if they can ‘speak to the owner of the business’ seems a certain way to get the phone slammed down faster than if you were heavy breathing. In the unlikely event you do take that call and say ‘Yes, I am indeed the owner of the business, and I find myself with a surplus of cash I am desperate to spend on a new phone system, preferably a really expensive one that allows me to monitor calls for training purposes (?)’ it seems to go wrong anyway. One of two things may then happen – at best you’ll get someone from the ‘lost the will to live department’ reading from a card, at worst, and I can hardly write it, you’ll get the stepped sales technique. You know the one, where they say, ‘If I said to you I could treble your sales in the next week, would you be interested’ (to which you’re supposed to say ‘Yes’), ‘And if I told you we could achieve that at no extra cost to you or your company, would that sound good’ (‘er, Yes’), ‘So I must be right in thinking you would like to buy the Get Loaded for Nothing Software we have on special offer from the agent who miraculously happens to be in your area right now’….’Well actually NO, because if I want to get talked to like a complete idiot I’ll go and see a school leaver in the local computer retailer.’

There are other obvious ones to avoid, like appearing for sales meetings with trousers that are 2 inches too short – this isn’t fair really and we should all be able to express ourselves as we see fit, but trying to sell fashionable fitted T-s while wearing a pair of ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />
Coco the Clown’s old strides is tricky.  Whipping out your holiday snaps and incessantly talking about yourself can also be bad news – I know of 3 T-shirt printers who have installed spy holes in their doors to avoid a particular rep, who can talk at length about realistic replica military figurines. And there is of course  the classic ‘Well I would never ever criticize the competition, it really is bad form, but that lot down the road are an absolute shower of…….’ 

Still, top marks to  these sales Gurus for enthusiasm. I watched one once erect his Nobbo board in a ‘let’s inspire the sales team’ meeting – brandishing a black marker pen he flambuoyantly illustrated the axis of an important looking graph. He then said ‘Time…Sales…’ and drawing a red line skywards with a pelvic thrust shouted ‘WOOF’, thereby depicting how successful they would be – they were unfortunately bankrupt the following month.

But what then do we do to get it right?

I’ve been racking my brains, trust me my wage bill has gone up, but apart from the avoidance of the above, all I come back to is the blindingly obvious basics – always returning calls; getting quotes out as fast as possible; honouring those quotes when it comes to invoicing; listening carefully to questions and answering them accurately; always taking responsibility for mistakes, especially when it’s not our fault; genuinely thinking about how to make potential customers more money; always being available without pressurising, playing the numbers game – sooner or later they’ll buy, and more than anything, and this is just my opinion, being the kind of salesperson the customer would be happy to have a few beers and a Mexican with, and then get stuck in a lift.

Is there more to it than that, are there any excellent techniques?…..’Good morning caller and thank you oh so much for choosing Sincere Industries International. You’re through to Sinclair and I’ll be your sales advisor today………and can I facilitate any other issues you may have Mr Patronised, no, in which case it only remains for me to say, thank you for being part of my Wednesday…’

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