I went to agricultural college and aspired to be a farmer. That wasn’t easy and so I ended up working in the sales team for a fertiliser manufacturer. I found this gave me the contact with the land I loved, together with the opportunity to help people with technical advice and quality products that did the job. That was in 1979 and really, I’ve been selling ever since.
Contrary to common belief, it’s not about being loud and extrovert, but about empathy and the ability to listen. You have to want to help people, by introducing them to ideas, products and services that will improve their situation. The good sales person makes sure they sell what makes a difference. The bad salesperson thinks only of meeting their own needs by hitting their target.
Nothing happens unless you make it happen. Selling skills can help you in every aspect of life, from relationships, to managing the expectations of friends, getting on at work and of course, selling products and services too.
Always view your sales offer through the eyes of your customer. Why is it good for them to buy? What are the benefits and how can you make your products or services even better, both for the customer and for yourself,
Everyone in an organisation has the opportunity to influence the organisation’s success. Customers are easily put off and it’s no good having a great sales team of the delivery people are rude or unfeeling. Also, everyone who meets anyone in the customer’s organisation has the chance to identify opportunities to sell more or new things – it’s called upselling and cross selling.
I first wrote a guide to selling on 2004 and felt it was time for an updated version. The world has changed over the ten years since then. People are more concerned about the provenance of those they deal with, and the internet makes prospecting far easier.
Through my own work, I also realised that many people who’d never set out to have a sales role, were finding themselves expected to influence those their organisation worked with. It was no coincidence that the first people to book the sales course I wrote to accompany the book, were a lovely team in a public sector organisation, who found themselves forced by budget cuts to sell their expertise to those who’d previously had their support for free.
I wrote the book with people like this in mind. Good people who I knew would become even better when they understood that selling was simply about helping people see what you offer in terms they can attach a value to.
People start businesses for many reasons. Most want the freedom of dong what they like and making a living from it. Few start a business with a sales background as I had. All need to understand how to control their destiny by becoming more influential. Selling skills help you realise your vision as a business owner. So many books focus on overly complicated techniques, yet actually it’s about gently taking control of your communication with all around you.
I love the passion with which social entrepreneurs strive to change the world in financially sustainable ways. Most in my experience are driven by personal experience and a desire to change something they feel is unjust. They need to balance compassion with commercial skills because this gives them control. It’s a tough call for many, but one I, and the book, set out to help them achieve.
There is no doubt in my mind that tomorrow’s business will be one that overtly makes a social difference as well as a profit. To strive for profit alone is to exploit. To seek to make a difference without being sustainable is foolhardy. The internet has made all knowledge easily accessible. Businesses that have high ethical standards and help folk along the way get recognised and grow in popularity. Those that don’t get exposed and shunned.
I know charities that earn more than they receive in donations. The conventional barriers between business types is becoming blurred. It’s all about who you are, what you do and how much you care about those you have the ability to influence.