Best Ways for Salespeople to Get Their Point Across When Selling Printing
It is remarkable just how many salespeople I know and work with have ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder is typically a diagnosis associated with middle school-aged kids who, like me, were once called dreamers, class-disrupters, and unfocused. Are those with ADD deficient of paying attention? Yes, we are. Is it a disorder? Not in my experience. To the contrary, actually. Taught to work and play using different rules, the ADD-gifted sales rep can become a gifted communicator, not despite of their ADD, but rather because of it. Learning to harness its power, there are lessons to learn from the workarounds used to overcome this so-called disability and achieve a critical sales goal: Getting your point across.
First, let me explain what it feels like to have ADD. Take your hands with palms facing you, and hold them about 18 inches away from your face. Next, move them out to the periphery of your vision. You should be able to see your left hand using your left eye, and your right hand using your right eye. Now, wiggle your fingers.
This is the best explanation I can come up with to describe the chatter we feel. Always. Having ADD is like having a constantly-present, palatable commotion on the outskirts of your mind. You think, talk, and behave like everyone else, but there are some noisy neighbors on either side of you.
Having ADD is like having 10 answers to one question, all fighting to get out of your head at the same time. There is a cacophony, a madness, a frustrating group of tangled up thoughts, and you’re tongue-tied as you attempt to manage the chaos (it’s not unusual for a stutter to accompany ADD, as it did mine at first).
Mastering ADD requires organization, patience, and a process for each of the many communication portals that make up the job of sales, not to mention medication. There are two components.
First, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts. Then, communicate in a manner that accomplishes the dual task of expressing whatever point you are trying to make and getting others to see it your way. You know, like sales.
So, let’s talk about how to get these thoughts out of you and then get them into others.
The Overall Approach
My English teacher, Mr. Edwin Freedie, at Pollard Junior High School in Needham, Massachusetts, taught me to write and speak in outline form. If I recall correctly, it was a college-prep course on note-taking. That was a seminal moment for me and a lesson I believe to be critical to dealing with the ADD brain.
I can still hear him say, “Major point, minor point, minor point. Major point, minor point, minor point.” This simple pattern helped me to receive and send communications in a manner I could not only manage, but also deliver information to audiences and coaching clients by laying out in an easy-to-understand fashion.
In short, I learned to help people listen to what I was trying to tell them by thinking and speaking in outline form. If you get nothing else from this column, remember Mr. Freedie’s advice: Major point, minor point, minor point.
The Written Word
Selling via the written word can come in the form of an email, a business letter, or a proposal. In order to get your point across, you must not just write, you must craft. To do otherwise is to risk the recipient rejecting your ideas because of its sloppy message, grammar, sentence structure, or misspelled words.
Voice-recognition software such as Siri has lowered this standard and raised tolerance of what is deemed acceptable. We all understand the chaos that can come from a hurried message. But in those cases where the stakes are high, you will need to follow the pattern of: Write/Let it sit/Edit until you are satisfied.
Nirvana is when the reader walks away after reading your proposal, intro letter, or email, and can succinctly summarize the main thoughts (like when you finish reading this column … hopefully!). Death occurs when the piece is so poorly structured, the reader’s own ADD kicks in and they lose interest.
The Spoken Word
Consider the sales appointment first. See yourself in a conference room with some key decision-makers. Without a carefully structured presentation, the client will soon be drifting off to the next thing on his/her calendar.
Here are two tips for you which will help knock it out of the park:
1. Set expectations — In presentations, I like to say things like, “There are three things I’d like you to know about.” This approach says to the client, “Get ready to receive three unique points.” They will unconsciously listen for one, two, and then three thoughts. You did this. Imagine saying to a customer, “There are three reasons why you should buy from me.” You now have their complete attention.
2. My second tip is one I used already in this post. By saying, “If you get nothing else from my words today, hear this ...,” you essentially wake them up. They will listen to the next statement to come out of your mouth. Also, it will stick. For example, do you remember what I told you was the No. 1 takeaway from the “Written Word” section? I thought you might.
And then there’s voicemail. You are on a recorded line. You get one shot. Ramble and you’ll get deleted. Here, you need to whittle your message down to one thing. By including the words, “The purpose of my call is …” you once again achieve the goal of helping the client to listen. In fact, if you can’t finish that statement in the rehearsal of your call, don’t make the call.
Calming the Mind to Listen
One final thought on sales, ADD, and getting your point across. The other part of communication is that of being a good and active listener. It’s here that ADD is at its worst, for our minds drift away, even if what we are taking in is brilliant. My only advice here is to arrive early to an appointment — in your car or at your desk — close your eyes, and bring your complete focus to your breath.
It’s a trick I learned from Edgar Tolle’s book, “The Power of Now.” I used to do this on Sunday mornings, summoning every ounce of patience I had in order to stay present with my elderly parents. It’s not much, but it is a skill you can develop in time.
If I’ve done my job as a Printing Impressions contributor, you have received several salient and applicable ideas from these words. They are laid out for you in a way you can understand. Looking back on the preceding 1,150 words, you might notice I’ve taken my own advice.
Hopefully, a few of these points are applied in your next communication, even if it’s an email that starts, “Bill, here are three reasons why I hated your post.”
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.