Listening Lands the Sale
(Blog #19 in the ongoing series derived from a book Harris DeWese wrote several years ago—“A Year of Selling Profitably.”)
I’m not one to wave my flag, but this time I’m gonna do it anyway.
I don’t write my column in Printing Impressions magazine or these blogs from some made up stuff I read by sales consultants. I didn’t listen to any tapes or watch any videos.
I actually sold printing. Everything from huge web catalog jobs and sheetfed work in all sizes and run lengths to roll/cut-and-stack labels, 1" miniature folded inserts and outserts and a lot of offset lithography that I have forgotten. I never sold any gravure. I was involved in the sale of a couple of gravure companies, but I never sold any gravure printing.
Millions and millions worth of printing. By my crude calculations, well over $150 million.
I sold a few more than 150 printing companies whose aggregate sales totaled a little more than $5 billion. I’m an old guy, and it took a lot of years and good helpers to sell that many companies.
Finally, the hardest sales were always consulting projects because I had nothing on the shelf where I could just reach up and say, “Here, this will solve the problem.” I had to sell the job and then deliver what I sold. If I wanted to be paid, I had to deliver it successfully so my client was satisfied.
I couldn’t have sold all that if had be a talking-head blowhard. This blog so far is tad “blowhard,” and I hate that. I did this bragging to make a point, which is I listened my way into those sales. And they were hard sales.
My clients taught me how to sell. They taught me how to listen and then ask the next question.
Everything I write comes from the hard drive up there in my head. The subject happened at some time, in some place and in some company and it got stored on the hard drive.
My clients rarely ever said, “Harris, bring your speech to our conference room and make a presentation.”
So when I write about selling, it’s from the perspective of having sold. It’s not from the perspective of using a sales formula. But, one element of my formula is the act of listening. Orders will not come if your mouth is open and you are not listening.
I’m glad to get all this off my chest. I wanted to make sure that you knew that I write from experience. Isn’t that just like an old fart lecturing in a blog? Oh, and I also walked 10 miles to school in the driving rain and blowing snow in West Palm Beach, FL.
This is a chance for me to climb up on my blog box and stand tall.
My previous blog was about the failure and growing obsolescence of sales presentations. This blog is about winning with sales conversations. You make friends when you have conversations.
The aim of a sales conversation is that both people win. The customer obtains a new supplier and the salesperson gets a new customer. Those early sales conversations form the framework for all future communication.
The media, specifically the cable commentator talking heads, are destroying the art of good conversation. They do it when they ask a question and then interrupt the guest before getting a complete answer.
Sales conversations involve both parties—the customer and the salesperson. Both people get to talk and preferably the customer talks most of the time. These customer-centric conversations are the salesperson’s opportunity to learn the customer in-depth, as more and more is revealed about the customer (the human being), the customer’s company and the customer’s needs.
I promise no more old-man lectures for at least the next five blogs. But you have to promise to get out there, LISTEN and sell something!
A Year of Selling Profitably
By Harris M. DeWese with Jerry Bray
Employ techniques and tools that turn weekly sales meetings into energetic learning experiences, resulting in a more enthusiastic, more motivated, and more effective sales force. Understand how these techniques and tools required to build successful marketing, sales and, ultimately, profits, will help you achieve “A Year of Selling Profitably.” Click to order a copy.
Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something." He is chairman/CEO at Compass Capital Partners and an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of info regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 100-plus printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the industry. He specializes in investment banking, M&A, sales, marketing and management services to printers.