Why Everyone Needs Sales Training
"Sales are the engine that pulls the train. Everything else follows."
Last year, I met regularly with my sales coach, read several books on sales training, and even attended a sales webinar. I'll do the same thing this year. And so should you. Regardless of your job.
Too often, the only people who read books on selling are salespeople. And the best salespeople can tell you about the books they've read in the last few months, if not the last few weeks. Salespeople aren't necessarily looking for the latest "hook" or "closer line". Many are looking for a "lift" or encouragement about their chosen field. If the author has been successful, surely the reader can be successful, too.
The good books have plenty of tips to help you sell. Some show you how to manipulate buyers without them knowing they're being manipulated. Other books offer advice on tracking information on clients and prospects, and then using that information to demonstrate your loyalty and concern. And some books provide a list of one-liners that will "guarantee a sale."
But the best books are filled with stories of the author's own experiences. Many stories are about making the "impossible sale" or closing a critical deal. The really good stories are about deals lost and lessons learned. The best stories aren't directly related to sales but describe an important life event as a morality tale.
The non-salesperson may be thinking, "What does this have to do with me? My job is to manage an operation or motivate people, not sell." Well, if you're a good manager, you sell all the time. You just don't get paid a commission.
Think about it. If you run a mail operation for a company, you sort mail for your customers, the internal departments. And like a good salesperson, you make sure your customers' mail is processed correctly and delivered on time. You create solutions for problems and respond to complaints when things go wrong. If you don't, you may lose your customers very quickly, when you lose your job.
If you want to make changes in your department, you need to sell the idea. Your "prospects" include your boss and your employees. You must get these parties to "buy" into your proposal. If you can't close the deal, your idea may never become reality. Either your boss will deny your request, or your employees will make it difficult to implement the change.
Improve your chances of success by using the same techniques as salespeople. Learn the methods of people who rely on selling every day for a living. Use the tools that have made others successful.
One of the best primers for the uninitiated is Harvey Mackay's Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. This classic was first published in 1988 and is still relevant today. Harvey's brisk style and short chapters (called "Lessons") make it easy to work this book into the busiest of schedules.
Mackay gives advice on sales, management, motivation, and living well. Written when customer relationship management was a daily activity — not expensive software — the book devotes whole sections to knowing and keeping in touch with your customers. The "Mackay 66" customer profile is the standard for what you should know about your customers, your boss, and your employees.
Mackay isn't just a salesman; he's also the chairman of the company. That includes the responsibility for the production and delivery of what they sell. And the best part about Mackay's success? He's become a millionaire by manufacturing and selling that unglamorous commodity used by virtually everyone: the envelope.
When reading Mackay's stories, think about similar situations in your own life. If you had used a different approach with a customer, would there have been a better result? If you took the time to understand your boss, would she have supported your last proposal? If you knew your employees better, could you motivate them better?
If you knew how to sell, could you be more successful?
Input for this piece was provided by Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, President of High Rock Strategies:
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at highrockstrategies.com.
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.