I lived in SF for two wonderful years and during that time, I started and excelled in a career I never expected–tech sales. I never pictured myself working with sales, talking with business owners and trying to convince them to buy several thousand dollars worth of software. But I found I was naturally kind of good at it. And I naturally kind of liked it. Meanwhile, in those two years, I received so much training and nurturing in the field. You know how people always talk about how sales can be forayed into any career? They are right. More than that, sales changed some of the relationships in my life too. I like to think it still informs parts of my life. Here’s what I learned, a little behind the scenes for you: 5 things sales taught me.
1. People hate to be sold to. People want to connect. People want to be heard.
Who can tell when they someone is trying to sell them something? And everyone or nearly everyone raises their hand. It’s not fun and it feels icky. It felt icky for me on the other side of things as well. I was fortunate in that I believed in my product and because of my family had a passion for helping small businesses. I truly believed this product could do that. And so I listened to the woes of the small business owner in New York or Philly or wherever. I listened and asked questions. I was successful because of that but I didn’t do those things to be successful, if that makes sense.
2. Someone ALWAYS controls the conversation. No matter what.
I know. You may think I am crazy. But pay attention to some of the conversations you have been involved with lately. Or consider a relationship that is difficult and remember a conversation from there. There is always someone who controls the conversation. And you know who that person is? The one asking the questions.
Now this does not mean that you need to control every conversation. I mean, in sales, yes, you want to control the conversation. But in your daily life and how that translates it just helps to be aware of this. It has specifically helped me in relationships that are harder to navigate. Instead of feeling frustrated and like I am not being heard, I recognize that this person needs the control (long story) and most of the time, I let this person have it because it is not worth it. Other times, I can navigate to make sure that I am the one asking the questions.
3. Anyone can talk to anyone. The human condition is exactly that.
That’s the thing with sales. Imagine having to pick up the phone and talk to 100 strangers a day. Imagine having to ask them to set aside an hour of their very busy time to listen to, what is, in effect, your presentation. Awkward? Yes. It is. The first several days. And then it isn’t anymore. Then it’s just what you do. And suddenly, fear of talking to anyone falls away because you are talking to mean people and nice people and everyone in between. In fact, perhaps you are sworn at and hung up on and suddenly you have the gall to call them back and somehow still get their business. That feels good. It feels so good.
4. Value over Function. Always.
Well, my I post on this blog 5x a week. I have xyz followers. Here you will read about abc. But what does that MEAN FOR THE READER? Why would someone come back here every day and read? That’s value. Those first things are functions. This is such a great metaphor except I am not going to try to sell you on my blog and go into the value. Ha.
Let’s talk about a mini van. There are seven seats. That’s a function. What’s the value? Your whole family can ride together in one vehicle, saving money on gas, and spending time together. No one’s space is compromised and there is plenty of room left for everything else your family needs for your activities. Etc. Etc. Does that make sense? Can you see why one tactic is so much more powerful than the other? It’s very similar and yet different to the mantra of every writing teacher: show, don’t tell.
5. You can always get a better deal.
No salesperson wants me to tell you this but it’s true. After working behind the scenes, I can definitely tell you that there is always a deal available to tell you. It’s just a matter of you doing the work and having to talk through and spending the time to get that deal.
Also, depending on the company and which quarter system they are on, you are more likely to get a deal towards the end of the month. The sales person wants to hit their monthly and quarterly goal.
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