Tag Archives: sales

5 Things Sales Taught Me.

5 things sales taught meI 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.

Is anyone here in sales? Any other lessons? There are so many so I chose five but I’d love to hear from you. And are there any questions?
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How to Run a Marathon.

I don’t know how to run marathons. I’m speaking metaphorically here (although literally, that sentence would be true, too). I know how to sprint. I know how to dig my hooves into the dirt, heart pumping in my chest, from the moment the race begins, to the moment I cross the finish line. Yes, I am a comparing myself to a (race) horse. Give me a goal. Point me towards it. No need for blinders in my case. There are stories of horses giving themselves heart attacks just to cross that finish line. I’ve come close to doing the same. And I can’t just finish. I must finish perfectly.

Then something happened to me. It started with a random and one time seizure in Rome and ended with a diagnosis for a condition in which stress and pain are deeply connected. Um, stress? Who me? Yes, maybe it is true that for years my mom warmed my feet in her lap and said things like, “Nina, you just put so much pressure on yourself. You don’t need to.” And yes, it is also true that no one ever told me that A’s were the only acceptable grade. When the diagnosis came, in the middle of my junior year of college, my dad begged me, “C’s, Nina! C’s!”Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 6.18.04 PM

Give me a goal, even the hint of a goal, and I will crush it. I’m a racehorse or better yet, my physical body is the racehorse and my brain is the cruel and relentless jockey, willing to push the animal beneath him (jockeys are notoriously male) to a relentless and impossible to maintain pace (if you want to get real with this metaphor).

A sprint is just fine for fifty yards. But pacing oneself for longer lengths of time, for a lifetime, let’s say, is a whole different matter–one I am learning more and more about, from that day in Rome through today. I don’t have it down, by any means (obviously). And just when I learn how to pace myself in one area of life, I find myself challenged in another. I choose to believe this is for my good.

Since I am in sales, the year is divided into quarters and each quarter is both a marathon and a sprint. These quarters have proven to be difficult for me to understand in relation to stress, because sales is inherently stressful. Anyone who tells you differently must have ice water in his or her veins. (Also, please give me this person’s phone number. I know a lot of people who would like to talk to him or her.)

So, you can understand my friends and family’s concern when I flew across the country for a sales job. Sometimes I call them out of breath, out of words, tired to the bone, or manically crazed from talking to people all day. “I have to hit my number,” I tell them, like I am an addict. And I am an addict because isn’t that what perfectionism is when you really consider it? An addiction?

People who love me urge me to take a step back. And I do; I step back and try to take in “the bigger picture” but then my heart is racing, those blinders are on, and I am running a race, galloping so hard my heart could burst from my chest. I have to win. This, too, is an addiction. The worst part is, I am not competing against others. It has never been about that for me. I am competing against myself so even when I win…I lose, too.Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 6.18.36 PM

Some people can do that to themselves. For a long time, for most of my life, I was one of them. I am no longer able to, not since my junior year, not without consequences to my health that are worse than losing. Gosh, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. I winced as I typed the period but it’s the truth. There are things worse than losing.

This quarter, I dug my heels in and I fought and I pushed and I won. I made my goal on October 31st. I celebrated by going to a diner with my friend from work, Lis, where she ordered potato skins and I ordered a club sandwich. (Please, I know you are inordinately jealous of the glamourous lives we lead.) We were too exhausted to celebrate anymore than that. The next day, November 1st, another quarter began. We started from zero, without time for the natural adrenaline to leave our bodies. (Talk about a tangible lesson when it comes to what is eternal and what isn’t.) It’s insanity but it is my job. And I know, believe me I know, when I am handling stress well and when I am not.

Right now, I would give myself about a four on a scale of ten, slightly below average.

(Even now, I cannot help giving myself a grade. I mean, seriously?????)

I think I just gave myself a stomachache.Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 6.18.54 PM

But here is what I have learned: usually stomachaches are little red flags that I need to figure out how to cope and deal with my stress and perfectionism in a healthier way. The nature of sales is not going to change. So I must change, and adapt, and learn to grow. I must learn to run these marathons in such a way that I can pick myself up on the 31st and start from zero the next day, knowing the difference between my best, and my heart bursting from my chest mid-gallop.

Listen, perfectionism is an unattainable standard and I refuse to spend my life chasing it. Trade in the word sales for grades or job or anything else I have chased in my life and this post would be applicable two years ago, six years ago, and on and on. The more I realize this, the more inclined I am to let go. Of course, as soon as I let go in one area, I am suddenly aware I am clutching onto something else. Just like any other addiction, it’s one day at a time.

To be continued,

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P.S. I have been saving this post until the blog makeover is complete (we are still in progress but I can’t wait to share with you the two lovely ladies behind it all) but then I realized that it was kind of ironic that I was waiting for the blog to be perfect to write about perfection…Yeah.

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