VENTURES AFRICA – As an afterthought, this is in no way meant to undermine neither the importance of institutions of education nor the academics that impart knowledge into our future leaders, for a small fortune. However, have you ever wondered why most professors are neither millionaires nor billionaires, and why it’s the simple guy who chooses to be an entrepreneur who racks in the millions or the billions?
Puzzling as it may, anyway,ask the professor one simple question and the answer you get is complicated, and sandwiched by theories. However, ask the simple street-wise capitalist about business success and one of the first things they will teach you is the art of salesmanship. It’s as simple and straight-forward as that, according to the street-wise capitalist.
An encounter with a street-wise capitalist this past week left me with a thirst to improve my salesmanship skills. The street-wise capitalist’s assertion is that for every person who knows what sales means, there are probably a thousand people who don’t understand the art of selling. In as much as this is a crazy assertion which made me assume the street-wise capitalist should be insane, it later dawned that most people get it all twisted between marketing and sales.
I have since made a commitment to dedicate the rest of my professional life to know absolutely everything to do with the skill or art of selling and how to effectively present persuasively, and ultimately to get more customers. Moreover, tonnes of my energy will be spent on reading every book on salesmanship i can get my hands on, if i want my business to grow.
The reality is that technological advancements in the developed world – being spurred by the rise of the internet – are rendering the salesperson redundant because people can look up prices online and most probably won’t require the seductive sales pitch. The sales job is not only losing its appeal, sales forces are being replaced by technology. However, the good news is that in the developing world there is still so much space for the old-fashioned salesperson, because salesmanship is still personal based on a close relationship between a salesperson and customer.
Without sales companies would not exist. It’s always surprising those departments such as research and development, marketing, strategy are most of the time endlessly analysed by theorists whereas the front-line of any business is often ignored. As a matter of fact the sales force is the lifeblood of any business.
Furthermore, it doesn’t matter that your product is of a superior quality, as long as there is no ability or effectiveness in selling or in presenting persuasively your product to the customers, that product will be a failure. This further validates the earlier notion about professors; they master their trades but not salesmanship.
Donald Trump’s greatest skill is of being salesman extraordinaire, and he provided a unique set of insightful personal opinions and guidelines on business transactions in his bestselling book, The Art of the Deal. Mark Stevens noted that, “Think of The Donald as a salesman on steroids. And in this lesser-recognized role, Trump practices the art of the thrill.”
Furthermore, Mark Stevens remarks that, “never do things for your customers and prospects in a small way. Make it big and important or don’t do it all.” A salesperson has to go the extra mile for their customer or prospect in order to persuade them to buy their product, whilst also making them feel special. Although, budget constraints are always the battlefields for many a battle between finance and sales, however, it’s regrettable that no one will at any given time remember another run-of-the-mill pitch or event, but an over-the-top pitch or event will make you the winner because the challenge and opportunity before you, is always to be the one indelibly imprinted on their brains despite how many salespeople your customers and prospects have come in contact with.
A good salesperson develops a close relationship with their customers or prospects and be willing to listen more times than they speak themselves. That way you create an impression of having an understanding of the age-old rule which states that, “the Customer is King,” and without them you will be out of business. Moreover, one has to note that there is a thin dividing line between being exploited by customers for their sole enjoyment, whilst they enjoy the benefits of a newly found hobby, and having a constructive sales discussion. Every sale pitch has to be constructive, even without getting the sale then, it has to create the groundwork for a future sale.
For instance, an interesting story that fascinated me a while ago, about being able to develop a close relationship with a customer through listening and engaging them to achieve repeat sales to them, is about Aaron Hall. Nokia, that former top dog in the mobile-phone business, on learning that Aaron Hall had travelled for 400 miles to New York City to be the first person in line for the unveiling of the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 smartphones, the company blogged about it. This was reciprocating the excitement the 32 year-old systems administrator had in his desire to see the two smartphones. According to Brian Patrick Eha, the immediate result: a devoted customer felt appreciated, and Nokia showed that it treats its customers as individuals. Any salesperson worth their salt knows that they should go beyond treating their customers as just an undifferentiated set of numbers.
Geoffrey James in an article about the Traits of Highly Successful Salespeople wrote the following: Buyers and sellers are emotional human beings, which is why great salespeople are always masters at managing their own emotions. Based upon his observation, highly successful salespeople cultivate assertiveness, self-awareness, empathy, problem solving, and optimism as emotional traits.
Patricia Fripp remarked that, “You don’t close a sale; you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise. It is not your customer’s job to remember you. It is your obligation and responsibility to make sure they don’t have the chance to forget you.”