3 Guiding Principles for Launching Your Sales Strategy
The Not So Dark Side of Sales
I have always been turned off by the term “salesman.”
This negative perception probably developed sometime throughout my childhood. I grew up in a family without an extensive disposable income. We weren’t able to purchase the frivolous, unnecessary items that some of my friends always had. One particular memory has stuck with me since I was a kid:
I can vividly remember going to the store with my mom and wandering down the toy aisle. I stood in the middle of the aisle, awestruck and amazed by all of the different trucks, Legos, board games, and any other toy I could possibly imagine. My wonderment and admiration was disrupted by my mom when she quickly whispered, “Brandon, come here now. The salesman is coming.”
She spoke of the salesman as if he was the scary monster that lived under my bed. This memory stuck with me throughout my life and molded my thoughts about the big bad salesman. I didn’t want to go into sales because I thought they were the bad guys.
As I grew up, I realized I was an excellent communicator. I knew I enjoyed talking with others and getting to know them. I have also never been identified as shy or bashful. Those who know me would most likely describe me as bold and ambitious. This combination of skills led me down the path of sales, which is never a field I had never aspired to pursue.
Now that I have been in sales for around ten years, I have come to understand that salesmen aren’t always the big, scary bad guys. I have heard that a people are often shaped by their past experiences, and I believe this is true. Throughout my time in the sales field, I have had three particular instances that have laid the foundation for my sales philosophy.
Principle 1: Sell with Integrity
Early on in my career, I worked as an insurance agent. I really enjoyed interacting with prospective leads and clients, but I had a very pushy boss. He was benchmarked on life insurance sales, so I was also benchmarked on life insurance sales.
One day, I met with a young couple seeking a life insurance policy. I was pushing a particular life insurance product my boss had asked me to sell. The couple was interested in the solution and wanted to do business with me, but I encountered a problem. After looking over their finances, I noticed that they could not afford this product for more than three months.
As they were preparing to sign the paperwork and write me a check, I stopped them—I just couldn’t do it. I suggested an alternative policy, which was the most cost efficient option for this particular couple. They were curious as to why I hadn’t proposed this option sooner, but they were relieved and ecstatic to find out they were able to afford life insurance.
Customers are four times more likely to buy a product when it is referred by a friend. – Neilsen
My boss, on the other hand, was not happy when he received the news. Because I chose the integrous route, I had cut my commissions check, and more importantly, his branch’s life insurance credit in half. Let’s just say he gave me a piece of his mind.
Although I had gotten in so much trouble, I knew I had done the right thing. After this experience, I decided I would always put the need of my client before my own. The client’s needs are more important than mine, and I will not compromise my integrity in order to make a sale.
Staying true to this principle has paid off in the long run. Selling with integrity is mutually beneficial. I am happy when I make a sale, but more importantly, the client is happy because they are leaving with the best possible opportunity that fits their needs.
Being genuine and authentic always pays off in the long run. According to Neilsen, customers are four times more likely to buy a product when it is referred by a friend. Over time, I work to develop a strong relationship with my clients and they often tell their friends about the beneficial services I have provided. Building that relationship—honestly and ethically—is essential.
Principle 2: First Impressions Matter
After I graduated college in 2008, I had a job in finance at Merrill Lynch lined up in Raleigh, NC. I headed out to Raleigh in August, got settled into my new place, and the day before I started my job I received some bad news. Merrill Lynch put on a hiring freeze. I was notified that I no longer had a job, but I was assured this would only last a few weeks. That hiring freeze lasted for the remainder of the year.
With no job and no one hiring, I found work as a door-to-door salesman. Every day, I put on my dress pants and a tie and walked around Raleigh in the 90 degree summer heat. I walked from one end of the city to the other, knocking on doors and selling Carolina Mudcat tickets. I earned a $10 commission for each pack of tickets I sold. Nothing could stop me, not even the “No Soliciting” signs I encountered at every location. I smiled big as I entered each and every building. Most people said “No,” but I made it work.
First impressions are not just the words we use. First impressions include our tone of voice, posture, and personal appearance.
The Harvard Study of Communications reported that it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression. Each time I encounter another person, I smile, maintain good eye contact, and greet them with a hand shake. First impressions are not just the words we use. First impressions include our tone of voice, posture, and personal appearance.
I’ve learned that sometimes sales can be very difficult. Sometimes your meetings will go poorly and sometimes the client isn’t ready to close a deal. Don’t let those negative experiences follow you. Separate yourself from that moment and move on.
Principle 3: Be Yourself
When I was growing up, I had a hard time being myself. I was constantly striving to be someone, anyone, other than who I was and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. One day my mom told me, “Brandon, just try being yourself and see what happens.” So I did.
From that moment on, I decided to just be me. I was tired of being so many other people. Striving to be Michael Jordan, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, and Zack Morris (from my all time favorite sitcom, Saved By the Bell) was so difficult. Being Brandon was so much better. It was better to stay true to myself, my beliefs, my ambitions, and my story.
People know when you’re lying to them, so don’t. Be genuine. Be authentic. Be Yourself.
Launching Your Sales Strategy
When you are establishing your personal strategy, be sure to understand there is more than one way of doing things. Make sure to adhere to the sales process and structure of your organization, but make it work for you. Use your language, your transitions, and your story—let your personality emerge. By making your sales strategy consistent with who you are, your style will be unique. Your presentation and sales tactics will flow more freely and won’t feel as robotic and impersonal.
As a general rule (even though I am classified as a salesman), I strive to help a customer make a decision as opposed to selling them on a decision. I accomplish this by being myself. If you are being yourself, instead of being an industrial sales machine, you will look like a person who wants to help your customer and not like someone who is just trying to get your next commission.
As you are crafting your sales approach, keep these three principles in mind:
- Sell with integrity, even if it means taking a loss. Always have the client or prospect’s interest as the top priority.
- First impressions matter, so don’t mess up. And when you have a bad experience, don’t let your last meeting ruin your next meeting.
- Be yourself and sell yourself. If you can’t sell yourself to someone, you most certainly won’t sell your product.
I am always gathering new experiences that help me hone my craft of sales, but these three particular instances helped me establish the foundation for my sales approach. These experiences helped pave the way for who I am as a salesman, but more importantly, they have helped make me a better person.
While simply following these three sales principles won’t close the deal for you, they will help guide you down the path for success in any sales situation.