“Sales People” Careers in Sales

Why are some people so good at selling while others are so bad at it?  Is knowing how to sell an innate quality or can it be taught and learned?  More on that in a bit; first a bit about me.  I have spent the 25 years after graduating college pretty much in sales jobs; I always did the best, sold the most, won every award, etc.  From a really early age I realized I was good at selling, or more specifically good at making people want to have what I had.  Stories starting in college where I sold an old stereo I had used for 5 years for more than I payed for it; selling things that I would have already thrown away.  Don’t  misunderstand, I almost never sold personal things but when I did it was always worth my while.  I understood that my brand is what people aspired to so if I was wanting to get rid of something I easily could.

Back to can people be taught to sell; I spent 15 years working at a major global media company and in that time we had different “sales trainers” who would come in and teach us all how to sell – even though the majority of us were already quite good at it.  What I noticed though was a lot of people, especially the managers and directors would take the training too literally and in the process make face to face meetings with clients unbearable for the client, and for me.  One example was we were told to do “research calls” with people i.e. find out more info on them.  I’d go out with managers with clipboards with lists of questions; clients/prospects felt like they were being interrogated.  One time I went out with one of the VPs and realized through watching him that the research we wanted could be found through conversation, not interrogation.  Other examples include managers scripting exactly what the sales people would say; this always led to awkward conversation since you should always speak in your own voice not someone else’s.  So you can say that management is to blame for poor sales training, but thats only half the story.  I had the opportunity to work with colleagues all over the country, I saw people reading from media kits, cutting off clients when they were about to say something crucial, talking to and boring clients with their own lives (their commutes to the client, how they slept, etc).

For me its all about instincts, I know my time with clients and prospects is about them, not me.  They don’t need to hear if my subway was slow or if I was hungry.  I also learned early on that non selling was the best approach.  Talking about their needs, wants and desires was key.  If you push your product too soon you seem too desperate and that can immediately put clients on the defensive.  Another thing I always knew was if I leaned back, the client leaned forward to hear what I was saying.

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