I’ve always considered that I am in sales, but sales of a different sort than most people think. I’ve been trained as an engineer and moved up the ranks to serve and lead a group of 200 people dedicated to innovation and new product development. I also worked with dozens of outside companies with an equivalent or greater number of people working on ideas. My job was to
- Sell management on the investment
- Sell outside companies on the opportunity to provide product to us
- Sell my own people on the benefit and fun of working on advanced technology
- Sell outside customers on the cost, safety, and revenue enhancement improvements
Sales, I’ve learned, is all about getting others to do something in their own best interest. The job of someone in sales is to get to know the customer and provide them the opportunity to buy the service or product that will relieve their pain, enhance their enjoyment, assure their future, get them promoted, or more. A better description nowadays than sales person is a Buyer Buddy.
When we are first born, we can do nothing for ourselves. Therefore, we are born with the innate need and capability to get others to do things for us. Parents go crazy, get super tired, pull their hair out trying to cater to and calm infants. Remember those days? Now, remember how happy and satisfied you were when you held that baby in your arms, staring down at it with love and affection? There’s the emotional connection the infant sales person was depending upon. It certainly is not logical. Is it?
My first sales job was hawking the free religious knick-knacks we received in the mail from a metal TV table on a busy street in Detroit. The money all went back to the church, and that was part of my pitch. People took pity on me and “bought” the stuff they did not need or want so that they could get the emotional high from helping a young kid. Made me think sales was easy. Boy, was I ever wrong!
Sales, I’ve learned the hard way, is the food and drink of every business, just as it is for the infant (we’ll not discuss what comes out the other end). Whether you get it by spending $5 million dollars on a SuperBowl ad, live off referrals, count on pop up ads on Facebook, use agents, rely on stocking distributors, or have your own dedicated sales or business development group, you won’t last long without sales. I’d rather see a company have sales and need to develop a plan, than a company developing a plan and needing sales. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding mechanisms are a good way to test the waters for sales before investing in its developments. Orders in hand is a good justification for spending the time and money to develop what is now a known need or desire.
Alas, sales techniques, or better buyer buddy business, changes. As infants we could cry and squawk to get others to take action. Some on TV commercials still think that’s the way to get people to act. Others have learned it can be a year or more of multiple interactions before that order is placed (by the way, the IRS says sales occur when money is exchanged, which may not be the time of the order). Likes and sharing on social media are great for getting attention, maybe, but they don’t always generate orders and put money into the company coffers.
We are born to sell. Heck, I don’t think I could have succeeded in being married for 41 years without overcoming those tremendous initial objections and the many blunders I’ve made along the way. Thankfully, my wife is my Buyer Buddy.