A Word on Sales


Typically, when I’ve thought of sales, I’ve thought of the car salesman/department store cashier type of person. You know the ones that are never satisfied with what you chose and want to you to choose the more expensive things you neither need nor want?

Yeah. Them.

Recently, because of some decisions made at my workplace, I am more involved in sales. Lots of hours on the phone and talking and negotiating and demos and other things. It’s been a bit of an uphill fight – if passion for sales were water, I would be the world’s driest desert bar none – but I’m starting to gain an appreciation for the process involved.

For some of this, I have my bosses to thank; they have spoken to me at length about varying things as far as sales goes and they’ve been right there with me in the process to help me when I have questions. They’re very clear in what they expect of me and very supportive in my endeavor to do those things.

Here’s what I’ve learned and want to share for those who might, like me, hate hate hate the very idea of having to do a sales job:

  1. Asking for money is not wrong. When people ask me for a demo, they are asking me to show them something that is valuable enough to spend money on. if they come to me with money and are ready to spend it, then asking them for that money is not a crime against humanity.
  2. Sales is not about giving people things they don’t need. I cannot express my fear of this sort of thing enough. It may even qualify as a solid hatred. I don’t like the idea of trying to up-sell things when I don’t see a clear need for that thing from the customer’s point of view. The good news is that, where I work, there is no pressure like that. I know the goals and such, but they never use a mechanic where I have to sell people things they don’t really need or want in order to be successful. That, for me, has made this infinitely easier for me to do.
  3. Support is criticalYou simply cannot do a sales job of any kind without a team. If you try, you will fail. If you’re like me, then this is even bigger of a deal. Get exact numbers and figures. Demand – I repeat: demand – that there be a clear process for who to go to for certain things like over-your-head sales or technical questions. Memorize all of it or make notes you can keep nearby.
  4. Being a little aggressive helps, but it is not as necessary as you think. You don’t have to be overbearing or even aggressive. Be direct, be honest. Ask questions about decision deadlines and other relevant information. That’s not being aggressive or rude. It’s simply respecting other people’s time.
  5. You don’t have to be sales-oriented, either. Personally, I’m a solutions-oriented person. What I mean is that if you’re about to spend $1K on a product that I know you could do just as well with open source considering your needs, I’m likely to tell you “just use _____ and that should work out just fine. Thanks for talking to me.” and let that go and ignore anything related to quota. It has served me well in this space; with no pressure to up-sell and all of those things, I simply listen to the needs of the person on the other end of the phone and then I tell them what we have to go with those needs and what the prices are, then I leave it to them to choose. If they have other questions or need help, they can call me for help. It’s so simple it practically sells itself. In fact, in many cases for me, it has.
  6. If it has value, it will sellRelated to point #2, if I can explain to a person how something matches up with what they want, I don’t have to really do any work. They find me. Get to the point in sales that people email or call you back instead of you chasing them. This is one way to determine if you’re doing your sales correctly, honestly.
  7. Your time is valuable. This is the hardest concept for me to grasp at times. I mean very hard. I help people without a thought just out of habit and I don’t think a big deal of it. However, as support and sales, what you are doing for every client you have actually is a big deal. You are probably saving them thousands of dollars and time and administrative overhead in just being as awesomely helpful as you are. Asking for money in exchange for the time you’ve spent helping them save way more money than they will be paying you is not wrong. I really do believe that some of the people with the hardest time working in sales are people that don’t have the self-esteem for it. I’m not saying that someone should go out of their way to build up bravado, machismo or ego, but I am saying that you may need to tap into the idea that you are actually helping people and that there should be the occasional concrete reward for that. In this case: money. A lot of it. Recurring if possible. To the victor should go the spoils.

There’s more I will glean from this experience, but this is the most important of all the lessons I’ve learned so far. I know that the clients I’ve dealt with are more than appreciative of my nature and the way I come across from a sales and support perspective, so if this can help me, it will help you.

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