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Archive for the “Sales Process” Category

I was reading a Maureen Dowd op-ed in the NY Times on October 5th. It was enjoyably full of her scathing, bitchy observations, on this occasion commenting on a recent “Get Motivated!” seminar at the Verizon Center in Washington. As usual, Dowd was funny and more than a little mean. And right on.

My general feeling about these massive feel-good inspirational gatherings is that they’re a bunch of hooey. Not wrong in their stated insights, just shallow and quite temporary in their efficacy. Kind of like a business pep rally. Certainly not my cup of tea.

However, amidst Ms. Dowd’s cynical reportage on talks by Terry Bradshaw, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes, Dan Rather and Rick Belluzo, I was caught by some business advice shared by General Colin Powell. His advice? Simply to be nice and particularly to be nice to the little people like the folks who clean your office and park your car. He also avers the value of small details. For instance, Powell reports writing thank you notes on personalized 4-by-6 inch cards. “I write with a fountain pen. Never a Sharpie. Never a ball point pen. A fountain pen.” Dowd reports.

It seems to me Colin Powell is quite on to a real truth here. It’s the little things that set the tone for sales–little considerations, little details. Focusing on the small decencies creates an ambiance of service and real carefulness in business dealings. It becomes reflected in the larger actions of a company.

To expand on General Powell’s concern for the small things, I always recommend to my sales outsourcing clients at Corporate Rain that any missive or serious communication they send out go on high-quality stationary and be sent by snail mail, ideally with a commemorative stamp. This is sometimes cause for eye-rolling impatience by some of my cutting-edge clients enamored of the wonders of tweeting, friending and linking-in. But there is a method to my antediluvian madness. Yes, it takes extra time and money to communicate in such qualitative ways, but the very effort communicates care and valuation on a subconscious level. There is a sensual subconscious statement that is communicated by the very feel of high-quality stationary. It creates an aura of seriousness, reflecting both respect for your client and the general business process. It unspokenly says exactly the manner you would represent a client and effectively serve.

Additionally, the very fact that the personal letter is increasingly not used gives special notice to those who use it qualitatively. It is not a dinosaur inefficiency. It is a notable differentiator that, in the long-term, makes a branding statement, as well as creating a subrosa gravitas.

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Here’s a simple, short thought for this week: No is good. No is the salesman’s friend. No produces efficiency.

I frequently tell my friends that rejection is my middle name. For myself and any salesman rejection will surely be the result of many, if not most, of your interactions. Certainly for high-end sales initiation, the specialty of my firm Corporate Rain International, that is the case. When we’re doing great for clients often we will still be getting 85% rejection.

I was struck by a recent blog posted by Anthony Tjan and published by the Harvard Business Review (April 21, 2010). Mr. Tjan is managing partner and founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball and is not a salesman per se. But his thoughts are very applicable to sales. He states, “A yes is obviously the answer you always hope to get, but the ability to get to no, especially if it is a quick one, is critical to maximizing efficiency and effectiveness. The sooner you get a no, the faster you’ll be able to look for that next yes.” Utterly true.

Beware of ditherers and vacillators. They will eat you up. They are the real enemies of efficient sales. There are ways to cut to the chase without brusqueness, discourtesy, or antagonizing a real prospect. For example, one simple thing I try to do early on in discussions with new potential clients is ascertain if my firm’s costs are manageable. Corporate Rain is a high-end service. With greatest courtesy I always want to make sure a potential client can simply afford my firm before getting in too deeply. This respects his time as well as mine.

But when your proposition is rejected it is important to keep focused on your core values. When I am rejected I strive to become even more courteous than when a sale seemed possible. I try to keep my mind focused on service, even when there is no business to be had. This brands a seamless tone of helpfulness, good humor and collegiality that carries over to the next sales event, hopefully a more successful event.

But getting to no is a real sales value in itself. Mr. Tjan quotes a friend of his as saying, “…a fast no is better than a long maybe.” Indeed.

So God bless no. Rejection can be a good and necessary part of sales. It is not a negative. It is a helpful efficiency. Handling rejection positively is a part of any healthy ongoing sales effort.

The Greek philosopher Diogenes (412-323 B.C.) was once noticed begging from a statue. When asked the reason for this pointless action, he replied, “I am exercising the art of being rejected.” As should all good salesmen.

Thank you, Diogenes.

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Don DraperI recently was forwarded a posting from www.madmenshow.com by Robin Greene, who blogs frequently and well on sales initiation (with her partner, Sheryl Tuttle) at New Business Pipeline. Robin’s forwarded blog was a love bouquet to Don Draper of Mad Men as the best salesman of all time on television. However, the blog concluded with a list of, to quote, “…the best salesmen, con artists, sweet-talkers, swindlers, and bullshitters in movies.” Wow.

The juxtaposition and equivalency of salesmen, con artists, sweet- talkers, swindlers, and bullshitters is breathtaking. And yet it fully reflects the popular view of salesmen as somewhat lower than whale shit. The list includes such luminaries as Gordon Gecko (portrayed by Michael Douglas in Wall Street), Blake (portrayed by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross), Freddy Benson & Lawrence Jamieson (portrayed by Steve Martin and Michael Caine, respectively, in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Roy Waller (portrayed by Nicholas Cage in Matchstick Men), etc. You get the idea. A veritable concatenation of the villainous and the predatory.

Certainly when I began my late-in-life adventure as a salesman and entrepreneur, my idealistic and somewhat bohemian family didn’t quite know what to say. They probably thought I had become apostate to all that was fine and good. A Faustian sellout to filthy lucre. A crazed lemming descending into the rat hole of venality.

But what makes a good salesman in reality is the opposite of the amoral knaves of popular myth. You simply don’t win in the long term by fooling people. You win through sincere care and concern. That is a naive but very real truth.

Unlike the popular cliches about salesmen, long-term sales success comes from focusing on service and candor in all aspects of the sales process. A liar and a villain is eventually known by his works. Gordon Gecko aside, you don’t successfully sell with deception and legerdemain.

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