For a young man who had spent his first seven years working as a reporter and magazine writer and the next seven years in public relations, selling cooking oil to a fish shop owner in the industrial area of Roodepoort was world’s apart.
The managing director of the food group
I was working for at the time tasked a colleague and me to start a distribution business to serve the general trade.
One Friday afternoon after calling on the fish shop owner – this had been about the third or fourth call – he ordered eight 20 l drums of cooking oil from me. My heart lept. At last I had made a sizeable order and a regular customer.
I went back to our distribution warehouse, loaded the van and delivered the drums of cooking oil that same afternoon.
The selling advice I was reading in books just didn’t seem real in the harsh real-world places I was selling. The authors had all the knowledge and theory but I soon began to realise they had no practical experience. They had probably never sold anything to customers and downplayed how really tough it could be.
I vowed then to only read selling advice by people who had actually sold in the field and had either written their own books on selling all were assisted by ghostwriters. I haven’t excluded reading research papers by academics who have studied new selling methods. These are not abundant because sales hardly gets taught in universities.
One salesperson I have paid attention to his Harry Browne who wrote “The Secret of Selling Anything”. He had 20 years of selling and sales management.
Harry Brown shocked me with this statement:
“Probably 99 out of 100 salesman try to motivate their prospects. And that’s their mistake. You’re not capable of motivating anyone – no matter how persuasive you think you are.”
What Browne contends is that everyone is already motivated. A typical prospect has many motivations every day – to make a living, feed a family, repair a car, deal with unproductive staff, get a fair deal from a chiselling supplier.
The job of the salesperson is to find out what motivates prospects through questions that undercover motives. She needs to know all the benefits of her product or service and come up with as many as possible – so once she has found the prospect’s motivation, she can appeal to it.
The fish shop owner was already motivated to buy cooking oil because he had run out. All I did was come at the right time with the right product. So much seling is doomed to failure because sales people believe they can motivate prospects to buy.