I just got back from a trip to Boston to take part in a training program called Professional Selling Skills, or PSS, for short. The program is meant for the account executives from our company, but I was able to go since I work with the sales team in helping them put proposals together for their clients. This past week, I gained more insight into selling based on needs analysis and the difficulties involved with probing and handling objections.
My first stint as a sales person was with my high school year book. We needed local businesses to help sponsor our book because we wanted to keep costs of the book low so that our students would actually buy one. I went around to local businesses (like my grandmother’s hair dresser) and asked if they’d buy a small ad in the book to help us cover costs. I actually made a few sales to restaurants, the hair dresser, and a couple of stores. And then, I helped create their ad! This was the moment when I knew I wanted to get into advertising. I just had no idea what in advertising I wanted to do.
My junior year of college I decided it was high time I got myself a job. I wanted to do something in my future field and I came across (well, now knowing their marketing tactics, it probably slapped me in the face) Vector Marketing, the seller of Cutco Cutlery. I quickly drank the koolaid and was one of their top sellers in the summer. I worked a lot of hours playing the numbers game of calling people to set up appointments, but I followed the formula and their methodology actually worked. I got a lot of objections, but truly believing in the product (I still do) and having learned how to handle them, it was the most profitable summer of my life!
Of course, when school started I couldn’t do as many appointments, and they put me through branch training which ate up a lot of my time, so it wasn’t as profitable of a time for me. The second summer I was the head assistant manager for the Orlando Branch and I was in charge of hiring and training all of the new recruits. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many super stars that summer and my pay check was completely dependent upon the success of the team. So I had to move on in order to pay the bills. But I’ll never forget the experience.
Now I’m “grown up” and in the real world. I have several good friends that went the sales route for their career. The idea of cold calling gives me the heebie jeebies and knowing what they go through with trying to set up meetings, walking into businesses, getting a few minutes of their time to ask them questions to see if their product is a good fit, and then trying to build out the features and benefits in a way that the client would find value – is an exhaustive dance where you still hear a lot of no’s. The emotional armor that sales people have to wear each day feels as heavy as the suit of a knight!
Programs like PSS help sales people in learning to ask the most effective questions, and requires them to do their homework so that a cold call is never really cold. While it will help me help the sales team sell digital billboards, the program gave me tools that will help me in my personal life in building better relationships through true listening and understanding.