My time on The Apprentice has been spent primarily on selling. This isn’t because this is my only area of strength in terms of business skills, it’s because most business is sales.
Sadly, there is a stigmatism around salespeople and a reluctancy towards it as a profession – stemming from people being worried about being scammed or making misinformed purchases back in the days when there were only two channels available on the television and most sales were door-to-door. Even when I started out, I wouldn’t apply for a sales role, but ironically always slid into a more commercial focus even though my first job titles were marketing based. I blame this on being incredibly inquisitive, loving a challenge, and being uber social – which all lend themselves to being good at selling.
However, no two people are the same and many find sales excruciatingly uncomfortable. Alas to build a business you need to be able to sell. You may not need to win Salesperson of the Year, but if you put selling off because you don’t enjoy it, you will have a much lower likelihood of success.
As much as we would all like, most businesses do not start with 10 people each with separate specialisms enabling you to silo yourself into what you are best at. More telling is the fact that over 99% of business’ in the UK are SMEs (small and medium sized businesses comprising of less than 250 staff). Therefore, if you are starting a new business, or even work for a small business, chances are you will need to do a bit of sales. And it helps if you are good at faking it, until you get there.
So here are some truths about how to fake being excellent in sales:
- Even the best salespeople hate lead generation: the truth of the matter is that much of sales is a slog. Lots of phone calls, lots of meetings, lots of events – but what drives good salespeople is closing the lead. In one year when I was doing sales for The Direct Marketing Association I attended 52 black-tie Awards and events . By any measure that is a lot of events to attend on top of my day job and I can promise you, I wasn’t always feeling up for it; but rather than sulk in the corner, I ‘manned up’. Like any job, there are going to be things you don’t like to do – but if you don’t start doing them, you will never get better at it. I am a great salesperson now, but it’s only because of years of practice and years of critiquing my ability. Had I not attended so many black-tie’s, I would probably fear going – but now I truly love them, so much so I even have my own as Chair of the European Sponsorship Association Awards.
- Be organised: this is where a lot of non-salespeople’s technique fails. With the lead generation built and the closing done, most people don’t take the time to use a CRM or even a simple excel spreadsheet. My personal hack is organising folders in Outlook for leads and clients and making sure I spend an hour every morning post-event to say thank you to those I met with the aim of setting up a follow-up meeting. In order to strike while the iron is hot, you need to be organised. Arrange your leads strategically so you can smash through them in one go rather than the typical ad hoc way most people do it. It also allows you to have a solid amount of time not talking to people and drinking coffee – much needed after a long night.
- Smile: sounds crazy, but this is critical. The sad truth is most people don’t love their job, so some of the best ways to alleviate that is working with people they like. As a supplier, as a co-worker, as a client – being someone people like to have around and can make the day a bit brighter, you have a totally different success rate in sales. Conversely you can have the best product in the world, but if you are not friendly and positive, people are much less interested in purchasing it.
Leave your comments, I’d love to hear how you get on faking it!
If you are interested to find out more sales tips or my own personal career journey, you can buy my bestselling book PINPOINT on Amazon today.