Don't spill your candy in the lobby… and other sales lessons

This past weekend was one of the funnest and most productive weekends to date this year. And not always do fun and productivity meet. I spent three days in Tallahassee (a city I can now spell), at Florida State University, in sales training. That was the productive part. The fun part was the group of people I attended this training with, the Neill Technologies team.

I have been wanting to write about this since Friday evening but it is only tonight that I feel that some of the information is starting to settle and make sense in my head. This training made me realize I somehow was in this very dangerous place of not even knowing what I didn’t know. (Thank goodness I am surrounded by people who know better.) Somehow, I thought I knew how to sell. Somehow, I never thought this was an area I needed any training in. Somehow, in my mind, selling wasn’t like accounting, marketing, skiing, or product formulating. For the latter, it would never occur to me to “just do it” without any class, professional instruction, or training. Somehow, sales wasn’t worthy of training. Boy was I wrong.

The three days of training covered so much material that I am still digesting the information. We discussed the theory of selling. We did role playing. On video. We had homework assignments. We had a book to read prior to class. A book with exercises.

While I don’t yet understand everything I learned, here are my most immediate takeaways.

  1. Money does grow on trees. Make your own tree: existing clients are the branches, they connect to other branches. Ask existing partners for referrals and for testimonials.
  2. Never do a cold call again. If you develop your network enough, and implement rule #1, your cold calls will really be “warm calls.”
  3. You have to learn to fail to win. Even when replacing cold calls with “warm calls,” selling will involve rejection. Use rejection to hone your skills. Debrief your own sales calls and meetings to continually improve.
  4. You never have to like prospecting, you just have to do it. While money grows on trees, trees don’t grow without water. Prospecting is to sales what water is to trees. Just do it.
  5. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Plan every sales call. Plan every sales meeting. Figure out at least 5 “advances” for each phone-call or meeting. Not continuations (i.e. “I’ll get back to you), but steps that will truly move the sales process forward.
  6. Don’t spill your candy in the lobby. A sales call is not an opportunity to show off the features and benefits of my products. A sales call is an opportunity to learn about someone’s business; about someone’s needs; about someone’s pain points.
  7. Don’t “product puke.” Refer to rule #6. Aim to understand rather than to persuade. I have two ears and one mouth… I should use them accordingly.
  8. Buyers want to buy, not be sold. By discovering needs, by listening instead of speaking, I will better understand how what I offer can be a solution. And if I really become excellent at this sales thing, I will enable the buyer to convince herself that she really needs Alchimie on her shelves by asking “need-payoff questions.”
  9. 80% of training fails, largely because of a lack of post-training implementation. Hence I am writing this, so I can refer to it and remind myself, in particular when old (bad) habits creep up again.
  10. Sometimes, it’s not about how good you are, but about how bad you want it.

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