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Smart – Strange – Silly

Dealing with people

It takes all kinds to make the world and if you are in Sales or Business Development chances are that you will encounter every sort … and a few more!!

Sales is not for folks who give up too easily or too soon, nor is it for the kind who want everything laid out on the line – if you want people to be predictable and everything to happen in an orderly fashion get a job in a funeral parlour.

Jokes apart, Sales is an avocation meant for those who love excitement and unpredictability – and can deal with a lot of chaos.

I spent two hours training a young Executive in tele-calling skills and then asked her to make calls. I had mentioned that it is not going to be easy and that she will encounter a lot of resistance. 30 minutes later she appeared with a pathetic expression on her face – “Sir, most people are not answering my call and the ones who answer tell me to call later.”

I smiled – sent her back to work saying she has to ask those people to give her another slot to call.

A little after that she was back – “Most of them are saying we don’t want training for our staff at present. They want to know how I got their number.”; giving a few more inputs to deal with such queries I sent her to her seat fully aware that she would return with more complaints. This young person, like so many I meet these days, is not able to stick to a game-plan for sufficiently long period. They are not willing to try new things and want results too soon. Maybe I will have to give her another day or two and permit her to go through the cycle of experiments and queries before I start looking for someone else who is more tuned to this job – finding a needle in a haystack is an easier prospect.

A friend and I were out all day yesterday making sales visits – we met senior officials in the IT and HR department at four well-known organisations.

The first gentleman we met headed the IT Department in a reputed college for technical studies. His handshake was cold and limp and he was extremely closed to ideas – later I realised that he was not reasonable either. The institution had purchased a few IT products from my friend couple of years back and now they are out of warranty – like the typical Government institution they had sat on the file till the warranty had expired and had not purchased a Maintenance Contract in time. An item went faulty and he was miffed when the Hotline Executive informed him that the service would be done at cost. Our client said that the vendor needs to be more flexible. It was obvious that this man had been irritated by the way the message was delivered to him and my friend worked overtime to cool his temper. Our IT Head said vehemently that the next tender being released soon would be finalised in favour of the supplier who is willing to bend rules / processes for them – wonder why it’s always the other party that needs to be flexible.

At the next institution the Department Head we visited continued working at the computer while we spoke. When we stopped to let him finish the task he asked us to go on. By the time we left he had printed a document and cross-checked the printed copy with the monitor – did he expect the printout to be different from what was in the computer? While walking back to the car after the call my friend said that this man had not been easy to deal with even in the past and was known to resort to unethical practices. And since we had not offered him any benefit in the past the cold shoulder was what we received in return.

The third customer was a major Publishing Company. The H.R. – Head gave us the appointment with no fuss. He listened to us silently and without expression – I even wondered whether he was thinking about something else. But when I finished explaining the salient features and benefits of a training program that was being conducted by us in November he gave us 2 participants. It was a pleasant surprise to me. I had felt resistance all the while and never expected this to happen. But we had stuck to the task and given him what he wanted to hear. It was obvious that he had this requirement for a while and we visited his office at the opportune moment. It was good to get a positive response after two bad calls.

The Administration Head of a private hospital was our next destination – he was very receptive and friendly. He listened to us, asked questions and later responded to our queries in detail. He took great pains to tell us how different his business and employees were different from other organisations – don’t we all wish to believe that. He wanted a training solutions uniquely tailored to his organisation’s / team’s specific needs. I wish I had a dollar for every time a prospect said that – I would be rich by now.
In the first visit we had to display empathy and listening skills, the next one demanded that we do not display any irritation or ill-will in our words and expressions, in the third one we had to remain enthusiastic and alert and in the last one we had to match the enthusiasm of the customer and support his feeling of being unique and different.

Each visit / encounter is a challenge. The Sales Professional needs to be receptive and pliant, yet firm. Like an octopus he needs to change his colour and form to match that of the environment.

Sales is dynamic and demanding, but fun; it calls for a lot of patience, flexibility and mental agility. It is a people management challenge all the way. Be prepared to meet them!

  1. November 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Informative read J. Your experiences with various people during the course of your calls underlines the importance of perseverance. It gave me an interesting insight into this demanding profession.

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Thank you, Raji.

      I thank you for persevering with all the stuff I send your way even though you are not involved in Sales / Business Development.

  2. Kailash
    November 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    J, Do you think that the sales guy should also be innovative sometimes. I started my carrier as a sales and marketing guy (in vacations and till the time i got good break) for Mobile (when rate was around 30Rs outgoing and 15 Rs incoming) and for other telecom products like EPABX and KTS systems (mostly cold calling) and in various occasion i able to learn few things (just as you mentioned above). My manager used to tell me have different types of introductions, like sometime you can take name of the product company that you are working with Usha or Panasonic or BPL mobile (even though you are from dealer /distributor) or you can call yourself from partner company. And other things like do not talk much about your product 1st listen them out what they are using and how is their experience and in your mind try to built a strategy to counter the same. Then few other things like sharp observations, on how is the office, how that owner/decision maker is carrying himself, what make is he using for pen, shirt, car etc. whether he really has a money or power to take this decision etc. This would give us an idea and input to go ahead for next steps. your scenes above reminded me my 1st 2/3 jobs.

    And you rightly said Sales is like a game if you can’t enjoy it you can’t be good at it.

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      Hey, Kailash,

      Good pointers there that a person new to Sales domain can use. Glad that you made the connect and shared the tips.


  3. November 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I am back after a long time & I know I have missed many interesting articles …. This is excellent experienced shared for the sales call. Sales is like a chess game where we need to calculate & see the future …. to drive the results in our favor…!!! It’s fun specially when we are winning 🙂

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Vijay,

      Welcome back … Yes, winning is fun. Losing can provide useful lessons.

      And it is an interesting game for sure.

      Do check the ones written earlier and share your comments.

  4. November 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I am sure it must be a daunting task, captured perfectly by your expression that “finding a needle in a haystack is an easier prospect”! Every day I turn down many tele-marketers and direct representatives and there are times the patience trips. It made for a very absorbing read and I was glad to find you looking at light at the end of the tunnel, but then this must be just one of the days of the rest of your days as a salesman!

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Bang on, Umashankar!

      Just another day in the life of a salesman … each new day brings challenges afresh.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Biju Krishnan
    November 3, 2012 at 10:22 am

    1. While planning the sales call / interaction if we can put aside a little time and think – Putting yourself in other’s shoe and imagining why you would say yes to the particular product/service. 2. Knowing that every individual we meet is different and unique – so don’t prejudge and be open LISTEN for the words and what is behind those words. When they ask a question stop a moment and think – why he/she asked that question. 3. Getting to know human being better with every interaction – having a geniune interest in the other person and not just about the sales.
    I don’t have much of Sales experience but I feel the above given points could be of help for sales in addition to being innovative and being self motivated.

    • JayadevM
      November 3, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Sound thinking, Biju.

      In spite of your limited experience in Sales (as stated) you have understood what is needed to influence / persuade / convince others. After all, Sales is not Rocket Science.

  6. Jamy
    November 9, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Terrific read Jay! Do not consider myself as a great sales person but when guests first arrive at the resort, if I do not gíve a góod introduction of the resort’s facilities, we would not be able to capture them for dinner in the first few nights before they explore restaurants off property. The team does it consistently and it has worked after initial disappointments 🙂

    • JayadevM
      November 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      Excellent insight, Jamy. Yes, that is a great practice you have there.

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