My first official job that was heavily sales driven was in retail. I’ve had several jobs since then where I had to be a salesman, whether it was face-to-face or over the phone. I didn’t like the typical approach most salesmen take, of manipulating the truth to get a sale. I found if you understand the customer’s needs and you apply your product/service to those needs you don’t have to be manipulative. I think making a sale is much more rewarding that way.
I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review written by Jim Koch, Boston Beer Company (most famously known for Samuel Adams Beer) co-founder and chairman. In this article he freely admits, “I am not a natural salesman,” but explains how he learned to be a successful without being cheesy or manipulative. Here are 4 insights I learned from reading this article:
1. Get third-party recommendations: What do you do when your company isn’t well known in your market? One simple solution is to find a reliable and creditable resource to review or back up your product. This will help your company have some footing when someone tells you, “Never heard of you.” You then are able to tell them what others have said about your company or product while showing what you can do for them.
2. Learn from sales: Giving a sales pitch can get your creative juices flowing. Especially if you keep getting turned down, you can learn what your market really wants. Koch suggests, “Most of our ideas for new products come during sale call.” For example, he found that hard cider was becoming more popular amongst retailers. This led them to develop their own hard cider: Angry Orchard, which is very successful amongst hard cider drinkers.
3. Focus on the right objective: Many companies develop new products or policies to help meet internal objective or needs. In reality, you need to focus on the objective of the product you are offering to your customers’ needs. When entering a bar, Koch says, “I have about 30 seconds to understand the economics of the place.” Focusing your strategy on how what you offer is going to improve your customer’s life or sales is important.
4. Get away from the desk: Don’t rely only on consultants or other third party “facts” or opinions. “Being a street salesman can be very humbling,” Koch states. He then shares jaw-dropping stories; including getting thrown out of bars or having guns pulled on him. Even with these interesting and scary experiences he stands by, “You gain a much higher quality of knowledge than you can at your desk.” So get out and be involved with your market face-to-face.
There is a point in every business where you have to be the “street salesman.” This is because you could be selling your idea to investors, convincing someone to come work for you for little or no pay or simply getting out your product/service to customers.
Koch ends his article by saying, “Without sales, there is no business to manage.” Sales are part of every company. It doesn’t matter what business you are in. You have to have some type of sales in every business. Sales can be direct or indirect but they make any company grow and thrive.
What type of indirect or direct sales are you involved in?