Irish people don’t generally like the ‘hard sell’ approach when doing business. We get a bit sniffy, and say things like, “Oh, that’s very American, but doesn’t go down well here – we prefer a more personal approach”. Fair enough, but, there comes a point at which I wonder why so many people in this country look down their noses at sales professionals. (Think stereotype ‘second hand car dealer’.) Sales people – be grateful to bankers and property developers for dropping below you on the ladder of disdain.
The irony is – we’re all in sales. It doesn’t have to be in your job title. Whether you’re a business owner looking for finance, a scientist presenting your latest research paper, a staff member trying to get your point of view accepted, or a job applicant looking for work – you’re selling. Every time you interact with another person in order to influence them, you’re making a sale. Whether it’s a product or service, an idea, or an opinion – you are convincing other people to accept your solutions.
So, if you’re not responsible for sales in your business, why should you care? Fundamentally, if you don’t recognise that you sell, you will be less open to opportunities to develop your business.
Don’t be inward-looking
How so? If you concentrate exclusively on activities related to the function in your job title, then you are likely to be inward-looking. For example, if you are the Purchasing Manager, keeping costs down is a priority, and you might be extremely good at it. But, have you ever considered that your suppliers could also be a great source of new business referrals? After all, it’s in their interest for your business to thrive. As an R&D Director, you may develop a product with advanced applications, but if you only explain the technical features without the context of the benefits it delivers, you may not get beyond the company laboratory, let alone have the opportunity to bring it to market. Finally, if you’re the business owner, how many times a week are you asked ”What do you do?” Do you simply give your company name and function “I’m MD of X10d – we make cables”?
If you took the attitude that every conversation was an opportunity to present your business, how would that change your approach? I don’t mean to shove it down the throat of everyone you meet. Instead, think of a way to succinctly explain the service you provide so that it might be of interest, “We’re X10d, and we provide lifting solutions for large construction projects”. This response invites a conversation, which in turn, may lead to a good contact, potential new suppliers or staff, or dare I say it, a sales opportunity.
No product sells itself
Take another perspective. I often ask people who their competitors are. Some tell me that their product is so unique – they have no competitors. Wrong. No product sells itself. If you don’t know who your competitors are, ask yourself two questions.
- What budget will the client use to purchase my product?
- What options does my client have to do nothing and maintain the status quo?
Not recognising that you have to sell in these situations reduces your chances of securing a new client. The competition is not always someone else with a substitute product. You have to find ways to overcome general purchasing policies and inertia.
So, next time you find yourself exasperated at the candidates on Dragon’s Den, think about how you present your business. Then ask yourself: “What do I do to sell my product?”
Forget job titles – we’re all in sales.