There is a big misconception about what is sales amongst most people working in sales. Many people think they are selling when they are not really doing sales, but merely taking orders. Some people in sales don’t even want to sell, they just want to take orders.
It is very important to understand that your job is not to take order. In the world of online payment gateways, smart landing pages and forms, if you just become a order taker rather than a sales person, your job will disappear, and you will never grow much in your career.
So if you are tempted to become the sort of sales person who does not do sales but merely takes orders from customers who came willing to buy something, then please reconsider. It is not a pretty path to walk down after some time. Focus your talent, energy and efforts towards learning sales and then selling. Do not fool yourself by being an order taker and then thinking that you are doing sales.
Here is an amazing article written by a very successful sales person about the distinction of order taking and selling:
Selling is the process of finding a buyer who has a need for our product or services and convincing him or her to make the decision of giving us their money in exchange for our product or service.
Selling is different from order taking.
Some companies, I find, have sales departments who do not sell. They take orders, but because those orders create an obligation for the buyer to pay, it is called “sales,” although the actual process of selling did not take place.
In explaining this distinction, I use the following analogy: The difference between an American salesman and a Turkish salesman in the Istanbul Big Bazaar.
Where is the American salesman standing? Inside the store behind a counter, waiting to take orders and recording sales done.
Where is the Turkish salesman? On the street in front of the store, stopping passersbys and pestering them till they agree to walk into the store where the salesman has a whole slate of reasons why you must buy a product in that store.
To me, the American was just order taking. The sales was done the Turkish way.
This distinction—what is sales, and that order taking is not sales— illuminates why organizations on the aging part of the lifecycle curve are dying. They have no sales function. They have order taking. They rely on marketing to bring buyers into the store, and the salesperson takes the order.
Take the banking industry. Who sells? No one. In my work, I cause every branch manager to have a sales KPI, which means, “Get out from behind the desk and go to the street (not literally). Go join the chamber of commerce, the rotary club, any community-based organization where you can fish for new customers to bring to your bank.”
What is wrong with marketing doing the selling function?
To me, marketing is analogous with ploughing the land, fertilizing it, and irrigating it so that seeding it will work the best. Seeding is selling, and harvesting is order taking.
Fertilizing is necessary for having a good crop, but while necessary, it is not sufficient. Seeding is needed.
Ask yourself who in your company does not do marketing, not order taking, but honest-to-goodness sales?
Be ready for a surprise: The sales function is either non-existent or very weak, while order taking—called sales—is big and flourishing.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
President of the Adizes Institute and is recognized by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the top thirty thought leaders of America.
- Sales for us is leading people who are uninterested to become interested, and to take them through several stages to actually buying a product and then going on to use the same. In fact sales does not stop there, but it is to continue to engage, to keep a relationship alive, to get more referrals and repeat business. Sales requires you to be creative, to find people who can buy the courses we offer.
- Sales for us is helping law students and lawyers to remember their dreams that they are struggling to pursue or even have forgotten and given up on, and show them that our courses can give them a path to realise those dreams.
- Sales for us is to show business people that they can be empowered with knowledge of law and regulations, acquire key competitive advantages through such knowledge and that they can save themselves a lot of trouble as well as money if they have that knowledge in the years to come as their business keeps growing.
- Sales for us is to make a professional/senior employee realise that if they know the law they can contribute in a bigger and more profound way to their organizations, impress their bosses and climb the corporate ladder faster.
- Sales for us is to listen for the greatness in people and influence them to notice that greatness. They must buy our courses to fulfill their own great dreams of becoming extraordinary lawyers or business leaders. Your job is to create an amazing context for why they want to do the course.
- Where is the sizzle? Where is the fun? Where is the satisfaction? If you are not having a great time selling, you are not doing it right, so talk to your boss.
What is there to unlearn about sales
1# Sales is not smooth talking, you need to be an expert and know your stuff
As a salesperson, you get to be an expert about what you are selling, and the entire world of the potential customer. It’s hard to believe, but if you are selling accounting software, you have to be an expert in accounting software from the first day itself. You also need to know a lot about who buys these softwares, who uses them, what problems they face, who makes the decision, who influences the decision maker, what keeps them awake at night. You are probably not going to know when you are starting, though. You have to know these things to be a top of your class sales person.
So, get ready for the ride of your life because this is the most challenging part. It’s funny because wherever you work, many of the non-sales personnel will think of you as the “talent.” Some people will think that we’re mindless actors reading a script. Some think we’re all BS artists. Truth is, some salespeople are, but they don’t make it, especially selling a product as complex as software or financial services or online legal courses to smart lawyers and successful professionals.
If you want to sell a course on mooting, knowing what the syllabus is not going to be enough. You need to know what problems young lawstudents face when they try their hand at mooting. You need to know their dreams, their fears and their embarrassments better than their best friends know. You need to know where they can reach as a mooter and how it can help them to become a better lawyer. You need to know what are the best moots in the world, and how they are different, and what it takes to win them. You need to know how judges grill mooters and what mistakes mooters make in such situations. When you know in and out of not only the product, but also about your customer – you can sell very easily. It will almost seem like you are doing a favour by talking to the customer and the customer will be very happy that they ever got to speak with you.
If you are a learner, if you have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, sales may be the right career for you.
So forget the fantasy that sales is for ignoramus smooth talkers who can talk their way into the purse of customers. We do not want such people anywhere near our sales teams. And that is not because of some moral principle, but because such people never succeed in sales in the long term but destroys the reputation of the products that they sell.
2# Sales is not about conning your customers to get their money somehow
In sales, you get your biggest satisfaction in the end of the day from the fact that you get to help people. The most successful salespersons are motivated by helping the customers to achieve success, and customers can feel it. If this is not the case you will find it very difficult to survive in sales. Again, from the outside in, most customers think salespeople just want their money. Some of your co-workers will think that all you want is to sell as many courses as you can no matter who is in front of you. However, the easiest way to screw up a sell is by trying to sell. Don’t tell the person to buy. Don’t tell them they will benefit if they buy. Just guide them, give value to them, help them – and all the way gently nudge them to realise that the product is good for them, and make them ask how much they can benefit from the product. They must come to the conclusion that they need the product, and you asking them to buy will not help.
If you don’t care about your customers, if you are not genuinely trying to help them in their career, they will not buy from you.
We can never, never mislead our customers. It is a big sin at iPleaders and if any of us ever do this, it is the same as letting down the entire organization and all the good work done by everyone else.
3# Sales is not difficult
Sales is an easy, painless, inspiring process. However, sales people often screw it up by missing out or botching up steps while executing sales process. You need to follow through. You cannot say or do things that break trust. You must have a great time while you are selling. If you are having a bad time selling, then so is your customer. And then it is very difficult for you to succeed in sales.
Many salespeople seem to believe that you can sell by telling customers what they want to hear. This could not be further from the truth. Most customers want to be able to rely on what you tell them so they can plan and implement.
4# It is more important to listen than to talk
Salespeople think that they make the sales happen by talking. In reality, experienced sales people know, sales is all about listening. It is not just listening to the words, but everything – the tonality, the emotions, the inflections – you can learn to listen so intently that you can feel what the other person is feeling. That is very very critical. You need to ask questions, and then shut the hell up and listen. It helps you to discover the world of the customer. This is when you find out what you need to say to make a sales happen. If you can’t listen, if you cannot get inside the world of the person who you are trying to sell to, then you are just stumbling around like a blind person. The finest sales person knows how to get the information from the other side so they can learn, understand, construct in their mind the entire picture and then finally consult and present what they are selling as the solution.
5# You don’t have to sell to every person, it is a waste of time and energy
You cannot sell everything to every person. It is a waste of time to sell ice to an eskimo, though that is a praise for sales people. I do not believe in selling ice to the eskimo. If you have ice to sell, find a person who really needs the ice. And if you meet an eskimo while you are trying to sell ice, I will rather politely eject and find a better customer who really needs ice.
However, if you are stuck in alaska and left with no other product and a lot of time, you might as well give it a try to sell ice to an eskimo. Depending on how many leads and how much time and energy you have, decide how to spend it. Do not waste it with the wrong candidate.
When you are calling, some people will be like this eskimo. Move on. Do not brood over it. There are lots of people who really need your help. Sell to them. Spend your time and energy on the right people.
How do you know who is the right person? For this you must qualify your leads by finding out more about them. Find out if they are eskimo or bedouin, and what they really need. Once a boy called me from a village in Meghalaya. He wanted to do a course so that he can stop corruption by village panchayat and district administration. He was asking about the Diploma course in business laws. I told him that this course will not help him for the purpose he wants. Do not sell your ware to a person who doesn’t need it. If the sell happens, the person will be unhappy and maybe he will talk about it to others. This will ruin your good will and the products reputation. You will not remain trustworthy. If it doesn’t sell, then you will waste time. Neither is any good.
This is why qualifying your potential customers by asking them a few question is critical. It does not only help you to know who you should focus on, but it also gives you critical ideas on what should be your pitch to this particular person.
Case study: How Company Strategy aligns with sales strategy
What is LawSikho.com’s corporate strategy, and what is the sales team’s part in that strategy?
LawSikho.com is India’s leading online legal courses platform. We make the best courses, but we are also amazing at sales. Our marketing is driven by content, but then we have to shepherd our interested leads towards buying. That is the role of the sales team.
How do we do it? Here is a brief outline of our strategy.
- Create amazing online courses that can help one to become extraordinary lawyer or business leader empowered with legal knowledge that can give them competitive advantage in the marketplace.
- In education industry, a fraction of the people who take up a course finish the course, find success in what they set out to do or feel satisfied with the course. We will ensure that a very high percentage of the people who take our courses become very successful and highly satisfied. People will benefit from these courses greatly. Therefore, they will say great things about our courses in private and public, generating more sales and fantastic good will in the market.
- However, this strategy works only if we rich a critical mass of people. In our estimate, once we reach 10,000 lawyers, law students and professionals in a year, that critical mass will be reached. At that point, taking up these courses will be no brainer, and not taking up will be a handicap in one’s career (just as PMP courses became virtually mandatory for software development professionals). Until then, we have to tirelessly create awareness about these courses through marketing and sales.
- However, even now, what our customers say about us is critical. The sales people are usually the first people customers interact with. Their opinion about iPleaders is largely formed by your interaction with them (and to a smaller extent by the mails they read and the articles that marketing team writes). If you make a great contribution to their life and career through an amazing counselling session, it will make a world of difference to the way they will be interested in our courses, how actively they will participate in the course and what they will say about iPleaders to the people around them.
- In short, the success of a course depends on how people participate in it, and how well they participate depends to a large extent on the context you create for them. It is all about giving them a powerful why, an amazing dream as to why they will want to do a particular online course.
- Yes, you can set the tone and frame in which a learner will learn to course, how much effort they will put, how much zest they will bring to a course, and therefore how successful they will be in life. And by doing this, you can not only change the fortune of the learner, but the company’s and your own.
- iPleaders relies on the sales team to give such a memorable experience of interacting with iPleaders to the learners and potential customers, that it will brighten their day, and they will remember the amazing feeling they had during the call even later, ideally every time they hear the name iPleaders. This is key to our brand building strategy.
- We do not rely on discounts and freebies to sell products. As a company, we believe that giving discounts harm our brand. Our prices are fixed and will only keep increasing. Courses must be sold based on the great outcomes people will get when they finish the course. Reducing course price to sell more is a race to the bottom – when you start doing that, people expect you to reduce the price more and more, and it becomes difficult to provide a quality experience and good outcome for participants because we don’t have resources to do so if prices are low.
- There will be always cheaper courses offered by competitors. Some people will take those courses. However, we will get the smartest and most premium clients who prefer to pay more and get more value rather than getting a cheap product and little value.
- Our competitors have tried a lot to capture our market share by reducing prices, having larger marketing and advertising budget etc., but we have always prevailed over them because our unshakeable faith and observance of good practices like the above.
- We are compassionate towards everyone. We want our customers to get success above all and we go the extra mile to ensure that they get what they wanted. Our customers know this. This is why they take up one course after another.
- Our competitors are not able to beat us even when they offer courses at 1/8th the price. This is because it is not about how cheap a course it is, it is also about how much success a learner gets after doing a course. On that count, we must deliver.
- Our sales team members are not mere salespeople. They are wise men and women who can guide a person towards better career opportunities and better business decisions. They must know what they are selling in depth, and have a good grasp on customer psychology. You are like a consultant from Mckinsey or BCG on the call, you can demonstrate to the person on the line that you can produce fantastic results only if the person listens to you. Your knowledge, wisdom and brilliance will be evident from the conversation and you will take the potential through several stages of realisation – the end result being that he will realise that he wants to do the course we are offering. Based on your brilliance and wisdom, the person on the phone will be convinced that iPleaders is offering highly intelligent and evolved course that they will benefit from.
- If someone calls you from Harvard University, will you expect them to be brilliant? Similarly, when you call from iPleaders, our customers as well as iPleaders expect you to be brilliant, insightful, wise and very impressive. You are not only representing the brand, but you are the brand.
- Now think how you feel when people from airtel or credit cards call you. They are dull, boring, uninspiring, uninterested. We do not feel like talking to them. If you are dull, boring, uninspired, uninterested when you are making calls – the other person will feel it. They will instantly lose interest. You can even say hello in an amazing way or in a disengaged, dull way. Please do not make calls like those airtel callers – they can afford to do it, we cannot. We have to be amazing when we are on the phone. We have to bring in the energy, the charm, the mojo everytime we dial a number. After all this is what differentiates us from all other businesses.