LEARNING SALES AND CLOSING THE HARD WAY
My interest in a sales career began at the age of 11. I wanted to get into sales because at the time the man in my parents bungalow (a backyard granny flat) got into sales and I saw it turn his life around financially. Within months of starting to sell television sets in 1958, he upgraded from a 15 year old broken down badly rusted and dented Austin A40 to the latest “American” Ranch Wagon. His selling also improved because he could now carry up to six televisions in place of the two previously. And within months he would come home with an empty ranch wagon and with a brief case full of cash deposits, night after night.
Some months later he placed a deposit on a new house and moved on a little while later because of his ability to sell – and to sell extremely well. My father, who was a leading hand at the time could not believe someone struggling a year earlier could take control of his life and earn many times more than my father could as a leading hand with 20 years with his company. I saw that man, George Gault (I will never forget his name), move from rags to riches within less than 12 months and wanted in on the action – even at the age of 11.
Once I turned 17, despite my father’s protests I wanted to go into sales. The first time I was given an opportunity was when a man finally said yes. He gave me a wad of paper (17 pages of single spaced 11 point type) and told me to go home and memorise it and I would have a job. Three days later I had memorised it and excitedly went back, only to be told to “Piss off, you are too young to succeed” after I had recited the first page verbatim.
Next I got an opportunity door knocking to make appointments for a company selling pre-coated aluminium siding. After a number of tries I won that vital first interview – an interview where the interviewer sat on the edge of the wrong side of the desk, and while I was fascinated by the view of the insides of his nostrils, I reasoned one of us had better take notes – as he obviously wasn’t about to. So while I furiously penned, he rambled on about the company, future prospect’s and endless income possibilities.
Ten minutes later, part one of the interview was over. To qualify for part two, I needed to go home and memorise a 12 page script by the end of that week (all I could think of at the time was the last script I had memorised – but gave it a try anyway). I was also told, that if this was done to his managers satisfaction, I would be trialled for a commission-only door-to-door canvassing job for one of Melbourne’s (Australia) house cladding companies.
The initial training lasted a whole day, mainly memorising a half page script, and then learning how to role-play the preamble to the trainers satisfaction … Yet it was this opportunity – all those years ago – that taught me the power of one-on-one persuasion.
Puffed up with enthusiasm, a burning desire to succeed and the need to feed an overgrown ego, I became that team’s premier lead getter. In fact, I won as many leads as the rest of the team put together. But ironically, very few of those appointed leads achieved what they were supposed to – and very few had resulted in sales.
A few weeks later, too wet to field canvass, the team was brought inside to telephone canvass using the best lead source around – the White Pages Telephone Directory. Within 30 minutes, my in-house Field Supervisor had pulled me aside and threatened to fire me should I ever use that “phrase” again.
That one incident taught me more about the folly of compromise in selling, than perhaps any other phrase since. So what was the phrase, and why was it so important? Besides, all I said was, “We’ll be working your area on Saturday” and made an appointment for the salesman at an agreed time with the prospect. In fact, this was the second appointment I made in the area that morning. But the irony is that even today – more than fifty years later – hundreds of people working in the sales profession in this city will quote the same exact phrase, “I’ll be working in your area on …” and wonder their sales results are so poor.
The truth is, that phrase doesn’t affect sales – the phrase affects appointments. Prospect’s don’t keep them because they don’t feel they will let the salesperson down if they accept a last minute meeting, or even another appointment in place of it – because that person will be “working in the area” anyway.
Immediately the salesperson compromises the call with any form of compromised statement, the prospect is then given license to also compromise appointments and the like – but more about this later.
After many more interviews, it was some two weeks later when I first got my first “REAL” selling job, I can still vividly remember that very first sales call more than 53 years ago. I was a baby-faced 17 year old who was given a kit, around 10 minutes of training by a small business owner who desperately wanted to sell his especially moulded bottle opener in the days before the screw cap. He drove me to a local service station and sat in the car while I made my first call. Much to his surprise I made a sale. Then I made another, then another and yet another. That was four in a row. He was so impressed, he joined me on the fifth call and quickly ascertained that I knew nothing about sales, but was fearless and sold purely on enthusiasm.
Within a few weeks my sales had started to falter and the more my boss tried to help, the worse things became. It was really the blind leading the blind. I knew a little from some door knocking I had done some weeks earlier, but not enough to keep the momentum going. Yet neither of us understood we needed to learn at least the sales basics for things to succeed.
In my next venture I had improved, then was also fortunate enough to have been given some training for an advertising concept. Vince, the business owner, even taught me how to prepare the prospects I should call on based on advertisers in the local paper. He even had a bullet point presentation schedule. All was well, I made an appointment with the wife of a local plumber, I had gone through my presentation and she appeared interested. But then when she warmed to the concept, I tragically didn’t know what to say so we sat there until I realised someone should speak and asked her if she wanted to buy some space. She said she did, and I wrote up the order.
The only thing I got right on the day was signing the order. Vince had to go back with me to get the details and layout right, but from that point onwards I got better at what I was doing, and so did the sales. And because of the help and really good advice I got from Vince my selling career was under way. A little while later I was introduced to a number of books that would both set me straight and get a well rewarding sales career under way.
You can read more about the early days of my sales career in another of my sales closing books called “Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale.”
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This Article is by Peter Collins – In a sales career spanning more than 53 years, Peter Collins has focused on helping and bringing out the best in others – whether it involves training or mentoring salespeople, managers, business consulting to SME’s. Since the 1970’s Peter has built a reputation as a Nationally and Internationally Published author, and has 68 business books to his credit, but he is mainly known for one book based on the Audio Tape series of the same name, Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale. Peter had his first book published in 1969 and now has over 133 books in all, including Business, Marketing, Sales, Free Publicity, Body Language, Music and over 30 Christian books to date. Peters books have sold over 2.5 Million copies over 48 years. In his personal life, Peter has been sought after as an encourager and motivator that has given of his time and talents freely despite his busy schedule. Subsequently, he has assisted churches, pastors, community and charity groups, as well as individuals through his teaching, training, development and on-going mentoring.
© Copyright Peter Collins, Profit Maker Sales, Sydney, Australia, 1994, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2017, all rights reserved. Peter can be contacted through his website – profitmakersales.com
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