by Michael Darling
I got the surprise of my life a few years back, when the man that taught me sales gave me a call. We often talk about "making a difference" in peoples lives. Well, this is the guy that did it for me. I was reminded of that call recently when one of our former reps, that still looks for my “A Tap on the Glass” at the CVTA website (www.cvta.org) asked why I never write about sales philosophy, since that’s one of my focused backgrounds.
The answer is that sales philosophy and training takes in many, many, many different styles… and mine is just one of them. The idea that one is better than another is just silly. In sales, what works for one may not work for another. A competent salesperson in your organization would be one that is constantly asking questions, constantly trying new techniques and who has an understanding that the need to be flexible and open to change as the market demands it is critical. Teaching sales philosophy means trying to put a very big subject in a small box and while I’m sure my philosophy has value to some, there are many others out there that would take issue with it and I have no desire or inclination to get in an argument with anyone. THAT’S why I don’t talk about salesmanship in these writings.
However… just this once:
Let me tell you a little about the man that called me that day.
I met Ron Frieze in 1970 when I worked at my first radio station in Idaho. Ron was a true Master Salesman. One of the best there has ever been in my humble opinion....and if you don't believe me... just ask him, he'll be glad to tell you!
Ron took me under his wing and taught me the basics of commercial advertising sales when I was a know-it-all teenager and the concepts that he instilled are still the bedrock of all that I've developed in sales and consulting over the past 40 years. If it hadn't been for Ron igniting that spark in me, I'd probably be working at a Plywood Mill in my home town still. Sadly, Ron's health deteriorated and at the time of his call, his time was short. His loss was felt by uncountable salespeople he's trained through the years. Most certainly by me.
The concept of developing a consecutive and consistent sales process, individualized discipline, passion for what you do and focus for what you're trying to achieve in life whether personal or professional, is what Ron taught me.
He showed how to build relationships with your clients so that your customer thought that you were the best thing since sliced bread no matter what you sold them. Servicing your clients was critical to success in Ron’s mind. He believe in that above all else. Work for your clients and make sure they know you’re working for them and they’ll work for you.
His favorite line was "If you take the gold from their teeth, that's stealing...but if you take the gold from their teeth and they THANK YOU for doing it...THAT'S SALES!"
I cannot count how many times in my career I've been reminded of that phrase and the philosophy behind it.
After Ron and I caught up with each other that day, he naturally slipped into his "Jedi Master" persona as expected and started asking questions, testing me about sales philosophy and how the winds have changed over the years. But within all that we talked about, Ron also reinforced in me some of the concepts that were as true 40+ years ago as they are now:
There's no such thing as a natural born salesman, (although I think Mr. Frieze came close to it). He was probably selling toys to the other kids for a profit before he was walking...but it does take some TALENT. And the selection of talent is as difficult as it is to cultivate. Talent isn't something that can be taught, but there are components that you use in relationship to that talent that make it all come together.
There is a VERY old formula in sales training that goes like this;
TALENT x (Relationship + Readiness + Response) = P3
(where P3 stands for Peak Personal Performance)
Talent must be sustained over a long period of time to be effective. To do that you have to have a strong base culture to draw from.
Great talent needs a good RELATIONSHIP with management in order to create good sales performance. Feedback, reinforcement and adjustment is a constant need in sales delivery. Salespeople need a different perspective to what they do every day because sometimes you're too close to the sale to see changes that are happening! Training, skill development & growth must be a singular focus for salespeople with base talent so that they are always in READINESS for opportunities. You have to have a voracious appetite to learn new things and increase your knowledge of your product. You need to be the EXPERT...more importantly, you have to WANT to be. The ability to take your training and skills applied with natural talent allows you to provide the right RESPONSE to your prospects and make the sale.
You need to remember that it's not the product and/or your presentation that sells, it's the experience a customer goes through that brings to life your STORY around the customer's motivations and needs. People love to buy, but they hate to be sold. The ability to tell a story helps establish a sense of trust in your customer. If you don't have a great story to tell, you'd better come up with one! Too often, customers come in to a business and are bombarded with facts and sales pitch before they can even sit down and explain what they're there for in the first place! Ron Frieze always likened the process to the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..
Think about how YOU would want to be treated if you walked into your office for the first time. What would YOU expect? How would YOU want to be regarded? If you place yourself in the customer's seat from time to time and pay attention to how you're being treated, it puts a whole new perspective on how you SHOULD be treating your customers. Remember, it's the EXPERIENCE a customer has that makes the difference.
Assuming you have the talent, then all sales people need a Consistent Sales Process: A process that becomes your "bedrock"...your "foundation" to build on. It should rarely vary from customer to customer so that you CAN be consistent in your efforts and so you know what you're supposed to be doing all the time. Scripts, formula's, sales materials...they're all part of that process to keep you on track. Nothing is worse than floundering in front of a client because they threw you a curve you weren't expecting. From there, it takes an Individualized Discipline to maintain it. You must have an absolute obsession for focusing on your customer, one at a time, with a PASSION for wanting to build that relationship.
If you do that, whether they buy or not, they'll be customers for life! If they don't buy themselves, they'll tell friends and referral business is ALWAYS gold.
It's all about the story and the experience, isn't it? It's all about how a salesperson and all the people in the school present themselves, because in this business EVERYBODY serves. EVERYBODY sells. EVERYBODY. Whether you're in Admissions, Student Services or Instruction or Management, you have to ask questions, LISTEN to answers and quantify results if you're doing your job properly.
Ron Frieze, like all veteran salespeople I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, discovered that sales talent is not just one thing...but a utilization of a host of things and knowing which one to use. You have 3-5 minutes to establish a "relationship" with our customers. Salespeople need to have the TALENT to make an impact in 3-5 golden minutes that's going to make you different from everyone else. In its most basic philosophy, Sales is the talent of helping people say YES, who would not do so otherwise.
There is an art and a science to doing sales. It’s not something that you can just sit down at a desk and do. It’s not something that “comes naturally” to anyone, even Ron Frieze. It takes focus and a willingness to learn how to do it right, as well as a desire to keep learning and practicing your art. It takes hard work, but the rewards are well worth it. Sure, a “talent” for this critical trade, which moves small businesses as well as global economies, is good to have, but without Consistency, Discipline and Passion in what you do and what you believe...no amount of talent you may possess will help you achieve your goals.
Ok..so much for sales….except for one wish: I wish you all have the chance to have a "Ron Frieze" in your lives.
Thanks for reading…