Salesmanship as an Art and a Science

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Excerpt from How to Mind-Read Your Customers by David P. Snyder, Business Development Counsel, Headway Corporate Resources

There is an easy way and a complicated way of talking about the art of selling, just as there is an easy way and a hard way to live. Since I personally like books that are easy to understand, I will try to present things as simply as I can. But since I know some of us also enjoy the theoretical, difficult, and mentally challenging aspects of marketing theory, I will throw in a little bit of that, too.

First, the simple stuff.

One of the things that I have liked the most about interviewing executives and CEOs is that on many occasions I have had to sit patiently in the corner of a large office while the executive took a sales call that could not be missed. Listening to these sales calls has been an education in itself.

The funny thing is, almost every salesperson I have ever heard on the phone uses exactly the same approach. It is not like the movies, such as in Oliver Stone's Wall Street, where high-powered egomaniacs are talking fifty million miles an hour into their cell phones and screaming at the top of their lungs to convince people to buy their products or ideas.

In fact, what you hear is exactly the opposite. Most buyers, whether those buyers are elderly people looking for a good vacuum cleaner or a board of directors looking for a new CEO, are cautious buyers, and they tend to trust soft-spoken, highly credentialed people who talk slowly, express the facts, and give other people time to think.

This is how real master salespeople act:

Those are the basic similarities I have noticed about all master salespeople whenever I have seen them in action in person or on the telephone.

But there is another important similarity I have noticed that is harder to capture in a few phrases. It is this: Most master salespeople seem to use a precise scientific formula to communicate themselves and their products to potential customers in an extremely methodical but powerful fashion. After listening to many master salespeople do the same thing several thousand times, I began to figure out what they were doing.

I gradually discovered that they were all using an invisible marketing worksheet that contained a highly distilled and focused strategy for communicating certain key points about themselves and their products to every person they talked with. They all seemed to have done research on the personality styles and the interests of the people to whom they were trying to sell. And they used a different style of communication, depending on whom it was they were talking to.

Moreover, I noticed that all these master salespeople almost always spoke in a level, nonemotional tone in short, direct sentences. And although each one used a highly personalized technique, they were all using some kind of invisible sales sheet in their heads that might look something like this if you were to put it on paper:

Sales Strategy Worksheet

Customer:______________ Time/Date:________ Assistant(s):_____________
Telephone:_____________ Fax:____________ E-mail:____________________
Occupation of customer/buying power:__________________________________
Product to sell this customer:_________________________________________

Competitive strengths of my product:

1. ______________________________________________________________
2. ______________________________________________________________
3. ______________________________________________________________

What's in it for the customer? Why should the customer care about my product?

1. ___________________________________________________________
2. ___________________________________________________________
3. ___________________________________________________________

Customer type:

Age/Sex/Marital status/Education: _____________________________________

Personality type: __________________________________________________

Stress points: _____________________________________________________

Calming points: ___________________________________________________

Interests/Family values: _____________________________________________

Sales strategy: ____________________________________________________

Initial comments of customer to first call and follow-up strategy: (i.e., How did I handle obstacles and what do I plan to do. . . . keeping notes on every call):

Granted, all master salespeople, such as CEOs and other top executives, don't actually have paper versions of this kind of worksheet. Some simply carry the information around in their heads. But make no mistake about it, all master salespeople know every single piece of information that would be included on such worksheets, if they used them. And some of them actually do.

So, in the first part of the book we will spend some time talking about why it is important to know each piece of information on this Sales Strategy Worksheet; then, in the next part, we will talk about how to use this information to your sales advantage once you have it.

But first, I want to introduce you to another "invisible sheet" that all master salespeople seem to use. Let's call it the Marketing Identity Worksheet. It is this sheet that gives the master sales and marketing professional that supreme self-confidence and power in a sales call. It is each businessperson's manifesto, and it guides every business letter, marketing statement, or press release he will ever write or approve.

If you were to put the key elements of this invisible Marketing Identity Worksheet on one page, it would look something like this:

Marketing Identity Worksheet

Company name: __________________________________________________

My mission: ______________________________________________________

My values: _______________________________________________________

Services and/or product(s): __________________________________________

Potential customers: _______________________________________________

Competitive strengths of services and/or product(s):

1. ______________________________________________________________
2. ______________________________________________________________
3. ______________________________________________________________

What's in it for the customer? Why should the customer care what I have to say?

1. ______________________________________________________________
2. ______________________________________________________________
3. ______________________________________________________________

Now, anyone who has completed a few business courses might scoff at such a sheet, protesting that it is too simplistic.

Only after they have been successful in business for a while or have accepted tenure as a professor at a major business school does it dawn on most people that marketing is simple and that if you ignore the basics for one second, you're finished before you start.

That is why every single CEO or other master salesperson I have ever met seems to project with absolute solid authority, every single second spent in public, the filled-in blanks of the Marketing Identity Worksheet.

As a matter of fact, to continue refining the message of their key marketing points and then commit the message of this worksheet to heart and memory until it becomes a mantra is usually an ongoing and pivotal part of their job. To keep selling this refined message to the entire organization is the next step.


Think about it. The preparation that goes into a sale may take months and months of intellectual analysis, but there always comes the moment of truth that, for lack of a better expression, is called the sales call.

The sales call might be a presentation made before a corporate board, or it might be an interview on someone's front porch. It doesn't matter. The approach has to be the same. You don't have the time or the luxury to make up your sales presentation on the spot. If you try to wing it, most people will think you're unprofessional, or simply mad. The business world has no tolerance for extemporaneous genius or sudden bursts of wild emotion and undisciplined enthusiasm.

In business, you must always project yourself as being nonemotional, well-prepared, and right, just like Star Trek's Mr. Spock. Most potential buyers, because of the science of personality, would buy anything from Mr. Spock, because Mr. Spock has no emotions-just facts. As mentioned, most buyers, as a general rule, are made suspicious by high emotion and uncontrolled enthusiasm.

On the other hand, buyers are made comfortable by facts and a calm assurance: "My product is going to take the guesswork and uncertainty out of your life."

Therefore, your sales pitch has to be memorized; it has to be precise; it has to include a personal knowledge of all the information on the worksheet above; and whether you like it or not, it has to be spiritually oriented.

By spiritually oriented I mean this: You must be selling a product that you believe in to the core of your soul, and that you feel can make people's lives better, or easier, or ease human suffering in some way.

If you do not feel this passionately about your product, no one is going to buy it. Even worse, people will sense your insecurity and will resent you for trying to sell something you don't believe in, and your reputation will be ruined forever with these people.

Now, some people might challenge this idea, saying that it is not applicable if, for example, you are selling garden seeds or used cars. It is my experience, however, that the spiritually grounded and customer-conscious aspects of sales are paramount, no matter what you are selling-even if it is used cars. The reason is that, again, most people are made uncomfortable by people who give potential clients or customers the impression that they are selling something they do not believe in, and/or that they might be trying to sell them something that they don't need or want. Your ultimate goal as a salesperson is to put people at ease and to let them know that you are concerned about their purchase. So even if you are selling used cars, you will sell a lot more of them if you make a habit of letting your customers know that you do not want to sell them a used car that is not right for them, and that you would like to make the extra effort and take the extra time to help them find something that best suits their needs.

Rule: The most important thing you can do as a businessperson and a salesperson is to convince other people that you have an almost religious dedication to and belief in your company and the value of its products to improve the quality of human life and happiness as well as a devotion to a cause.

That is why it is important to make very sure that you have correctly filled in the Marketing Identity Worksheet before you go out on a sales call or get on the phone and attempt to sell your company, an idea, a product, or a service.

Therefore, let us look at the elements of that Marketing Identity Worksheet one by one and talk about why they are important.

©2001 by AMACON (courtesy of The American Management Association)

This article continues on page two.

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