If you've been around long enough, you've made your share of mistakes.
So if you're anything like Paul Molloy, business development specialist with Ricoh Consulting, “putting your foot in it” when talking to a client may happen no more than just, oh, “one or two million times” over a career, as he puts it.
Molloy must have done something right, if his children are any testimony to his example. He says one child had a successful stint in sales before moving on to other roles, and another one continues to thrive in sales.
Molloy's suggestions for new salespeople? Spend time with other, successful salespeople, learn what works and what doesn't and remember that “selling is the highest paid hard work and the lowest paid easy work in the world” a lesson he learned from an early mentor.
Summing up an IT sales job in one sentence, Molloy puts it this way: “Helping clients to get what they need, with the courage to tell them when it’s not your solution.”
But don't ask how he pitches a deal.
“I don’t have a sales pitch, period,” he says. “The first rule in selling is to listen a lot more than you talk.”
Describe a memorable experience cold calling
Years ago, a sales manager and myself were out in South Auckland. He was from Christchurch and was blown away by the size of the industrial zone there which was bigger than the whole of Christchurch. We had one appointment arranged but when we finished he suggested we should leave the car parked and do some cold calls. We did, and got three prospects out of 10 calls. Great fun, and very good experience for a young salesman to encounter.
Have you ever felt intimidated in your work?
Not for a long time, but then I’m over 1.9m tall and 125kg. The joy of working alongside older people over the years is that you garner useful wisdom along the way, and a wise old man told me that from a beggar to a king, we all put our trousers on one leg at a time, we all have to eat, and we all go to the toilet.
How do you recover from forgetting vital information in a meeting?
Honesty. Own up. Ask forgiveness. If you have genuine rapport with people they’ll move on. If not, you probably weren’t going to win anyway. If there’s one word I would emphasise it’s that word ‘honesty’. Be honest, and ask people to be honest with you in return. Be honest with your prospects, and give them realistic expectations that you know you can meet or exceed. Be honest with clients, and admit it if you or your company stuff up. Be honest with your colleagues and bosses. Lies always come back to bite.
So, what motivates you to succeed?
It sounds trite but what truly drives me is seeing clients get real benefits from what I sell them, and staying friends with my clients for life. Ethics, persistence, and an appetite for continuous learning are key elements. But I can't sell a product I don't believe in for a company I don't trust.
How do you balance training with lead generation?
Product knowledge is important to a point. I need to know enough about my products to be certain as to their suitability to meet my clients’ needs. Other than that I expect the support personnel to know the intricacies much better than I do. I believe that demonstrations are the last weapon in the armoury, not the first as many salesmen seem to think, and I have successfully sold many solutions without a demonstration at all. Lead generation is probably on balance more important and therefore consumes more time and effort.
Is it stressful hitting targets?
Oh yes, and if the pressure is unreasonable I leave the environment. Forced sales are bad for customers, and also for vendors in the medium term.
What’s your best line of jargon?
I don’t have one. I do always try to find a succinct way to describe the solutions I am selling but have yet to discover a genuinely useful elevator pitch. The best I have managed in my current role is a five line, 100 word statement. But then as you’ll see from my answers I tend to be a wordy bleep. That’s something I always have to watch, so that I don’t talk too much in a selling situation.