Richard Paul says 'timing and persistence' is his motto. Paul, the director of IT distributor SnapperNet appears to put this into practice: his business card seems to end up in everybody's wallet eventually.
Paul co-founded the Auckland based SnapperNet 11 years ago. Resellers go to the company for modems and gateway devices, and SnapperNet has built up a reputation for prompt, professional service over the years, with Paul's fingerprints all over the business.
"Selling is really just trying to help people get what they need," Paul says. "Being successful itself is my main motivator. Fear of failure is another big motivator."
Paul managed products for a couple vendors prior to the establishment of SnapperNet, so sales has been part of his DNA throughout his career.
Do you have any cold calling horror stories?
Not really a cold call, but it was the first time I’d met a new customer. I had hardly set foot inside the customer’s retail store and was told to (beep)-off by the owner. This was in front of his staff and customers. It was my first visit to that store and my first job as a sales rep. It turns out that apart from having a really bad day that day, he’d also had a really bad experience with the previous rep from my company. Hospital pass. It took a fair amount of coaxing from my manager to go back there again but I’m happy to say that I was welcomed into the store next time around and the guy apologised for his behaviour and we got on famously after that. Best cold call was simply a case of great timing. I’d had a day of rejections and was ready to call it quits for the day. On my last call for the day I got a company buyer who'd just had a big falling out with their current supplier and they were just about to go looking for an alternative. Timing and persistence.
What’s your most successful tip for cold calling?
Make sure that you’ve researched the company or person or industry before you do anything. There’s no point wasting everyone’s time with irrelevant sales pitches. And understand that when you call someone, at that point in time when you call them, they’re most likely not going to be thinking about the product or service you’re calling about and it will take some time to get them into the mind space you want them in.
Any tips for a struggling salesperson?
As long as you’ve done the right preparation, just smile and enjoy yourself. Customers can smell fear and desperation.
What part does personality play in salesmanship?
It’s very important. But don’t try to be someone you’re not. Your true colours will always find a way out. If you have integrity and good principles and you enjoy what you do, then it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a rock star personality.
What did you do before you sold anything?
I was a bank teller straight out of school and then became a truck driver delivering food products to lunch bars, and cafes. It was while I was doing this that I learned that I enjoyed customer interaction. I got my first sales rep job at 19. But everything you do involves sales.
Ever stress over quotas?
Only when we don’t hit our targets. Luckily that hasn’t happened in a while.
Have you ever put your foot in it when talking to a client?
All the time. It goes with the territory. I had a really embarrassing one recently. I thought I was speaking with someone else on the phone and managed to tell them quite a few things that weren’t any of their business. I wasn’t until the second long uncomfortable pause that had to ask – you’re not xxx are you?
Do you consider yourself a persuasive person?
Not really. Selling is really just trying to help people get what they need.
Has that quality ever reflected on you in a negative way?
Only with aggressive sales managers who, in my early days of selling, thought that I wasn’t being persuasive enough.
How do you balance time spent between product knowledge training with generating leads or opportunities?
Most of my time these days is tied up with new product development, brand management and vendor management. But my team will tell you that every opportunity in front of a customer is an opportunity to improve their product knowledge. Most product knowledge actually comes from researching the correct product for customer’s opportunities and then finding a way to explain to them how it fits with their requirements.
What’s the best deal you have ever closed?
When SnapperNet was very new, I helped a large bank to make the right buying decision with some equipment in their new datacentre. This accounted for nearly half of the sales budget that we’d set for that year.