I sell for a living. In so many ways selling is like playing sports. When you make a sale it’s like winning a game. When you don’t make a sale it’s like losing a game. The major difference is there are no guaranteed contracts in selling.
I can honestly say I love what I do. Sure there are days I feel like stabbing myself in the eye with a fork. Then there are the other days, when you get in the zone and it’s almost euphoric. Anyone who has ever sold for a period of time knows exactly what I’m talking about.
I happen to believe that everyone is in sales. If you are a parent you are selling your kids on living by a set of values or on why it’s important to develop study habits. If you are a teacher you are selling the value of understanding American history. If you work at a bowling alley (excuse me, bowling center – alley is no longer politically correct) you are selling your customers on league play. You get the picture. In many ways we are all in the same boat.
I study selling and I try to learn something new about the art everyday. I do 99% of my selling over the phone through cold calls. Some say there is nothing more challenging. I will say it’s not for the faint of heart. When I was on the other end of the phone, which was most of my career, I got inundated with cold calls. I avoided salespeople like the plague. They were an unnecessary interruption to my day. I hardly ever picked up the phone and when I did I found many of them to be overbearing. I will say, if the salesperson seemed sincere and professional I would listen and sometimes agree to an appointment. When I did I typically learned something that was helpful to my business.
Selling over the phone has been a great study in human nature. I find the vast majority of the people I speak with are bored or simply in lousy moods. None of it bothers me anymore because I know it’s the nature of the beast. What I’m still trying to figure out is the “Fort Knox Mentality”. I call some companies and you’d think I was asking for each employee’s first born child. Talk about cold. I get a picture of a dreary gray prison-like facility surrounded by a tall chain link fence complete neatly trimmed with barbed wire. The responses to my inquiries range from, “I can’t put you through to Ms./Mr. Such and such” to “You’ll have to send us an email”. When I ask why, I get the proverbial, “It’s our policy”.
At that point I can’t help but wonder. Is there anyone in that organization who understands that I’m not only a sales professional but I’m a consumer. Haven’t they figured out the basics of protecting their brand? Don’t they know that every human interaction means something to the company’s reputation? Don’t they realize the stakes are especially high today with the consumers’ ability to blast their opinions to millions with a click of a mouse?
Then there’s the other side which unfortunately is the exception rather than the rule. It’s that call where the receptionist actually sounds like he or she is glad to be alive. When I ask for my contact they say something like, “It will be my pleasure to connect you!” When you get through that person either picks up the phone or you get a cheery voice mail greeting. And every once in a while you might even get called back. It’s the next best thing it making a sale. It renews my faith in human kindness and professional courtesy. It leaves me with a positive impression of that organization regardless of the outcome.
Those of you on the receiving end; the ones who get inundated with calls and whose daily schedules are chocked full of important priorities. What are your thoughts? Any comments you are willing to share will be sincerely appreciated.