Although I had reached General Management positions before I retired from active business life, I spent most of it in Marketing and more specifically in Sales. I never however, sold or tried to sell Snake Oil. A salesman however is always looked upon suspiciously and terms like Snake Oil Salesman, Used Car Salesman, Wheeler Dealer etc, are more common than just plain salesman. I am a rare salesman who even now calls his occupation as a Retired Salesman.
So, when this topic was suggested by The Old Fossil, I was intrigued as to why he would have come up with this odd combination and racked my brain to find something linking these three words. It has not been easy but, I hope that what I have come up with here finds my readers’ approval.
The best description of a Salesman’s job that I have come across is “creating a demand and catering to it”. This can mean creating a demand for something for which demand did not exist as well as diverting demand from a competitor’s product to one’s own. I flatter myself that in both these activities, I have had a fairly successful career and though I have met failures, they have been much less in comparison to my successes.
I also strongly believe that I was successful because I did not take recourse to politics to sell which I have seen many salesmen do. I use the word politics in a broader sense than the narrower one of the field of politicians. For instance, I had an experience of losing a customer to a competitor because the Purchase Manager of the customer was bribed. I could have politicked and gone over his head but, preferred to wait out and was rewarded with my patience when the product failed on the shop floor and investigation found out the reason for the shift and I was back dealing with the same customer but with a different Purchase Manager.
Another example was doing the opposite. Influencing production people to complain about a competitor’s product so that the purchase department is forced to buy from another source. I never indulged in this kind of politicking either.
Such experiences repeated many times and my advice to Sales Professionals was and is even now to avoid such traps / temptations.
Coming to Truth, I inevitably found that truth eventually wins in Marketing and hype inevitably fails in the long term. This however need not be the mantra for all Sales Professionals. Let me give an example. When I was a Sales Trainee, I had gone with a Senior Salesman to a customer to learn the ropes and despite much effort, my senior could not clinch a deal. On reporting back to the Sales Manager, after asking a number of questions he came up with a statement that I will never forget in my life. “Gentlemen, you failed because you did not give the customer facts. They don’t have to be facts but, give customers facts to be effective salesmen.”
Fortunately for me I did not take this particular piece of training to heart and that particular Sales Manager came to a bad end eventually.
My motto was always “promise less and deliver more” and this worked and I did not have to resort to telling lies or twisting truths in my career. The fact that many of the customers with whom I had established strong relationships continue to be my friends even now bears testimony to that.
This is my contribution to this week’s Friday 8 On 1 blog post topic. The other seven bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Maria. Sanjana, Padmum, Raju, Shackman , Srinivas and Conrad. This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad The Old Fossil. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.