Anyone can learn the rules of chess in an afternoon but it takes a lifetime to successfully march 20 wooden pieces across a 10 x 10 board with the skill of a conquering general. Similarly, while a firm’s sales cycle can be neatly illustrated on a single sheet of letter-sized paper it takes years of human insight and heartbreak before a stranger will shake your hand for a million dollars, and why stop there when a billion is the new million? This week we present five black diamonds that they don’t teach you at business school. Are we inviting clients to a game of poker with a loaded deck or merely playing our cards to their legitimate limit? As they say in your corporate ethics class: that is something that only you can decide.
In the current economy, getting laid off is decidedly passé while handing in your notice implies a responsibility to look for future employment and contemplate life beyond the comfort of your carefully cultivated office cubicle. No, the true bon vivant of today’s bellybutton gazing economy aspires to get fired – spectacularly. Trouble is, if you can sell in a down market, jumping off the corporate ladder can be just as tricky for a sales rep as scaling its slippery rungs. Fortunately, career seppuku is now within the easy reach of every sales professional, no matter how motivated they are.
1. Taking Liberties with the Company Expense Policy
You made enough cash last year to send your kids to Europe and put your mistress through Art School yet the temptation still burns every Friday night to expense that $6 beer after a particularly rough day in the office. One man’s legitimate business expense is another man’s all paid visit to Score’s complete with steak dinner and 60 minutes of negotiation time in the champagne room. If in doubt ask for a fully itemized bill after a night of raiding the hotel mini-bar on your next business trip and don’t forget to call internationally from the comfort and convenience of your hotel phone.
Or should I say Yoda (LOL)!
We haven’t met but from reading your book, “The Four Hour Work Week”, I feel we have a spiritual connection that is bigger than the confines of my humble office cubicle. My co-workers are a little freaked out by the giant poster of you playing Irish Hurling that I’ve put up in the staff canteen and our inside-sales rep says I have a man-crush on you but I guess not everyone can be a lifestyles entrepreneur.
I’ve been trying my best to follow your sagely advice and think I am making real progress. Every morning I consume twice the recommended dose of your patented BrainQUICKEN nurtional formula and I find it really pumps me up (though I’m not sure if the gaseous side effects are normal).
Over the years, sales has developed its own unique language / flavor of corporate verbal diarrhea. This has served two primary purposes: to make business school graduates feel important while selling industrial powder coatings and to humanize some rather inhumane tasks such as soliciting cash from strangers. For those of you who interact with sales people, whether they be co-workers, suppliers or loved ones, here’s the definitive guide to knowing an RFP from your USP:
- Business Development – a polite term introduced by the “American Society of Door-to-Door Salesmen” to rebrand their public image after a miss-sold encyclopedia was attributed to the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
- Commission – a bizarre payment made to sales people for performing ordinary administrative tasks such as placing phone calls and responding to work related emails in a timely fashion.
- Cold Calling – the practice of phoning strangers with the explicit purpose of soliciting cash for products they may or may not need. A thriving business has sprung up in recent years outsourcing this type of work to federal penitentiaries and college students.
Ah, the business suit: a timeless classic. At a first glance there isn’t too much here for the average American male to screw up. Suits generally come in black or blue with the occasional libertine venturing out in brown. We’re not asking anyone to pair ostrich leather shoes with dyed pink beaver fur; a navy suit, red tie and white shirt will do for 95% of business occassions. So why do so many of us cock it up? In the spirit of learning through the humiliation of others, let us go where no Vogue fashion critic has dared to venture since Nixon’s impeachment. Prepare for the horror of “When Sales People Dress Badly.”
Despite widespread adoption of the automobile and advances in moving airport walkways, salesmen are still expected to “beat the pavements”. Consequently, their footwear needs are surpassed only by the LA Lakers’ starting lineup. Luckily there is a whole plethora of scientific innovations to get the salesman safely from his rental car to the hotel lobby: bouncing shoe spring soles, Japanese podiatric air cooling technology and Velcro for a more speedy passage through airport security. The bottom line: if a sales rep can’t tie his own shoe laces, don’t buy from him.
While few people would compare the staid world of corporate sales to the free speach utopia of talk radio, both the salesman and political pundit undoubtedly rely on their vocal chords to make a living. In this article, we’ll share some insider tips from the Closer’s personal playbook and advice from a professional news reporter to ensure that we’re sat up straight, making eye contact and staying on message during our next sales call.
First up, setting the stage for a great performance: this means getting the seating arrangement right. Our choices will depend upon if we running a pitch-style meeting or a more collaborative discussion with folks from both sides of the vendor client-divide.
When it comes to selling, slothfulness is by far the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins. You can lust after your co-worker, supersize your lunch hour till your pants explode but woe beholds the slothful sales rep: few things will put a buzz kill on your career faster than a bad case of procrastination.
Whichever bright spark first thought of hiring a man to do nothing but sell for 8 hours a day was a particularly sadistic fellow. Selling is a rather existentialist profession and who want post-modernism in their job description?
Let’s say we go to the office and absently surf the internet for a day – nothing happens, we just get a vague sense of guilt that we can’t quite put our finger on. Next we wrap up early one afternoon and make a matinee movie – again nothing really happens, is that repressed professional panic setting in or merely lunchtime indigestion? And finally, after a strangely pleasant month of not much happening we are summoned to meet our maker in the corner office.