Something you learn in sales is that gift-of-the-gab merchants often don’t last that long.
While being able to engage people in a positive, lively and enthusiastic manner will open doors, you need real substance underneath all that to keep these doors open year after year.
Patience, discipline and listening skills.
As a manager with a payphone company in the early 1990s, (selling payphone contracts to retailers) I came across a good example of this.
Johnny J was charismatic, likeable, not at all arrogant and a natural salesperson. Yes, he did have the gift-of-the-gab but he was also determined to learn the craft of selling properly. All that was holding him up was that, while he was a good listener, he listened mostly only to himself.
Like most gift-of-the-gab guys, his sales figures ranged from unsurpassed to abysmal in the same week. The reason a lot of these guys move on is because they don’t have the patience to learn the nuts and bolts of their job.
Taylor’s was a store in a housing estate where most people did not have a phone – a natural prospect for us. I was training Johnny in that area one day, or should I say, banging my head against the brick wall of his constant chatter.
“Johnny, let’s put a phone into Taylor’s and start the day with a sale.”
“I’ve been in there, Bob. He won’t take it. Someone beat us to it.
Bloody ***** Leasing Company.”
“Is he a happy customer of theirs?”
“No, but it’s a five-year lease. Nothing he could do to get out of it.”
“Let’s say hello anyway.”
I considered we were like the village bobby and should say ‘hello’ to relevant people on our patch, just to let them know we were there.
In the store, Mr Taylor was an impatient guy. He welcomed us the way a known thief would welcome the CID.
“I’ve already told your pal here that I can’t do anything with you boys. I’m stitched up for years!”
I looked around but could not see any phone.
“Before you ask, son, it’s in the back. Bloody thing stopped working after two months! And you know what bloody ***** Leasing Co. are like, with their bloody small print. Apparently I took the cheap package without the extra cover. If only the salesman had told me about that I would have signed up for the dearer package. But you know what bloody salesmen are like!”
This was an obvious prospect. Time to bring out the mental sales kit. Probe and listen.
“So you’re stuck on a five-year lease, paying out monthly for a phone that doesn’t work?”
“Exactly! So there’s no way I’ll sign another contract and lose more money. I’m paying out £23 a month for a useless piece of junk in my back store!”
Mr Taylor had told us what he would lose by signing up with us. Time now to illustrate what he was losing by not signing up with us.
“When your phone was working, how many calls did your phone make a day?”
“Hundreds. I had to keep emptying it so it didn’t get robbed!”
“Really? Wow. The phone was really paying off. What do the people around here do when they want to make a phone call now?”
“I dunno. I suppose they’ll just have to go to Johnstone’s Groceries. The penny was dropping. Time to move in. Go, go, go!
“Let’s say, hypothetically, that you had our phone, costing you £30 a month. That’s £1 a day, right?”
“Yes, but I’m already paying near that for no chance of a return at all.”
“Okay, so let’s say you’re paying £2 a day. If the phone is used hundreds of times that day, then your customers are not only paying for our phone but at least someone else is paying for that ‘piece of junk’ in your back store too. That’d be one less current overhead, wouldn’t it?”
Mr Taylor looked at his assistant and was clearly wanting to convert himself into our first sale of the day but just needed something to help him sell it to himself. Time to be merciless, time for the coup de grace.
“We’d rather you got the benefit of hundreds of calls a day instead of Johnstone’s Groceries. After all, you were the first to recognize the needs of the people around here by signing up with ***** Leasing Co. Why should Johnstone’s rake it in while you are already paying out with ‘no chance of a return’, as you said?”
“What’s your service deal?”
“I only want the package that gets you guys out here to fix it right away if anything goes wrong. I don’t want two pieces of bloody junk in my back store.”
Johnny, to his credit, had not said a word throughout. I enjoyed the sale for no other reason than it shut him up for half an hour. He drove us back to base saying little. I let it all sink in. I told him to write a brief summary of the sale (standard practice in my team) telling him that if it was clear he’d learned from it then the sale was his. That afternoon I passed him the contract.
Johnny didn’t become perfect overnight. But his sales steadied and he didn’t move on.
By Bob Smith who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer & motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.