Valuable lessons learnt in sales as we welcome 2016

Today is the last day of 2015.

As is tradition, and in keeping with the New Year cheer, herewith highlights of the Sales Pitch year.

2015 promises to be the year you want it to be, this column assured us in January. And it has panned out exactly as you worked on it to. If it hasn’t, remain open to possibilities your product can offer-as did the mkokoteni (hand cart) seller in Malindi who was quick to adapt to this buyer’s need, unlike his colleague. They both sold whole pineapples. I wanted mine sliced. One insisted he only sells them whole and the other was quick to call me over and while slicing it up said, “utaongeza shillingi kumi tu ya karatasi”. All he needed was an extra ten shillings for the wrapping paper which he had to buy at a shop nearby.

In February we spoke of selling to how the customer buys. Being stumped on a sale because procurement has “sat on your order” is not productive. Understanding how the prospect buys is more useful. The discovery that procurement will not move until Finance approves the cost gives new insight as to where to direct our focus.

March warned that using the word convenient when selling could be losing you sales. Show the customer how your solution dovetails his problem, instead of just saying it’s convenient.

The question, “So?” we observed in April, unclogs many sales blockages. Asking yourself “so?” will force you to find points of convergence between the buyer’s need and your product’s solution. And why, “So?” Because, that’s exactly what the buyer is asking himself when you rattle on about how your bank is 30 years old (So?), you’ve financed this and that project (So?) and how disbursements are done in 48 hours…So?

Research and explore to derive and address buyer’s latent need we saw in May. Needs differ across individuals and cadre and are rarely overt. And so we explore with insightful questions to unearth the them.

June warned us that prospecting is the most important skill in selling. Not closing. And why do I insist its prospecting: because all other skills are useless if you have no one (a prospect) to work them on.

While hitherto fully fledged charitable organizations strive to embrace a quasi-commercial outlook because of dwindling donor funding, it is imperative for their salespeople (or whatever title they call themselves) to morph into their new role at a faster rate. Otherwise they’ll be out in the cold; just as the month of July we covered this in was.

August told us that most internal training is product oriented, with a technocrat (say, an engineer or underwriter) called in to drive home the product knowledge; yet, success in selling is buyer oriented. The training thus sabotages the company sales efforts. Companies should interrogate their training methods against how the buyer benefits.

We lamented in September that the tragedy of the sales profession is that most salespeople fall on wayside and many grow into inefficiency. For a worrying number of “experienced” salespeople their ten years experience is in fact one year’s experience ten times. Their experience is a matter of duration not merit. To arrest this anomaly is a joint effort which pools together (foremost) the salesperson’s attitude and enabling support structures.

October reminded us to make a customer not a sale. Enough said.

With the Pope in town in November, we said that growth in selling requires risk taking. Many traders at l at the beatification in Nyeri were disappointed at the dismal sales experienced, but didn’t stop them trying with the masses pulled with the Pope’s arrival in Kenya.

And finally, remain dumb, December humbled us. Stupidity takes you places in selling.

See you in 2016-that’s tomorrow!



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