Many years ago, my colleague Sridhar addressed a Global Sales Conference with the words – “Good Morning, ladies and men“….after a small pause, he said – “I said men, because there are NO gentlemen in sales!” (cue for canned laughter)
Remember the merchant in Aladin who sold the magical lamp? Glib talking stereotype!
But its true – while we revile and treat badly most sales people – whether its the tele caller selling credit cards, or the medical rep who comes in to the doctor’s clinic with beautifully crafted “detailers” and drug samples; when you look at all of us, at any situation in life, irrespective of what we are doing, we are pretty much involved in some negotiation/ some give or take/ in effect, some sales…
Look at my 7 year old – she is ALWAYS selling/ negotiating – at school, where she sells her desire to become a narrator in the school play rather than be in the dance group ; at home when she sells her “neeeed” for candy – ok then cola – ok then yakult (probiotic yoghurt brand) – in her after school classes where she is a regular pest but manages to get personalised attention from all the coaches!
She’s got the basic tactics of sales nailed down to a T –
a) be “in your face” and keep on and on and on and onnnn till folks give up for the sheer nuisance value; (I think most “real” sales people will tell you thats rule no. 1 – do NOT get discouraged by the phone hung up, the door banged or the martinet exec assistant who doesnt let you get past him!)
b) choose timing of request really well – ( was easier when mom was working and perpetually on telecons) – again, all “real” sales people know monday mornings are bad, friday afternoons are bad too. Tuesday to thursday mornings work well to call and set up appointments.
c) choose the decision maker vs influencer stakeholders well – in this case play mom vs. dad vs. older sister. Depending on type of business, the procurement big daddys vs the CMO…
d) keep “stuff in the pocket” – ask for more than u need so that after whittling down you’ll get what u really wanted – or close enough. Can I eat 4 candies after I drink my milk?
As one of her teachers said the other day – you can love Achchu or you can hate her, but you certainly can’t ignore her!
But I can’t blame Achchu – she’s figured out that life is a sea of negotiations and sales – after all, All of us are selling too – in our personal as well as professional lives.
We sell our aggressiveness when negotiating for THAT book or toy with our siblings, we sell our one-upmanship when we honk at other traffic on the roads, we sell our intelligence, articulate-ness (I know that’s not a bona fide word ) and aptitude when we go for focus groups for college admissions; we sell our abilities and attitude when we go for job interviews, we sell our worthiness as life partners when we meet potential spouses, we sell our “better judgement” to the same spouses at crucial milestones – house to buy/ baby to have/ etc etc; and ofcourse we are continuously selling our superiority as parents to our kids – all day, everyday, most of our lives!
In professional lives, we sell ourselves at appraisal time, when we are asking for resources for our departments, ofcourse when we really actually “sell” our ideas/ our businesses/ our services to someone else. This is true at all levels of the corporate hierarchy – infact at senior levels that’s ALL you are doing – selling. It may be called different things – “getting buy in”; “pitching”; “presenting”; “getting approval”; “getting consensus”; lobbying….but its all sales…
And, as a natural reaction, the world around us also starts behaving in a way that expects us to sell – I remember discussing an action point with an HR guy once and telling him that I was waiting for approval from the Senior Executive – he told me, just call him. If you want it badly enough, show it to him – unless you call, he won’t approve. While I was fairly pissed off at what I thought was high handedness, truly, I realized over many years that it wasn’t just ego that had the guy waiting for me to call – in that system, it was just another filter that indicated the strength of the need for that item (whatever it was).
In the same way, when you let’s say budget for resources, you ALWAYS ask for more than u get – it’s the 140% rule…ask for 140%, you will get atleast 100 (kind of like bargaining in flea markets – you pretty much halve what the peddler quotes and settle for midway maybe)
But I often wonder, if the above is true – what all the hoopla about career planning/ stream selection/ specialization is for? Maybe we should all enroll in the school of sales – and teach and learn to be salespeople. (As my sales friends would say – it gives you license to eat drink and make merry at company’s expense – if only to drown non quota making sorrows in the liquor!)
Really, I think that should be my next business idea – begin a string of School of Sales (if I want to be extra alliterative I can call it Sangita Specialized School of Sales – SSSoS!!! ). It is, after all a lesson that needs to start at birth and continue till post retirement.
As one of my first bosses Guptaji used to say – “the crying baby gets more milk – conversely, the baby who doesn’t cry, doesn’t get as much!”……