This is a guest column by Amrutash Misra, the co-founder at Life Online which runs a Chennai based online library. Before that, he worked at Hindustan Unilever. And before that, he was a student at IIT Madras. For Amrut, the glass is never half empty. It’s always half full of opportunity.On a day like this, it is impossible not to pay a tribute to good ol’ Steve. My facebook stream and perhaps yours too is filled with tributes to Steve Jobs. It’s astonishing how one man has inspired so many of us, including the ones who don’t use Apple products (like me). I shall now steer away from a discussion on Apple products and focus on the topic at hand instead.
I want to talk about being a salesman: something that most of us, as geeks, have a lot of trouble with. In fact, I’d go further to say that “selling” is not a commonly respected thing to do in our (Indian) culture. All of us, however, love and respect Steve Jobs, don’t we? Let me remind you that he was one of the greatest salesmen of our time. Have you heard him talk about his products? He is absolutely convinced that they are the absolute best that the world can ever achieve. Take a look at his iPhone launch keynote speech – link here. There are so many positive and super-positive words in that speech that it’s pointless to even count them.
The awesome thing is that Steve Jobs really believed what he said. He wasn’t a spin-doctor. He really meant what he said. And it showed in everything he did! Sure, he communicated great with customers. But he did the same with his employees. Example: Steve famously asked John Scully (the Pepsi war commander in the Cola-wars) if he wanted to sell sugar water for the rest of his life or come with him and change the world? IMHO, that’s one of the best sales-pitches ever. The closest is probably Obama’s “Yes, we can”.
I would suggest you do two things right away. 1) Read (or re-read) his Stanford commencement speech 2005 (The “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish” speech). 2) Evaluate yourself as a salesman.
Here’s my two pence on being a good salesman
Believe in yourself and your product: You can sell it well only if you believe that it’s a good product and that you can sell it. You have the slightest doubt about the product or your ability to sell it and the customer will see it and think twice before buying into you. I can tell you clearly, for example, that my team runs one of the best (if not the best) libraries in the country as far as customer support is concerned. And in a couple of years, we will prove it in sales.
Start at home: If you can’t sell something (anything) to your parents, your wife/ husband, your kids, your friends, then it is going to be super-hard to sell anything to anyone else. And home is a great place to practice your sales pitches. This is something we normally ignore. I’ll give you a cooking-analogy here (since I love to cook). Suppose you were baking a cake for a few guests, would you bake it better if the guests were a) close family or b) guests (strangers). Further, would you bake a better cake if only you were eating it? The answer is different for all of us – but the basic idea is the same – we sell differently to different people, and most often we take our family (and our selves) for granted, so we end up taking more effort in selling to strangers. BIG MISTAKE! We should be taking more effort selling to yourself and your family – and this will make selling to everyone else simpler and easier. In my case, for example, my wife and my sister-in-law use the library frequently and my father always reads a book I recommend.
Read up on sales: Sales doesn’t come easy to all of us and it really helps to read up on how to sell. There are many blogs and books on the subject and it is pretty easy to find them. Not marketing, not advertising: they are different things. Read up on “how to make a sale”. I’d recommend Ziglar on Sales.
Practice (a lot): Practice to sell. Do it every day. If you don’t have a product to sell, try selling an idea. Sell something. But remember: it’s not a sale till you’ve got something tangible (for e.g. – cash) in hand in return.
I’ll leave it at that. A list with more than 4 points is hard to sell.
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