I have always said that everyone is in sales. Maybe you don’t hold the title of salesperson, but if the business you are in requires you to deal with people, you, my friend, are in sales. At Ziglar Inc., we fully understand that anyone on our staff can make—or lose—a sale.
Many years ago our company had a van that displayed our company logo and name in very large print across the full length of the vehicle. One particular day the individual driving the van made a bad choice to pass cars on the shoulder of the highway during afternoon traffic. I cannot tell you how many people that day came to associate our company name with the arrogant, impatient, illegal behavior of that one employee. We got calls from folks who said they were surprised that someone from our company would behave that way—and this was before cell phones existed! The behavior of one, whether it is good or bad, influences the opinions of many.
When I started speaking full-time nearly 40 years ago there was no blueprint for how to become a public speaker. I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, but I was, and I had to use every sales technique I had ever learned to make my business grow. I shudder to think how difficult it would have been to attempt what I did without my prior years of sales experience.
I had to convince my staff that they were in the business of making a difference in the lives of people. I wanted them onboard with the idea that everything we did in our company had the potential to change someone’s life for the better. There was no task so small that it could be discounted. There were no conversations with customers that were not of monumental importance. Until everyone could see the bigger picture, they couldn’t truly understand how vitally important their role in the company really was.
Interestingly, I have met people who believe they can be successful entrepreneurs without having any true sales skills. I’m sure there are some who happen to have such an innovative product that they achieve a level of success they never dreamed possible, but I ask, what could they have achieved had they understood how to truly help people get what they want and need? Sales are what you do for people, not to people.
There are a few indispensable principles and procedures that any good salesperson must embrace. Honesty and integrity are by far the most important assets of an entrepreneur. With these two traits in place, a relationship of trust can be established with both employees and clients. My mother always said, “Son, if a man’s word is no good, eventually he’ll be no good.” If you commit to something, follow through. My surrogate father and childhood employer, Mr. John R. Anderson, once explained to me, “You can’t make a good deal with a bad man.” I had no idea at the time how true that statement was, but it has served me well to remember his wise words. I promise you, there is some money out there that is not worth having. Be honest. If you have integrity you’ll have nothing to hide.
Listening, as you’ve heard before, is so basic it is often overlooked. If you are so busy thinking of what you’re going to say next that you can’t hear what your prospect or employee is saying, you’re going to miss your opportunity to connect to what they need. If you don’t know what their perception is, you can’t address their issues. You may as well have skipped the whole encounter. Slow down, focus and pay more sincere attention to what is being said than your prospect, client or employee expects. You’ll be surprised at the feeling of partnership good listening creates.
Prospecting. That word drives fear into the heart of the individual who doesn’t believe that selling something to someone is for their benefit and overall well-being. We all prospect and don’t even know we’re doing it. When you start the dating process, you are actually prospecting for the person you want to marry. When you’re interviewing employees, you are prospecting for someone who will best fit your needs. When you have a product to sell, you need someone to sell it to, so you have to go out and find the folks who need what you have. If you don’t believe that their lives will be better because of what you have to sell them, then you are either selling the wrong thing or you are selling it to the wrong person. A true prospect needs your product, has a potential desire to own that product and has the financial ability to make that decision.
Prospecting becomes second nature when you can implement my quote: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” When you are truly interested in other people, you will learn what they are interested in and if they have a need for your product. If they like you, and most people like folks who take an interest in them, they’ll help you find people who do need what you have to sell, even if they don’t.
You must be able to easily explain what you sell and easily identify who buys what you sell. If you can’t tell anyone those two things in a few simple sentences, you aren’t in the right business. You must also be able to identify a need. I know these suggestions sound like a given for the sales pro, but I have found that entrepreneurs who haven’t studied the art of selling and don’t yet understand how vital this skill is to their growth potential need clarity on these basic ideas.
Mastering sales techniques, principles and procedures should be the first skill set entrepreneurs aspire to acquire. Good business starts on the inside, in your home office, with the folks you need to believe in you and what you are trying to accomplish. If your team isn’t on your team, you’re in big trouble. The belief in the value of what you do or sell has to be so strong that everyone who comes in contact with a customer exudes confidence in the company and the product. When that is the case, everyone is prepared to help in the sales effort. If everyone in your company is taught to actively prospect, listen with true interest to the other person and has an honest desire to help them get their needs met, then I can honestly say that I will not only see you at the top, I’ll see you over the top!
This article was published in May 2009 and has been updated. Photo by Delmaine Donson/IStock
Zig Ziglar taught timeless lessons of success before his passing in 2012. An author, salesperson and motivational speaker, his books include the classic See You at the Top, as well as Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World, Top Performance, Courtship After Marriage, Over the Top and Secrets of Closing the Sale.