I took my first marketing course nearly 20 years ago. And I absolutely loved it. I was in my third year at the University of Virginia, and my professor, Sandra Schmidt, was simply awesome.
She was one of those professors who loved what she did. She was always smiling, spoke with great emotion, and truly loved marketing and teaching. And on the very first day of class, I still remember to this day, she asked us two questions to test our knowledge.
The first question was whether the following statements represented good news or bad news to the companies associated with them. She then read off a few lines. The one statement that I remember was someone famous (maybe a President) asking someone else to Xerox something for them.
I immediately thought that this would have been good news for Xerox Corporation. Free PR...what could be better. But, buzzzzz...I got this one WRONG. She explained that brand names lose their registered trademark protection if they became so successful that they become commonly used.
She told us that names such as the following were all originally trademarked brand names that lost their protection: trampoline, nylon, escalator, thermos, kerosene, laser, linoleum and Frisbee (interestingly other brands such as Band-Aid and Kleenex have been able to fight this off).
The second question she asked was what business discipline most CEOs started in. This one was easy. Marketing, of course, was the answer (she had to be promoting her own course I thought). Buzzzz...wrong again. Sales was the answer.
So, I got both questions wrong. But they stayed with me. For a long time. And this second question has really helped me. It has taught me that to be an entrepreneur or CEO (which an entrepreneur is), you must be well versed in sales.
You are always selling. Selling to employees, to customers, to investors, to partner, etc. And if you're great at it, you have a major competitive advantage.
To ensure that you are as effective as possible in your sales efforts, I want to convey to you two key points that I took away from my recent interview of Adam Shaivitz, co-author of the best-selling book called "Selling is Everyone's Business: What it Takes to Create a Great Salesperson."
1. Make sure that you are properly motivating and solving the problems of your buyers.
The best salespeople are problem solvers who are able to sell the benefits of their offerings tailored to one or more of the six basic fundamentals that all of us as humans want:
1. Desire for gain
2. Fear of loss
3. Security and protection
4. Comfort and convenience
5. Pride of ownership
6. Satisfaction of some emotion like love or hate or ego
Great sales people understand which of these six motivators are most important to their prospects, and sell into them.
2. Spend time with your best sales performers. Adam told us that too many business owners neglect their top sales performers. Rather, they tend to focus on improving their lowest performers.
There are two problems with this approach. First, working with and improving the performance of your best sales performers by only 10% may be easier and more beneficial than improving the performance of your lower sales performers by 25%. Secondly, your top sales performers are the ones that will be targeted by headhunters and other firms, and you can't afford to lose them.