“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust
I remember my first official sales job as though it were yesterday. I was in my third year of college and had been hired to sell security systems, door-to-door in Denver, Colorado. This particular company had built its sales team from a pool of college students seeking summer employment.
The sales season began in May and finished around the first of September. In the months leading up to May, I scoured through sales books and added a few marketing classes to my already full schedule. I wrote down my sales pitch and rehearsed it at least a hundred times. That first evening, I recall driving around looking for what might be considered an ideal neighborhood. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was even looking for. I found an average-looking street in an average-looking neighborhood and figured it was as good as any other. As I approached a dark cedar house, I felt my heart pumping fast. I knew that this would be the first of a lifetime of pitches.
Despite months of preparation, those first few calls were disastrous! The more I tried to follow the sales strategies I had committed to memory, the more I struggled. I soon realized that “rehearsed selling” wasn’t working for me. Instead, I resorted to a more natural approach: a casual communication style that friends use with one another. That little switch changed everything, and I soon found my first sale. I felt victorious at finally closing a sale. As I drove home, the endorphins subsided, and I thought about how different this particular experience had been from my previous attempts. It felt like everything I had studied vanished into the recesses of my brain. Not once during the sale did I think about specific closing techniques, or whether I had completed all five steps of an effective product demonstration. Instead, I instinctively followed a loose outline that was geared towards closing the sale. Although I had rehearsed the entire presentation, I kept shifting into auto-pilot.
Over the years, I examined what set my first sale apart from the rest of my failed pitches. As I hired and trained sales executives in the capacity of business owner, I noticed a pattern. Despite their keen interest and an arsenal of sales books, a consistent percentage of recruits struggled to find success. I spent a lot of time interviewing reps and evaluating their differences, assuming a technique or training element was missing. Instead, I discovered that the differences were not based on technique or training but rather from something else that most sales books and techniques did not address.
As my career progressed towards entrepreneurship, real estate, and private equity, the “sales” or “deals” became more complex. With this complexity, I found that routine sales strategies became more and more irrelevant. I noticed that discussions and negotiations occurred on a much more instinctual level, not bound by the various headings of the sales books. This deepened my desire to discover the differences between sales success and mediocrity. I soon realized that I had been asking the wrong questions. Success was not a function of how much a person studied, if they were married, or if money was a motivating factor. Instead, success came from instincts, beliefs, communication styles, and a number of deep-rooted habits developed in the early years of life. Selling was more than following the right steps or remembering items on a list. It was an art. Like painting, art has always been rooted in the artist, not the paint. I concluded that traditional sales books, although helpful in teaching principles of sales, often struggle to help us develop the habits and instincts that facilitate consistent sales success.
Success is in direct proportion to our ability to INFLUENCE; and everyone has within them natural, albeit sometimes latent, abilities that can be cultivated to build true INFLUENCE.
Today, I see selling as a form of influence, and the two words can be used interchangeably. Rooted in a distinct mindset, selling is in the way we think, act, and communicate. It is habitual. It’s not so much what we do or say, it’s how we do or say it. Selling is something we do on a daily basis, often unaware that we are even selling. We all sell something every single day of our lives. No matter what our job title is, we are all active in the art of influence.
My career has always involved sales. From lemonade stands to real estate, I have sold over a quarter-billion dollars in various products and services over the years. I have read hundreds of sales books, attended seminars, and viewed countless videos. In addition, I have personally recruited and trained more than a thousand sales professionals. Armed with this experience and education, I have come to four conclusions:
- Selling, or influencing others is an integral part of our daily experience, no matter what role we play in life.
- Our success in any endeavor depends on our ability to influence.
- We each have natural abilities that we can cultivate into habits of influence.
- By practicing these habits on a consistent basis, we can leverage the power of influence to reach our greatest potential.
My mission is to challenge the common perceptions of sales and demonstrate that success in any profession or endeavor can be found in direct proportion to one’s ability to influence. My greatest passion is to help my clients discover their natural abilities that can be cultivated to build powerful influence. To learn more visit us at www.foundersinc.com
BRAD HARKER is a professional speaker, sales consultant, and author of The Laws of Influence. Through the creation of several companies and more than a quarter-billion dollars in sales, Brad has developed the tools to help anyone, regardless of role or profession, master the elements of influence and realize their potential. Learn more by visiting www.foundersinc.com