In the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Alec Baldwin’s character Blake, in one of the more memorable monologues of the last 30 years, emphasizes the importance of “ABC”: Always Be Closing. In this scene, Blake announces that the top winner of that week’s sales competition receives a Cadillac. The second place winner receives a knife set. The third/fourth/fifth/etc. place “winners” receive an escort out of the building into the world of unemployment. Pretty cutthroat, no?
While the real world isn’t quite like that, the underlying theme is eerily similar: Always Be Closing (Selling). And if you are able to take in oxygen and expel CO2, you’re selling at some point during the day.
Students entering college must sell themselves on the basis of their academic credentials and potential. Potential employees must sell themselves to a potential employer based on their education, experience, and fit within the company. Co-workers sell each other on the perfect restaurant to go to for lunch. Hell, children must sell themselves to their parents in order to receive a toy or to attain permission to go to a friend’s house. The examples go on and on. Everyone sells everyday.
In the sales world, we must not only seek out opportunities in our professional lives but we must also recognize sales opportunities in everyday situations. Find yourself at a casual get-together with friends and a new acquaintance shows up? There is an opportunity there. Make a connection. Connections lead to personal relationships, which can lead to mutually beneficial professional relationships. Standing in line at a store? Strike up a conversation with someone around you. Build relationships all day, every day.
And don’t forget the “easy” ways to sell yourself.
- Business cards are mini-billboards that cost pennies each. God help you if you ever run out or don’t have them on you.
- Forums are free advertising space. Join a sales forum or a forum dedicated to a hobby of yours. A co-worker of mine has landed several contacts with people all over the world via a beer rating site, people he never would have known otherwise.
- Alumni groups are excellent resources for creating networks and for attaining prospects. The icebreaker (same alma mater) is done for you. The rest is up to you.
Your sales day doesn’t end when the whistle blows at 5. If you want the Cadillac, you gotta sell 24/7. Always Be Selling!
Imagine if Churchill’s “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” speech contained such lines as “We’re gonna fight really hard. Hopefully we’ll win but we’ll see.” Not very inspiring, is it? On a smaller scale, imagine your sales presentations including such phrases as “You should buy our product because it’s really good,” or “I, uh, um, am here to, uh, sell you, um, this gadget that, uh…” Your sales record would be on par with Wile E. Coyote’s success rate with the Roadrunner, wouldn’t it?
Last week, I was approached by a door-to-door salesman selling something related to A/C units. His sales pitch was so uneven and untethered and jerky that I almost felt sorry for him. For starters, door-to-door sales is just above parking ticket cop in terms of the public’s affections. I feel for people that have to make their living doing what others detest. I really do. Even so, his presentation was so bad that, had I been interested in whatever A/C part he was selling, I would not have bought from him. Why? He lacked passion for the product. He lacked knowledge about the product. But most importantly, he lacked confidence in his ability to MAKE me feel invested in his product. Before I let him finish his spiel, I informed him that his presentation was weak and needed work. After a moment of silence, I instructed him to move on to the next house.
So what constitutes a “good” presentation? Simple.
Without confidence, you’re a guitar without strings. Your presentation needs to be harmonious and catchy without being too overbearing and loud. Show the potential client that you genuinely love and believe in the product/service you are selling; that feeling, in most cases, is contagious.
- Knowing your product/service.
Assume your potential client is an inquisitive 3-year-old, loaded with questions of why and how. (Note: Do not talk to them as if they ARE a 3-year-old-child.) Be so thorough in your explanation that most of their questions are answered. Knowing your product’s ins and outs is a great way to avoid awkward silences as you search your brain for the right answer (or one that will buy you some time until you can explain your way out of it) to questions that do come up during the course of your presentation.
Without presenting yourself as a likeable and trustworthy person, you’re not behind the 8 ball, you’re UNDER the 8 ball. Few people have the time or the desire to deal with someone they don’t like. And since sales, at its core, is about building relationships, the best foundation to lay is one built on friendliness and courtesy.
Going into a presentation without the proper attitude and preparation is like showing up bare-assed to a formal event. With a little preparation and a little “hell yes” attitude, your formal attire will be pressed and ready to go for any event.
On a recent flight home from New York City, I was seated in first class and once again, I was amused by the petty gripes and groans from the My Poop Don’t Stink crowd heaped upon the flight personnel. One particularly foul turd found it imperative to complain about the lack of closet space for his hanging bag, directing his choice-language ire at a hapless flight attendant who graciously tried to inform him that the plane was equipped with racks that would be adequate for stowing his gear.
Perhaps it was the warm weather causing his discomfort; perhaps he was deflecting his disgust that the National League was shut out at the MLB All-Star game; perhaps it was because he would actually have to expend more than 2 calories to get to the area referred to by the attendant. But it was probably because he is a jackass who believes he is above the “common folk” and deserves every courtesy and accommodation.
I learned a long time ago that it’s perfectly fine to be courteous and cordial with, say, the drive-through clerk at a fast food restaurant. This revelation led to me being nice to the department store clerk, which led me to be nice to the person that cleans the bathrooms, and so on and so forth. Why? Simple. It’s the right thing to do. Sure, I may have more education and more experience than a lot of people that work at these places but hey, my smarts and my position plus a buck fifty will get me a Coke at the local corner store just the same as anyone else.
There is also power in treating people respectfully. You have the power to change a bad day or to enlighten an already fine day. Think about that: Your simple, free gesture of kindness can impact an exponential number of people. You’re nice to the clerk, who is nice to a nervous job candidate on their way to an important interview, who now has the confidence to nail the interview, etc.
What about you? How do you treat others you encounter throughout your day? If you’re not treating others as nice as you should, try to improve on that. Even if it’s an act, it could become a habit. And when it’s a habit, it’s behavior. Besides, being nice to people FEELS good. It makes you happy, knowing that you treated someone with dignity and courtesy. It’s hard to feel bad or to feel sorry for yourself when you have a warm feeling in your body and in your soul. Those who work in the service industry are continually subjected to rude behavior and irate customers. Sure, it comes with the territory but these people are human, and it WILL wear on a person after a while. I’ve never worked in the service industry, nor do I claim to know anything about the service industry other than I’m a customer and it’s their job to make sure I’m satisfied with my experience in their establishment. Does that give me a license to treat them like dog shit? Hell no, and hell no. As I said, I understand the professional relationship between me and the employee. But I’ve found that the service improves in direct correlation to the courtesy extended to the worker. Better service AND you make someone feel appreciated? That’s a win-win in my book.
I wonder what happened to Mr. If-I-Don’t-Have-My-Way-I’ll-Pout. Did the stewardesses leave him be, or did they exact some covert revenge, ala a little pinch of laxative in Sunshine’s lunch? I wonder if he WAS simply having a bad day and the flight attendants just happened to be the unlucky ones to bear the brunt of his displeasure with an outside element. I doubt it, though. This guy seemed like a Grade A, from-the-bootstraps-up asshole, used to getting his way and treating the hoi polloi with the disdain and malice he feels they deserve for being beneath him. I don’t know the guy, nor do I care to meet his acquaintance again in any capacity other than sharing a few hours in the sky. But what I do know is this: my flight was awesome, and my day was even better because I treated those tasked with serving me as humans worthy of a nice word and courtesy.
One evening not too long ago my wife was once again cooking a pot roast. My girls have seen the ritual my wife goes through to prepare the roast many times before but on this occasion, curiosity loomed heavy in the room.
“Why do you cut the pot roast in half before cooking it?” they inquired.
“Well,” said my wife, “that’s the way MeMaw has always done it.”
Their questions ended there but a looming sense of dissatisfaction with the reply hung in the air like the scents of cooking meat and mingling spices from the cooking vessel.
At Thanksgiving, the girls finally had their chance to seek further explanation for the pot roast mystery.
“MeeMaw, why do you cut the pot roast in half before you cook it?”
“Well, Grammie always did it that way.”
This answer did not quell my daughters’ desire to know the reason behind the halved pot roast, and the mounting frustration was almost palatable.
So, they turned to Grammie in hopes of finding a satisfactory conclusion to the pot roast query.
“Well,” Grammie said, “I cut it in half because I didn’t have a pot large enough to put the roast in!”
In the sales world— and life in general— there’s a fine line between tradition and doing something for the sake of doing it. Without a sound reason behind your methods, you’re simply regurgitating the same old same old while the next guy has a mop and a newer, more effective way to do things. Being stuck in your ways tends to give an air of rigidness, as if you are unwilling to change or to bend a little to accommodate others.
Don’t be stuck in your career. Buy a bigger pot, go get the best cut of meat you can, and fire up the stove top for success.
And please pass the pepper.