Hello and good day!
A long time ago I worked as a software salesman for a tech start up.
That was the last "real" job I had before joining our family chocolate business.
It wasn't an easy decision to leave that job.
I was making really good money selling software and my dad was only offering $1,500 a month to come work with him and my brother.
In the end, the idea of chasing a dream won out.
I had to do freelance accounting work on the side to make ends meet for a very long time.
Taking the risk has paid off big in the long run.
Over the last 15 years, we've been able to build a company that we are very proud of.
Selling software was a pivotal learning experience for me.
I'm a trained accountant with a master's degree in accounting.
But my most important role with our chocolate company over the years has been sales and marketing.
I cut my teeth and learned what it takes to be a professional salesman at the tech start up.
I started there as a financial analyst.
The company used publicly available information to identify 401k plans that were being overcharged by service providers.
It was a very good service that helped a lot of people save more for retirement.
It was something that I was proud to sell.
The start-up generated revenue by selling database access to financial advisors.
The theory was that if a financial advisor knew who was being overcharged in their area, they could introduce themselves, present data on the plan showing why the fees were out of whack and steal away the business.
And the theory worked in reality.
Our financial advisor clients were indeed able to win away business.
Participants in the plans paid lower fees.
Their retirement savings accounts earned higher returns and compounded at higher rates, which is very important.It was all good and I was happy to be involved.
I was the fourth salesman the company hired.
The first guy they hired was a wild man and a shark.
The CEO learned from a consultant that he ought to have at least two salesmen so that they could compete against each other.
He tried hiring two more sales reps before tapping me on the shoulder.
The first guy ran the other two into the ground, one at a time, and demoralized them. The problem was that the first fellow was competitive and talked trash.
It wasn't a team atmosphere in the sales department.
Guy number one was out to win and crush.
The CEO seemed to like that approach for whatever reason.
Maybe he liked the energy of all that macho posturing. Or maybe it was because the company was desperate for revenue and guy number one was making it happen.
Anyhow, there was something about me the CEO liked, and he was convinced that I would be a good salesman. He asked me if I was up for the challenge, and I told him that I was.
It meant that I would be paid more, but that wasn't the only thing.
There was a decent culture at the company and a lot of the folks working there wanted to see this pretty obnoxious fellow taken down a couple of notches.
They wanted to see somebody beat him.
At first, I was out of my depth. Being a salesman takes extreme mental toughness.It is one of the few jobs in which you can work really hard all day and have absolutely nothing to show for it.
You make a sale, or you don't. Effort doesn't show up on the profit and loss statement.
Both of us had a little bell on our desk that we rang when we made a sale.
When the contract came through, you got to walk around the office ringing the bell and everybody clapped for you.
For the first few months, I didn't ring that bell at all, and my competitor was ringing the bell all the time. I was fledgling and it was hell.
But then I started to get my feet under me. I understood how many calls I had to make. I refined my pitch.
And I came to understand something very important about selling.
Making a sale is one thing.
Keeping a client is another.
Keeping a client is just as important as making the sale and the groundwork for keeping a client is laid during the sales process.
Our commission structure was such that we were paid on annualized revenue.
We multiplied the monthly fee by twelve and calculated the commission on that.
But if the client left before one year, you had to give some of the money back.
I always wished that we had something that was opposite of a bell ringing.
Perhaps a tuba that played the "wah wah wah" song when a client canceled before one year.
Everybody got to see my competitor ringing the bell and strutting around all the time. It seemed like he was killing me, and his constant gloating reinforced that impression.
Behind the scenes though, his clientele had very high churn.
Many of his clients expressed just one month later that they really didn't even know what they had signed up for.
Our fees ran from $20,000 - $50,000 per year. That is a big commitment to not fully understand.
My colleague practiced what I would call emotional momentum selling. He had super high energy, and he was charismatic.
His technique was to get a prospect saying yes over and over again until the person got so used to saying yes that they became excited and then when he asked for the sale, he'd have them yelling into the phone, "yes! I want to do it!".
It's hard to believe that this could happen, but it did. I heard it over and over again and I hated it.
I deeply do not like that way of selling.
And then he would ring the bell in my face and prance around. His behavior was objectionable to me on many levels. Mostly I didn't like the way he played on people's emotions.
Also, I knew that a high percentage of clients sold in that way would cancel, but he didn't acknowledge that.
We did not get along well.
Over time, the numbers began to reveal that my way of doing things was more profitable.
Less bell ringing, but more sustainable.
I practiced what I called "if I were you" selling.
When it came time to close a sale, I would say, "if I were you, this is what I would do".
And I was sincere.
If there weren't enough prospects in an area, I'd tell them that our fees wouldn't pay off.
On the other hand, if I could honestly see that they'd make a huge profit by signing up with us, I'd tell them to go for the most expensive option.
To give this type of honest assessment required a lot of fact gathering and multiple calls.
My competitor was a one call closer. He also hated to speak with clients after they had signed up.
I was once in his office when a client called, and he groaned when he heard the phone ring."Just give me your money and never call me again!" he yelled at the phone.
It was bittersweet leaving that company.
I had that man on the ropes, and the company was going to have me train additional salesman using my methodology.
All's well that ends well though and I continue to believe in my philosophy of selling.
When I say that I'd try our chocolate if I were you, I mean it.
It's not a trick.
I've also learned that "if I were you" has application beyond selling.
It works well in general for giving advice and convincing people.
But you can't use it unless you actually understand what you would do if you were in the other person's shoes.
That normally requires a lot of fact gathering, listening, asking meaningful questions, and making a sincere attempt to see things from the other person's point of view.
You can't try to one call close a person on important life decisions.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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