How sales came to be my best confidence building tool
The early days
I grew up in what I now consider to be a very conservative time, in a household that didn’t particularly encourage girls to be outspoken, to be assertive or even to voice their opinion in a respectful manner.
Those were the days of innocently playing tennis in the street, riding our bicycles to the corner café and spending time dreaming of meeting our idols of whichever band we were listening to at the time.
I cruised through high school, making no great shakes with my academics and I honestly didn’t participate in any extra-curricular activities. In my matric year I tried my hand (or legs rather) at athletics and needless to say I was asked to leave the track as the rest of the field had completed their laps. As you can imagine, rather embarrassing for a burgeoning and introverted teenager.
Being a shy girl, book-ish and very much un-opinionated I embraced work life. Here I started developing my identity, discovering my likes and dislikes, getting a better understanding of people in general and thoroughly enjoying every interaction.
Somehow my career followed in marketing and sales footsteps, always with a focus on relationship building and customer service. I was able to travel internationally, experience the working life across the pond and get a taste for a life of open-culture, assertiveness and a far more cosmopolitan way of life than what I had experienced to date.
I remember returning to South Africa and taking the first job I was offered so that I could start earning again. Needless to say that wasn’t a good match and didn’t last long, although good things did come from that.
Where my sales journey began
Applying for work at an office automation company was the start of the next chapter in my journey. Starting out as admin support to the sales team I become pretty comfortable being the go-to person for the team. I learned the job on the go and made good impressions from the get-go.
I’ll never forget the day I arrived at the office for my then Sales Manager to tell me that I’ll be rep’ing as of that day. What?! Sales? Me? Are you crazy! If you had asked me up until that moment what was the worst job on the planet, my empathic answer would have been Sales!
And to this day I thank my lucky stars that my then Sales Manager saw the potential in me and persisted that I see that sales job through.
Thanks to my days of selling photocopiers (one of the toughest jobs out there!) I was groomed and developed to understand human psychology better, to read buying signals, develop a thick skin and really understand how to handle objections.
It’s quite funny to think of how I faced those early days with trepidation. My response to my Sales Manager was I had no idea to sell and he in turn said to me the first thing I needed to learn was how to demo a machine to new clients.
Quite a task indeed. Here I was a greenie, arriving at a new client’s premises, taking them through their newly purchased machine, when I myself barely had a clue of how it worked.
Nothing quite like being thrown in the deep-end and learning to swim, right?
Having said that, this was probably the best schooling of my life. This period laid the foundation for my sales focussed business, sales strategy sessions, sales masterclasses and honing my own sales skills in every business I’ve help found.
Typical sales attributes
In order to succeed in this kind of environment, you need to be :
- And definitely have people’s skills
If you take a look at the above points you’ll notice the foundation for a great business person. Learning sales on the run was a great learning school. I learned to not take no for an answer, because surely there must be at least one solution to your problem?
I remember it being month-end one December and I hadn’t achieved my target for the month as yet. In no uncertain terms my Sales Manager made it very clear that I needed to do whatever it took to achieve my target that month. I was panicking.
December notoriously wasn’t a great month to spend budget and sales wasn’t looking very hopeful for me. There was one prospect that could possibly help me achieve my target, however, the decision-maker travelled extensively and at that point was in a different province.
It took out-of-the box thinking and sheer persistence to convince him that this was the month to purchase his photocopier. The month was closing in on me and we still had to sign the paperwork, receive it via courier from his head office and get the finance house to approve the deal. There I was sitting on a Saturday morning outside our very quiet office block, (im)patiently waiting for the courier to arrive with the much anticipated documents. I can tell you this much, I was sweating and stressing!
The courier arrived and I dashed off to the finance house’s consultant, who at that point, was sitting at the hairdresser, to deliver the documents in question. Monday morning came, I received the news that the deal had been approved and I made target for the month! Goodness, so much pressure and stress, but I did it!
All of these moments helped build my sales confidence. Learning to do whatever it takes to get the deal done. Persisting and not giving up, understanding now that anything is possible.
Developing that sales confidence
Why is sales confidence lacking in our business world today? I specifically point at businesswomen on this one. My findings are that women somehow don’t see themselves as salespeople. I conduct a lot of sales masterclasses for accelerators and it always ends up being that the women in the room are the most skittish when it comes to this. If only women knew, and realised, that if they really understood their power in sales they would far outsell any man. Fact, as there are findings to prove this.
I have learned to harness the power of sales and I am so passionate about imparting my knowledge with others. I want others to embrace the empowerment that sales skills brings and to experience that elusive sales confidence.
My pick of top sales skills are listed here:
- The art of listening
- Understanding the power of negotiation
- Managing objections in a positive and helpful manner
- Always showing value by matching your solution with the client’s pain
- The magic of sales lies in the follow up
- Keep on keeping on
The cornerstone of sales is marketing. And because we all love social media, we are exposed to subtle selling methods by our favourite brands. Sales starts with exposure to a brand, building a relationship, educating our audience, getting them to take action and after engaging at least 7 times online with your brand, to now enter the sales conversation.
I want to help other business owners and independent sales executives use the power of their social media platforms to start the sales process.
By understanding the power that we hold in our hands with our mobile phones, we’ll be very surprised at how easy it is to sell.
I look back on my journey as a sales rep and to this day I have gratitude for being exposed to the sales world. It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve been exposed to.
My sales confidence has skyrocketed and I am very confident in my sales skills, my understanding of sales and naturally being more aware of human behaviour.
I want to impart what I learned in the sales world with as many entrepreneurs, startups, founders, business owners and sales executives as possible.
The possibilities are endless when you fully realise your potential. Let’s raise our confidence by exploring new avenues of doing business, different ways of creating brand awareness and harnessing the power of social media as an entry point into the sales realm.
Reflecting on my sales journey I am eternally grateful for that day that my Sales Manager kicked me out of the office and onto a journey of sales and self-discovery.
Now I host regular webinars, workshops, one-on-one strategy sessions and master-classes to assist others in developing and honing their sales skills. Sales is my comfort zone, my happy place and if I am able to impart one nugget or one ah-ha moment with my audience, then I feel that I have done what I’ve set out to do, which is to help boost others sales confidence.
A famous Dr Seuss quote sums it up very nicely “If you can dream it, you can do it”!
This article was originally published in the online magazine “Leadership Debunked”.
About the Author : Karen has facilitated and hosted many sales masterclasses, workshops and training sessions to not only boost sales confidence however to also instill sales skills and tools that are personalised to each individual.
Karen is also a sought after speaker at Sales Conferences & Seminars, Secretarial Conferences & Symposiums and Entrepreneur Conferences & Workshops, where she engages her audience with story-like presentations of sales, outsourcing and business.
To learn more or to book Karen, visit her website.