Read an Excerpt
This Book Is About You
I want to tell you how this book came into existence.
The seed was planted a number of years ago when I participated in a ceremony at a military academy honoring a friend who was killed while serving on active duty in the U.S. Marines. In his honor I presented to the academy a medal for valor and bravery that my friend had been awarded posthumously.
Following the formal ceremony, I was talking to the dean of students about the careers that graduates pursued once they had fulfilled their military contracts.
"What are their career choices if they don't stay in the military?" I asked.
"Jack," he replied, "we have two kinds of graduates in civilian careers. We have the professionals -- that is, those who go into medicine, law, engineering, and teaching. Then we have those who fail to make it as professionals, and they wind up going into sales."
The dean's words came as a shock. At that time, I was a commissioned salesperson selling corrugated boxes (I preferred to call them "packaging systems") in the New York metropolitan area.
Until the dean said those words, I had never considered myself someone who had "failed to make it." I had thought of myself as a professional. My chosen profession was one in which I had considerable pride -- and which was beginning to reward me with substantial income.
My profession had other rewards, too, that I might have enumerated for the dean. It gave me independence and a sense of achievement. It allowed me to associate with outstanding business people who were creative managers and high achievers. It tested my skills and abilities. To be good at my profession, I was discovering, I had to use all my resources.
But I didn't have an advanced degree in selling. And that certainly made a difference to the dean. As he made so clear to me, salespeople as a group suffer from a lack of professional acceptance and social respectability.
Are we salespeople -- as the dean implied -- just because we haven't succeeded in other professions? Is our selling just boot-camp preparation for management and more advanced responsibilities?
Recently I related the story of my encounter with the dean to the publisher of Simon and Schuster.
"Jack," he told me, "that story really hits home because I had a similar experience. I graduated from a small prep school where many of my classmates went on to become lawyers, doctors, and MBAs. And I had become a salesman -- selling books.
"I'll never forget going back to my class reunion. When the headmaster asked me what I was doing these days, I mumbled something about being 'in publishing.' I couldn't bring myself to tell him I was a salesman! I just couldn't say the word."
The problem is image.
And it's a big problem -- for us, on the receiving end, and for people in business who don't understand the value and importance of what salespeople do.
If you've read any books on the subject of selling -- and what salesperson hasn't -- I'm sure you're tired of being told you are a professional. You don't need someone to tell you so.
The fact is, ours is a demanding profession that requires stamina, courage, and discipline. If you have been selling for any length of time, you already have developed the tools of your trade:
* Human skills -- to understand and relate to people as individuals
* Technical skills -- to match your product or services to the customer's needs
Salespeople work in an intensely competitive arena, where they are being tested every day. Just consider:
You are never psychologically safe. You often face rejection and resistance to your ideas. Any customer can turn you down. A long-awaited order may be canceled.
You must conquer distractions and interruptions. Your task requires endurance. You have to persist until you get a commitment. You are the person who brings in the business. Your organization relies on your success to keep its doors open.
You have no place to hide. Your success and failures are out in the open for everyone to see. And pats on the back are few and far between When you fail.
These are stressful factors, but most successful salespeople handle them well. They have to. It goes with the territory, as we say in the trade. Selling requires the mental readiness to respond to stress and the emotional stamina to conquer self-doubt. Without any warning, you'll have to adjust to a wide range of emotional shifts, from the sheer exhilaration of closing a big sale to the devastating setback of an unexpected rejection. To handle these frustrations, you need to be persistent and resourceful -- and you have to have bounce-back capability.
Whether you've been selling for twenty days or twenty years, you know that it takes more than contrived enthusiasm and memorized sales pitches to be successful.
During the time that I have been employing the strategies presented in this book, I have met many salespeople who have all the potential they need to be successful -- but they lack the ability to execute.
What they (and you) have to do is chart your course to success on a steady and consistent basis by doing the right things at the right time with the fight people.
For too many people, selling is like running a race with no finish line in sight. They do the same things day in and day out, with no concrete sales call objective and no plan for execution. They don't take the time to say, "Here's what I want to accomplish -- and here's how I plan to do it."
More often than not, salespeople's skills and training are acquired on the job. We have very few academic opportunities in which to discuss sales strategies or compare operating procedures, or experiment with different modes of behavior to find out what impact our sales styles have on other people.
I've met Salespeople in every industry who started out with virtually no professional education at all. It's as if they were expected to learn their profusion by osmosis. Without being given methods for performance, they are expected to know instinctively what to do. The result is that selling becomes a seat-of-the-pants, feel-your-way-through-it set of activities for hopeful wishing and fancy guesswork.
Here are just a few examples of how people start out.
During his first week with an industrial supply company, a new rep gets a tour of the plant and several interviews with product managers. Toward the end of the week, he has a half-hour briefing with the head of his department. Then he's handed a route map and a computer printout of prospects. "Good luck!" says his boss, as he shakes the young man's hand and shows him out the door.
A woman doing public relations work for a Madison Avenue advertising firm is promoted to a sales position. During her long lunch with one of the principals of the company, she listens expectantly while he extols the great opportunities, talks about his own success, and pumps her up by telling her She can do it. "We think you'll represent us very well," he tells her. With that encouragement, her new job begins!
In a meeting room inside one of America's top office-product distributors, ten salespeople doodle on yellow lined pads while product specialists describe the features of equipment they'll soon be selling. After a day of this -- and an inspirational film -- the sales reps are reminded of their quotas and are instructed to "fix bayonets and take the hill?"
Believe it or not, in some sales settings these are fairly popular ways of getting people prepared for the profession of selling. Everywhere I go, I see salespeople on the job who are loaded up with technical information but totally unprepared to deal with the human side of selling. Through no fault of their own, they are starting off on the wrong foot. And the ones who fall down least often make it to the top!
In fact, my own experience was typical. My first sales job was with a prestigious manufacturer of cotton fabric in New York's garment district. For training, I was sent to the Philadelphia Institute of Textiles where I received one day of instruction. The rest of the time was spent learning about my product and then riding shotgun with experienced salesmen. I listened to the war stories of their successes and heard their beefs about the company. Following this, I was armed with forty pounds of samples, handed my hit list, and told to get orders.
Good luck, Jack Carew!
Married, with one child to support and another on the way, I was desperate to sell and make a living. I had no expense account, no company car, and my salary was so low that by the end of each month I had to borrow subway fare from the landlady just to get to work.
Today I meet salespeople in a variety of selling environments who find themselves in the same jam I was in back then. At the time in our careers when we most need guidance, support, and assistance, we are least likely to get training. We are told a lot about product -- the nuts and bolts of what we are selling -- but never given an education in how to understand what's important to the customer, position our solutions to his problems, handle resistance, and get a commitment to action.
For beginning salespeople, the manager's war stories may be entertaining, and the motivational films inspiring -- but when the dust clears and your exuberant mood subsides, you have to face the reality of, "Do I -- in a face-to-face engagement -- know how to persuade the customer to buy from me?"
Veteran salespeople, I've found, have a different problem.
Many experienced salespeople lose their skills after a while because they are calling on established accounts where there isn't as much demand for flawless execution. They're already in the door, so a lot of their selling becomes dependent on a more social, personal touch rather than a precise, professional method.
This is how many salespeople lose their edge: They take the account for granted. They're not as mentally, focused on the selling procedure because in many eases the system has been sold and they're simply maintaining the relationship.
BEGINNING SALESPEOPLE WILL TRY ANYTHING JUST TO MAKE A SALE.
VETERAN SALESPEOPLE WILL TRY NOTHING FOR FEAR OF LOSING A SALE.
The upshot is, many salespeople come to believe that methods and disciplines for selling are not necessary for success. Too many rely on "This-works-for-me!" formulas. They believe that working hard and getting the Customer to like your is all it takes to make it. Their theories are actually little more than war stories. Their accomplishments are based on good luck rather than good practice.
If this has been your personal experience as a salesperson -- if you were thrown into the job at the beginning and you feel as if you're swimming as fast as you can just to keep your head above water -- then I hope this book will provide an island of refuge for you.
Here's a chance to drop out for a moment, to see where you've been and ask yourself about the skills you possess. This book may shed some light on things that have worked for you in the past. It will also provide you with the opportunity to took ahead and plan for your personal and financial future by revealing some strategies that can make the next Stretch significantly more rewarding for you.
In this book, you will find that I don't hold up any multimillionaires as symbols of success. Rich salespeople are hot the only successful salespeople. There are other things besides money that matter:
* Counting for something in the customer's eyes
* Being looked up to as an achiever by your colleagues
* Getting satisfaction from helping somebody out of a jam
* Getting a thrill out of helping your customers solve their problems and achieve their goals
It is important to measure your success in terms of your own values. Each of us takes away our own reward from the marvelous customer contacts that are the lifeblood of selling. It's these rewards that need to be put in the equation along with making a buck when you consider what you gain from your profession.
The truly great salespeople are those who practice their vocation at the highest level of competence and caring, and build careers on standards of excellence. These people help us all by bringing enormous credit to our chosen profession.
Selling is a series of day-to-day setbacks and personal triumphs. Every one of us is subject to very high peaks and extremely low valleys. We invest ourselves in what we are selling, and there is an emotional cost in doing so. We must be prepared to meet the extremes of satisfaction and disappointment that can occur within moments of each other, and still operate effectively in environments that test us constantly.
In this book you'll find that I discuss some of the conflicts and turmoil that we face every day. Rejection, anger, frustration, and disappointment are facts of life for salespeople. It won't help us to pretend that these feelings don't exist. It will help us to believe that we can deal with them.
That's what this book is all about -- presenting you with clear, standard-setting methods of behavior that are now being employed successfully by thousands of sales professionals around the world. These strategies can be a powerful force for breaking the cycle of frustration that many salespeople experience in their daily lives.
But strategies are only as good as the mental and emotional chemistry that forms your attitude about yourself and the customer.
You may know how to perform adequately, but unless working for the customer's best interest is your underlying, primary purpose, you forfeit the total value you can bring to the selling profession.
The philosophy behind this book is simply this:
YOU WILL DO THE BEST FOR YOURSELF WHEN YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST FOR SOMEBODY ELSE.
You will be able to say you have done your best at selling when you satisfy your customers' needs on a steady and consistent basis. As a professional salesperson, you can't satisfy those needs unless you know what they are and appreciate the person who has them.
For this reason, the strategies in this book focus on you and your relationship to your customers:
Are these strategies relevant to you in your sales arena?
To help you find out, 1-encourage you to ask yourself some questions about what you are doing now:
* Do you ever feel intimidated or unsure of yourself when calling on a top manager?
* Does your mind occasionally wander while the customer is giving you important information?
* Do you sometimes find yourself talking just to fill the silence?
* Does it take you four or five sales calls to accomplish what you might have done in one or two?
* Do your established customer relationships seem boring?
* Have you ever lost an order because someone you never met influenced the buying decision and turned it against you?
* Do you get more kick out of off-the-job activities -- such as sports, politics, and hobbies -- than you do from selling?
* Do you find making an initial sales call more difficult than making a sales presentation with an established account?
* Do you become impatient listening to a customer talk on at length when you already feel as if you have a solution to his problem?
* Do you ever have a day when you run out of energy for no apparent reason?
If your answer to a majority of these questions is "yes," then I believe you will find great value in the strategies that are outlined in this book. These are just some of the many questions that will be addressed.
These strategies are more than theory. They are action planning. Each applies to a very specific aspect of your relationship with the customer. Among these strategies are methods for:
* Building the customer's trust and confidence
* Turning resistance into acceptance
* Determining what's important to the customer and matching your ability to respond
* Making effective presentations and earning a commitment to action
* Building the relationship and expanding its possibilities
* Satisfying the customer's needs, with a pay-off to you and your company
To help you achieve these objectives, I will help you visualize what you do.
As an integral part of this book, we are going to combine selling attitudes and actions into visual models. These models will form a memorable framework for every sales call.
These are models that I developed some time ago for myself. Because I have a strong visual orientation, I felt that sketched out diagrams were necessary in order to remind me of where I was going during sales calls. By creating these diagrams -- or process models, as I call them now -- I was able to see at a glance what key things I was accomplishing at any given time. The models were a kind of road map to help me see what I was saying.
When I showed these models to other salespeople and described their processes, I soon discovered that the visuals helped communicate what I was trying to say about a number of my strategies. And today, the process models for building a relationship, determining customer needs, and making a presentation carry instant meaning to people who actively employ these strategies. (Incidentally, that includes non-English-speaking salespeople. The graphic models have proven helpful around the world, transcending language barriers among sales professionals!)
These models are not complicated. I don't want them to be. I have intentionally made them as clean and crisp as possible so that they deliver a simple message -- reminding you where you are, where you are going, and what you want to achieve on any given sales call.
Once you embrace the philosophy of this book, master the strategies, and learn the models, the result will be that you are in position as a salesperson. This is why I call my method "Positional Selling," and the tools for its implementation the "Ten Strategies for Positioning."
For marketing and advertising people, positioning is an overriding concern: "Do we position this brand as a luxury item?" "How do we position this product with consumers?" "How will this sales campaign change our position in the marketplace?"
Salespeople need the same awareness of positioning. You are marketing yourself as well as your product or service. You are the creator of your own position.
Positioning is forging favored status with the customer. Your very presence in the relationship becomes the reason for buying. You become the standard by which all other competing pro, ducts and services are judged.
All things being equal, you make the difference.
When you are in position, you have favored placement in the customer's decision-making process. The customer will know:
"There's nothing really different about what Mary's selling except Mary -- and I'm betting on Mary to make this work for me,"
In describing and illustrating for you the Ten Strategies for Positioning, I am mindful of the fact that there are thousands of different selling arenas. My own experience certainly doesn't encompass all of them. But I do know that the Strategies for Positioning have universal application. Every salesperson can use them, no matter what he or she is selling.
Positional Selling strategies have been used by a wide range of organizations selling an enormous number of different kinds of products and services.
Positional Selling strategies work in the stern confines of a corporate boardroom while selling a complicated financial planning system; or while selling insurance in the comfortable surroundings of a potential customer's living room.
They work in the antiseptic atmosphere of a medical testing laboratory as well as on the muddy construction site as you're selling potential buyers their dream home.
These strategies work in the rushed and congested atmosphere of an industry trade show as well as the plush setting of a corner office.
They work on Fortune 500 industry leaders as well as on medium-to-small-size backbone industries of this country.
Positional Selling strategies work anywhere, anytime, and with anyone.
Positional Selling is a way to sell anything people need -- and that includes automobiles, life insurance, investments, capital equipment, industrial products, books, philanthropic causes, advertising, education, food, clothing, entertainment, just to name a few.
The concepts and principles of Positional Selling cross cultural lines. The strategies of Positional Selling are achieving phenomenal results in a host of different cultural environments including South America, the United Kingdom, and throughout Western Europe and the Middle East. They work in the very formal and stern Swiss business environment as well as the carnival atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro.
Positional Selling strategies are as applicable to a Lebanese sales professional selling to a Saudi purchasing officer as they are to a Swedish systems engineer selling to an Italian data processing manager.
I emphasize the universality of the program not to tout the power of Positional Selling but to make a more important point:
POSITIONAL SELLING IS NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU SELL. IT'S ABOUT YOU, THE SALESPERSON.
How you organize yourself and your business, how you prepare for a sales call, and how you respond to the demands placed upon you by your customers or clients -- these strategic decisions about your own positioning have more impact on your career than the particular product or service you are selling today.
When an MBA acquires management skills, he or she is prepared to apply those skills in any organization within any industry. When you acquire the selling skills described in the Ten Strategies for Positioning, you are preparing yourself to apply those skills in any field of public or private endeavor.
I can't think of a time in history when salespeople have been more important. Every day, every one of us is making a serious contribution to our economic and social communities. The quality of that contribution is shaped by our behavior, our industriousness, and our inventiveness.
After listening to and working with many salespeople, I have begun to observe that this decade has introduced a sweeping change of mood. The message of the Seventies was "Me, me, me." The themes of this time were expressed in books such as Looking Out for #1, songs like "I've Got to Be Me," and phrases such as "Doin' your own thing." There was a preoccupation with "What's in it for me" that, in effect, denied that we are interrelated human beings, that we all need each other in order to succeed.
In the Eighties, it seems to me, there is a growing concern with looking out for the other person. Songs like "We Are the World" and events like "Hands Across America" indicate a reawakened consciousness of our responsibility to others. And salespeople are a vital part of that changing mood.
Positional Selling is a strategy for the Eighties and beyond. It sets the other person's interests above your own. It gives you strategies for communicating, caring, and responding.
With Positional Selling you have an opportunity to breathe new life into account relationships -- and open the door to fresh opportunities. You do not have to play a guessing game on every sales call. Positional Selling gives you the strategies for winning in such a way that other people win along with you.
I must admit that I bring a practical bias to this book. I am talking from the inside -- not the outside -- of the sales profession. Positional Selling strategies are based upon experience. They have been tested and proven in the most demanding sales environments -- and they work. There have been times when I turned away in despair and defeat. I know what it's like to feel self-doubt and to vacillate between anguish and rage. And at one time in my life I paid a high price for having no skills, no direction, no plan, and no long-term goals.
But the strategies of Positional Selling changed my life as a salesperson. I discovered that I did not have to rely on a hit-or-miss approach to selling.
With the Ten Strategies for Positioning, you overcome self-defeating attitudes and eliminate guesswork. The difference this makes in your performance is significant. When you implement the Strategies of Positional Selling, you set standards that are so high, all your competitors must be judged in comparison. You occupy favored placement in the minds of your customers because you are doing the right things before, during, and after every sales call. When your customers compare you to your competition, the decision can only go one way: your way.
That's why you'll never get no for an answer!
Copyright © 1987 by John H. Carew, Jr.