Years ago I was responsible for an outbound telemarketing team. It was a very interesting experience. All the right things were in place, an experienced manager, a mixed team, processes galore, pitches, scripts and targets, but I never really felt like I understood what was actually going on! The team were in a distinct part of the office that took on a personality of its own, becoming one of those people that you can’t ever pin down.
Looking back, I think the problem was that I didn’t, and still don’t, see myself as a salesman and so dealing with this charming but slippery entity was beyond my experience at the time.
Of course I now know that we are all salesmen to some extent, whether it be selling ourselves to make friends or selling our ideas to get things done we all have to influence others to ‘buy’ into the outcomes we are looking for. So, whilst they still exist, selling these days is less about the direct door-to-door salesman or telemarketing approach and more about creating relationships, finding solutions and providing great customer service.
So, with this journey in mind I was intrigued to read Life’s a Pitch by Philip Delves Broughton, a recommendation from a friendly salesman. I wanted to find out if the quintessential salesman does actually exist and if he/she is different from the rest of us.
What did I find out? That there are certain characteristics, like tenacity, passion, determination and luck that are abundant in good salesmen, but what really marks out those people who can sell snow to the Eskimos is a great sense of the most fundamental element of business, that you don’t have one unless you can persuade someone else to buy what you want to sell.
This isn’t a book about selling techniques, it’s a book about people. I met Sullivan, Barnum, Mrs ShibataI and Memo amongst others. I read about their backgrounds, businesses and sales techniques and in doing so learnt that whilst there are some techniques that you can learn, sales is all about empathy, connection and knowing what you want to achieve, and now I know that there is a bit of salesman in me after all!