The world of sales can be revolting.
Not with her though. She had sass, personality, and quiet confidence. We arrived at the customer’s office at the exact same time.
Our boss called us “B1 and B2.”
She let me open the meeting. I spoke about the impacts of blockchain on the insurance industry. A bit of a snoozer to be honest. Then she asks the client to speak. They go into their biggest problems.
She sits there and listens. She occasionally asks questions. The customer reaches the end of their explanation. My colleague gives a careful playback. She’s able to filter out the signal from the noise in real-time.
Then a careful pause.
“Is it okay if I share some thoughts?”
She goes on to explain our philosophy as it relates to them. There are no cheap sales lines. She doesn’t brag about what we do or any services we may offer. The focus quickly goes back to the customer. Over the next three weeks she takes them on a journey.
No asking for money. No prices. No biased opinions.
At the end of the three weeks she refers them to another provider to assist them. That company is our major competitor.
I’m in shock.
All that work to simply handball a freebie to our competitor. That same competitor annihilated us with another client.
“Why’d you do that?” I asked.
“It’s the best option for them.” *Smiles*
6 months later that same client came back to her at the start of a new financial year. They had a different opportunity unrelated to blockchain. Without hardly any negotiation we got the entire business. She made her annual KPIs for the year at the start of quarter one.
Nobody knew how she did it. I got to watch. It left me stunned.
It’s always about the customer, not what she can sell.
Basic sales skills are a survival technique
Maybe you think sales is BS. Unfortunately we’re all born as salespeople. Sales is the ability to persuade and influence other humans.
If you can’t do that you’ll never get married, have a kid, get any type of job, or effectively use social media. The great news is you’ve already achieved one of these goals. Congrats.
Sales is a survival skill to help you get what you want. But first you have to help other people get what they want. The first trait of a non-sleazy salesperson is the ability to put their needs second, the same way parents do for their children.
Here are the other sales traits to adopt.
Ask for money when the time is right
Sales is often seen as sleazy because in the business world it involves asking for money. Money is how you buy tacos and put a roof over your head. Let’s flip the idea of sales on its head.
You’re doing people a massive favor when you charge money.
When you help people for free you’re destroying their potential. It never works. Why?
When you don’t charge people money for what you offer they have zero commitment. Money is accountability. And people need to be accountable to have you solve a problem.
Once a person decides to get your help, nicely tell them how much it costs. If you take time to understand their problem properly they’ll be glad to pay you.
Feel good when you make a sale
There’s no need to feel guilty for getting paid. Maybe you solved a person’s problem in 30 minutes. That’s not the point. It takes you years of experience to be able to do that.
People pay for value, not time spent — Sahil
Understand that most execution in life boils down to this
When you sell an idea that’s only step one. Many people stop there or they think there’s no more to be done. They wait for something to happen. They get angry when nothing happens and play the blame game.
Non-sleazy salespeople follow up. The difference is they do it without being a pain-in-the-ass.
Results happen from follow up. After working in sales for most of my life, I’ve only seen a handful of times where a person buys a product, service, or idea from someone after the first time they explain it. That’s fantasy land. Humans need time to think. Let them. Then follow up to hear their thoughts.
Explain once. Follow up politely 3-6 times over a number of weeks.
Use Twitter to talk with hard to reach people
Non-sleazy salespeople are creative. They look for multiple ways to get in touch with people they want to sell an idea to.
Email is the worst.
Lex Fridman is one of the most interesting podcasters in the world. In a short space of time he built an enormous audience of listeners that requires the use of average sales skills. How? Most people don’t know — replies on Twitter. Here is Lex in action with Elon-Rocketship-Musk.
Contextual ‘asks’ of people’s time sells better than random out of the blue “can you give me something for free that I haven’t earned?” requests. Luck won’t sell anything for you. It’s stupid. Intentional asks are the smart way.
Get to the point (faster than you think)
Dunja Lazić got 60,000 signups for a new product as part of her non-sales job. She learned one huge lesson.
2–3 paragraphs is the ideal pitch. People can spot a mass email a mile away.
People don’t have time for 2000 words sales pitches. Write a long pitch for an idea. Refine it once. Wake up the next day and refine it again. Ask for feedback from a friend.
Yes, this process takes longer. But if you spend a bit more time with a sales pitch you’ll get 10X the results. Most people send pitches that never get a reply because they’re lazy with the process.
Effective selling to humans requires you to save the recipient time. Once you understand other people’s time your sales life will change. All of a sudden you’ll start getting a flood of yeses coming through.
Show proof of work before you ask
A non-sleazy salesperson puts in the effort before pitching. A sleazy salesperson seeks to extract value without proof of work.
I get messages all the time that say “how do I make money online?” That’s it. A pitch like this is pointless. If you haven’t even done a simple google search then you can’t expect a stranger to do all the work for you.
Whereas if a person says “I’m a writer. I’ve tried Substack, Twitter, Amazon, and Quora. None of the platforms have worked well.” And then they go on to explain (briefly) how they’ve gone about it, the question is more likely to get a response.
Nobody wants to get pitched by a lazy person seeking shortcuts and free help. The challenge is many of you do put in the work before pitching and simply forget to mention it. This is the reminder you’ve been looking for. Be like bitcoin: show proof of work.
Seek out others rather than wait for them to come to you
Non-sleazy salespeople do very little selling. They become a magnet for opportunities. How? Start publishing content online — videos, audio, illustrations/photos, writing.
Steal this formula from marketing expert Andrea Bosoni.
– If you write 250 words/day
– Every year you’ll publish 50 posts
– If each post brings you 10 visits/day
– Every year you’ll have 200k traffic
– If your traffic converts 1%/day
– Every year you’ll get 2k customers”
Nobody is coming for your work or idea. You have to become a magnet. Social media is a magnet. It attracts the type of people you can sell your type of idea to. Maybe that’s for money. Maybe that’s to serve a mission. Maybe it’s to help people in poverty.
Content sells better than cold pitching.
Content = Stories
Let most opportunities die
The point of sales isn’t to sell to everybody.
Most people aren’t right for your ideas and opportunities. Most of what we do doesn’t have mass appeal. Once you understand that, you let people go far easier to focus your time on those who want what you offer. Then the number of things you successfully sell goes up. Boom.
When you part ways with someone, don’t be a d*ck. Leave on good terms. They might come back later for a different opportunity or after their thinking has changed. The non-sleazy salesperson that left me stunned taught me that.
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