Open-Minded Selling

Great sales people will try anything.

There is a theory that goes, “Look at the way a person dresses today, and you can tell when he went to high school” Try it out, and you’ll see that most of the time it’s true. Khakis and button-down oxford cloth shirts?  Pre-hippie days sixties. Gray haired ponytails? Late sixties early seventies. White shirts untucked, and sticking out beyond the sweater? Nineties. T-shirt under a golf shirt? Turn of the century. Notice, that I did not go near the woman’s side of this theory? I’m not an idiot, not touching that, although, I suspect it is an equally valid theory for both sexes.

So, what’s my point here anyway? What is this guy talking about? Simple, I’m talking about the fact that change is hard, and old habits are hard to break. This applies to everything from the way we look at life, to the way we do business, to the way we sell. I can tell how old someone is by the way he sells. And you can too.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, so long, that I remember when the best way to sell to someone was to spend a lot of time drinking with him. I have seen many a deal consummated with a handshake, over a beer-soaked bar four top.

Then, there was the old playing golf together trick, which frankly, I never really saw work. I was the guy who was naïve enough to think we were actually going to do some business on the golf course, as in. “Look let’s go out and play eighteen on Friday and we’ll talk about the deal then, and see if we can get this thing done.” I fell for this more than once, only to realize that talking business between the seventh and eighth hole, or the third and fourth hole, or anywhere on the back nine was strictly verboten. If you even dared to bring up business on the golf course, you were looked at like you were making cold calls at your grandfather’s funeral. It was just not done.

Later, we all got involved with the cold call to sales ratio. This plan was dreamt up by accountants who actually tried to develop a formula based on the number of cold calls will get “X” amount of business. Yeah, that really worked well.

Remember the old Harvey McKay lessons on learning everything you could, about your customer, including his entire family tree and the date of his second cousin wedding anniversary? You were supposed to keep meticulous records on everything you could learn about your target customer, so that by the time you were done, you had a dossier on your customer that would have made J. Edgar Hoover proud. Remember that?

And now we are in the age of social media, and that seems to be working for a lot of people, while for others, not so much.

The one thing I can guarantee is that tomorrow, there will be something new, and the day after that, and so on. That is the true cycle of life in sales, as in everything else.

And just as there is always something new, there is always some old person, or rather some more experienced person, who will spend, nay, waste time, trying to convince you why the old ways worked best, and why the new ways will not work at all. All the time this person is talking to you, all you are noticing are his khakis and button down oxford shirt, or maybe that white shirt tail sticking out from the bottom of his sweater.

Look, it all boils down to keeping an open mind. Just about everything done correctly, diligently, and with passion, will work. From having a good, and productive, business lunch (sans the booze, I would suggest), to learning everything about your target customer, to social media, to whatever else is coming around the bend in the way of sales theory. All of these things will work to some extent. But there is one thing that I can guarantee will always work, and that is keeping an open mind to all methods, and all theories of doing sales . The minute you close your mind to any proven sales method, and theory, is the minute you limit yourself, the minute you get stuck in the rut of conformity with the past, and yes, the minute, you stop effectively selling. An open mind is a terrible thing to waste. It’s only common sense.

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