What You Won’t Learn From Books About Sales

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Yes, I am aware a lot of you have spent dozens of dollars – maybe even hundreds – on sales books that intricately detail the savvy art of sales & persuasion. Honestly, they will only take you so far if you haven’t actually spent time talking with real-live prospects. Sure, a book can explain to you how to appropriately organize your day, or outline a strategy you can put to use, but it can’t help you develop the character – or grit – necessary to persevere through the daily grind and get people to sign on the dotted line.

Why do I mention “grit”? Because your prospects can sense whether you really want to help them, or just want to make a buck. For you to be truly great at what you do, yes, you’ll need an innate desire to close the deal – but also an unwavering commitment to the integrity of the sale.

Enough preaching, though. Here are the most important sales lessons I’ve learned the hard way, through years of experience:

Don’t Be a Tool

If you made it past the interview and you’ve been hired, I have to assume you have at least a trace of a personality… something that makes you, you. Every sales book that tells you how to appropriately approach the customer and present your product will never, in a million years, tell you how to use your personality. Know why? Because if you need a book to tell you how to make small talk and get to know your prospects, then you shouldn’t be in sales!

You can follow a written process all you want, but at the end of the day, people buy from who they like. Most decision makers, despite their impressive titles, don’t want to move straight from “hello” into a cookie-cutter demo. They are people. People who worked damn hard to get where they are, but people nonetheless. Do you know how people like to be treated? Like f***ing people! Tell a joke, read the situation, maybe two jokes are appropriate. “How was your weekend?” is a good start. Relax and work on building the relationship rather than forcing the product down their throat.

Fold or Call

All great salespeople know how to call someone on their bullshit. Just remember that negotiation takes time to learn. You don’t pick up on the subtlety of facial tics and vocal inflections right away. Once you’ve presented your product and proven why your widget is the best damn widget out there – beating out all the other stupid widgets that try to call themselves royalty – you have to learn to read the negotiation.

You won’t always get it right, and like playing poker, trying to call a bluff may land you in a questionable situation. You might think the guy across from you keeps going all-in out of arrogance, only to find out on your “enough is enough” call that he’s holding a high pocket pair. In fact, our VP of Sales learned some of his best tactics at the poker table.

One of the most important skills in sales is learning when to shut up and say, “You know, maybe this isn’t a fit.” If you’ve picked up any sense of social cues over the years, you’ll recognize when the person on the other end of the line is trying to squeeze everything they can out of you. Grow a pair, and learn to walk. More times than not, “playing hardball” is nothing more than getting threatened with a child’s Nerf bat… the key is recognizing the situation for what it is.

Step Up and Handle It

With just a few exceptions, all sales books are essentially the same. Let me break it down for you: Get hired. Learn your product. Get passionate about your product. Sell your product. The rest is filler. If you fail and get fired within six months, you probably didn’t get passionate about your product – which begs a different question: “Was there something wrong with the product, the company, or you?” The language within these books changes company to company and author to author, but they all say the same thing in their own “unique” way.

Only you can forge your own path to being a good salesperson. To steal a George Carlin line,

“If you’re looking for ‘self-help’, why would you read a book written by somebody else?! That’s not ‘self-help’, that’s help! There’s no such thing as ‘self-help’ – if you did it yourself, you didn’t need help!”

Sales books exist to take your money by telling you what you already know. So suck it up, be yourself, grow a pair, and CLOSE SOME F***ING DEALS.

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Nathan joined DiscoverOrg in 2015 after spending time growing the Nashville market for Groupon and being a co-owner ..read more