Styles of Selling

My first day of the job consisted of a “sales training program” which amounted to one-half day accompanying a “veteran” salesman, going door to door calling on prospective customers.

The following day, without even a business card to identify me as a salesman, I was on my own.

This system was trial by fire, intended to test my character and ability to perform well under pressure and see if I could make the grade. The company also operated on a digital system – even though it was long before the age of computers; at the end of your first day selling, you were either in or you were out.

So, out the door I went, with my trusty map, a fist-full of “qualified” leads, and a black suitcase full of samples in the trunk of my car. Armed only with my common sense, a friendly disposition, and a smile, I felt was as ready as I would ever be. Plus, I was excited and interested (my greatest assets as it turned out).

Well, to my surprise (and the delight of my sales manager) at the end of the day, I was the top salesman in the office my first day on the job. The sales manager was so thrilled he got up on his desk and jumped up and down after seeing the amount of sales I had made. And he wasn’t a small man.

Now, I admit I liked the attention; but at the same time, it sort of felt like a “false validation.” After all, I hadn’t really done any selling per se. All I did was find something I had in common with the people I met, asked a few questions, then let them talk for as long as they wanted. As I found their stories were interesting, it really wasn’t all that hard for me.

Eventually, they would run out of things to say and inevitably ask, “Whatcha got in the suitcase?” At which time, I’d open it up, show my wares, get out my order form and let them buy whatever caught their eye.

They always bought more than I anticipated. I’d walk out with a big order and they would be smiling, inviting me back any time.

“Hey, this selling business is pretty easy,” I thought to myself.

Only later did I discover that my native instincts, while accidently correct, could only take me so far. I needed to know more about the subject of selling if I were to survive in what was a very competitive marketplace. Thus began my quest to learn as much as I could about this subject of selling.

A major part of my discoveries was this: there are five primary levels of expertise in the business of selling, from amateur to master. And the path from bottom to top is accomplished over time in a gradual, step-by-step manner, always progressing through these five recognizable styles, outlined below.

The styles of selling to follow, will allow you to easily side-check your own progress and see what level you’re on. Then you can estimate what needs to be done to either strengthen what you’re doing right, or correct your weaknesses so you can move forward.

Each one of the styles of selling is followed by the distinctive characteristics of that level.

You may find yourself at more than one level, this not uncommon. To determine which level you should start with, choose the one with which you have the most in common. In this manner, your progress forward will be a natural progression toward sales mastery.

FIVE STYLES OF SELLING

 Level 1. Amateur

Characteristics: Unskilled, rote script memorization; pushy, frustrated, forced, blames others, inflexible, imitates and copies others in an attempt to emulate their methods; degree of success is sporadic with intermittent success; lacking understanding of why or how methods work. Limited immediate success but potential is positive.

Level 2. Apprentice

Characteristics: Limited skills suitable for common selling situations by imitation of methods of others; rudimentary recognition of fundamentals; beginning to gain some facility with the tools of selling.

Requires training and guidance from supervisors to correct efficiencies of time or tools of the trade; needs disciplined and dedicated practice under supervision to move up to the next level.

Level 3. Semi-pro

Characteristics: Seeing results from training and practice in sales tools; more relaxed yet disciplined and controlled; not fixed to a certain script; interested and adaptive; knows the fundamentals and beginning to develop own methods; more consistent sales results and referrals; considered reliable in most ordinary sales situations without supervision.

Level 4. Expert

Characteristics: A skilled sales professional; able to apply knowledge of basics of selling in all situations; positive attitude; integrates new knowledge and information easily; interest, certainty, confidence and competence built on consistent demonstrated success; flexible and able to adjust methods to fit the customer; knows the product and can read people; assurance of own abilities and judgment based on achievements; a consistent track record of successful sales; gets referrals easily. Considered among the top 15% of working professionals in the field.

Level 5. Master

Characteristics: Masters in the art and practice of selling are as valuable as they are rare. Their knowledge and integration of the natural laws of selling is fully assimilated into their own methods of selling. They are able to change methods to align with customers needs effortlessly; they can correct selling process instantly as needed; detect and handle potential problems before they appear; able to develop own methods without violating the natural laws of selling.

They need little or no supervision; they are resourceful and innovative; open to new ideas or methods without changing what is already working; personal initiative and persistence is unstoppable; they are self-starters, friendly, organized, unrushed and unforced; a mature professional attitude and appearance.

They get along well with others; possess natural friendly people skills and abilities. They are highly interested in other people; likeable, sincere and honest. Their sales methods are fresh and unique but rooted in basic, bedrock fundamentals of selling.

They make their own luck by careful preparation and hard work. Their willingness to face and handle difficult situations consistently mystifies others. They are consistently in the top 2% in company sales statsistics; repeat customers ask for this salesperson by name and prefer to deal with this person.

They have a depth of understanding and experience in the field that didn’t happen overnight. It requires a focused, disciplined dedication to master each small step in the overall sales process and then incorporate all these steps for use in the real world.

Important: As you move up the scale, you can expect to expose the weakest link in your abilities, and things tend to blow up at that point. When this happens, swiftly investigate, cope, and handle that point until weak link is shored up.

Inevitably, as you improve your abilities, you will expand again. As you become better organized and successful be prepared for the next weakest point and immediately handle that point. Continue this sequence until you reach the highest levels.

The price you pay to reach the top is constant attention to detail, rigorous, ongoing training and disciplined application of your skills and not abandoning the fundaments that got you to the top but constantly strengthening them by the great attention to the small detail.

Finally, you must enjoy the process as much as you do the result. In this way, you’ll have a life and not just a job.

daniel w. jacobs
(c) 2008-2020, all rights reserved

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