The second week of my first job, the Sales Manager asked for my forecast for sales at the end of the month? What?! Never having sold before, and no training permitted, how on earth would I know what was to occur? As you can imagine, anger built up inside me, but I instead smiled and asked a question as I modeled my selling style.
I used flattery, which always worked for Moe. My response was, ‘that’s an excellent question and deserves much thought. I need the evening to think about your question and my impending sales. I’ll give you the answer tomorrow morning.” Moe reluctantly agreed. He did not know that my husband worked with salespeople at a mainframe computer company; I intended to ask him what to do.
That evening, I unleashed the withheld anger as I revealed the conversation. To keep an even keel, I was advised to state that I will make the assigned quota. The statement will keep Moe off of my back. I was to continue doing the same for the following two months because all new employees have ninety days to prove themselves. I followed the instruction.
The next morning Moe was all smiles when I reported that I was going to make the quota. I was uncomfortable because I knew it not to be accurate by a long shot. Otherwise, an honest answer would give the extra reason he needed to fire me early. At the end of the second month, I was told I have one more month to sell ‘something,’ or it would end my employment. And then the first miracle occurred. Without training and not knowing a thing about the business equipment I was supposed to sell, I did sell that ‘something.’ Job saved.
But then the process became more complex. I was tasked with inputting future sales in my sales pipeline. Again, I was taken aback. No one has a crystal ball; how on earth is it possible to predict a new sale? My response, ‘I need time to think about this,’ worked the first time, so I used it again.
The other representatives were putting all of their contacts into the database and their formal sales pipeline predictions page. I realized upfront the foolishness of their effort as they were opening the door to failure. Sure enough, they were each frequently questioned as to why they were losing so many sales. The underlying threat was that they might soon lose their jobs.
My approach was to verify the validity of prospective sales. Upon speaking with prospective clients, I never rushed to judgment about the possibility of earning the business. Instead, I set up repeat meetings to verify that everything was on track for what they needed. My final questions to confirm we were good to go were:
- Is there anything else you can think of that will help move my proposal forward?
- Given you will be reviewing an RFP supplied by multiple vendors, which specifics do you need to see and know that we will deliver?
- How do you believe I can differentiate myself to be the selected vendor?
The only reason I was provided the defining answers to my questions were I first built credibility and trust, with a following friendly relationship. Everyone gladly gave me the answers I needed to finalize the sale and know what to put into my sales pipeline. The Sales Manager was astonished that almost all of my predictions for completing each sale came true. He said it was almost as if I had a crystal ball.
The more important lesson is never to assume anything. A common expression is to ‘assume the sale.’ I view this as erroneous. It is also necessary to recognize that favor to another vendor on a rare occasion, a sudden change in budget, or an unforeseen issue may arise that will squash the sale altogether. Only until we question every possibility and concern and address all the pending problems will it be possible to predict the sale. And wearing a lucky charm can’t hurt!