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Module 1: Success in Sales

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The power of Selling

For most people, to achieve personal success entails more than just making a lot of money. To be successful in a career means to have fulfilled an ongoing goal-one that has been carefully planned according to their interests and passions. Is it your vision to run your own business? Or would you rather pursue a profession in a service organization? Do you want to excel in the technology field or, perhaps, work in the arts? Imagine yourself in the role that defines success for you.

Those who are most successful take many necessary steps over time to become sufficiently qualified for the job presented to them. Think about your goal: what it will take to get there?

With a good plan and information, you can achieve whatever you set out to do.

Think about successful people who do what you want to do. What do they all have in common?

Of course, they have all worked hard to get to their current position, and they all have a passion for their job. There is, additionally, a subtler key ingredient for success that they all share; all successful people effectively engage in personal selling, the process of interacting one-on-one with someone to provide information that will influence a purchase or action. [1]

Gary Kopervas, is the chief creative strategist at Backe Digital Brand Communications in the US. He works in the creative department in an advertising agency, yet he describes his job as “selling ideas,” not creating ads.

Whether you pursue a career in sales or in another discipline, selling is an important component of every job…and everyday life.

If you think personal selling is only for salespeople, think again. Everyone in every walk of life uses personal selling.

Selling is what makes people successful. We all have to sell our ideas, our points of view, and ourselves every day to all sorts of people-and not just those related to our jobs. Think about the products and services that you buy and how selling plays a role in your purchase decision. If you rented an apartment or bought a car, someone sold you on the one you chose. If you read a product review for a new computer online then went into the store to buy it, someone reinforced your decision and sold you the brand and model you bought.

There are some people who might think of selling as a high-pressure encounter between a salesperson and a customer. Years ago, that may have been the case in some situations. But in today’s world, successful selling is not something you do “to” a customer, it is something you do “with” a customer.

The customer has a voice and is involved in most selling situations.

In fact, Internet-based tools such as forums, social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, along with Web sites, live chat, and other interactive features allow customers to participate in the process no matter what they are buying.

When you work on a team project, you have to sell your ideas about how your team should approach the project (or, sometimes more delicately, you will have to persuade others as to what you should do about a lazy team member).

When you are with your friends, you have to sell your point of view about which movie you want to see or where you want to go to eat. When you pitch in for a friend’s gift, you have to sell your ideas about what gift to give.

You are selling every day whether you realize it or not.

Ike Richman, the vice president of public relations for Comcast-Spectacor, who is responsible for the public relations for all NBA and NHL games and hundreds of concerts and events held at the company’s Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

When you ask Ike to describe his job, he replies, “I sell stories.”

What he means is that he has to “pitch”-or advertise-his stories (about the games or concerts) to convince the press to cover the events that he is promoting. So, even though he is not in the sales department, his job involves selling.

Connie Pearson-Bernard, the president and founder of Seamless Events, Inc., an event planning company, says she sells experiences.

For many of her clients, she also sells time because she and her team execute all the required details to create the perfect event.

In 1976 Tom Hopkins worked in construction, he realized there had to be a better way to make a living, so he took a job in real estate sales, but had no success. In fact, after his first six months, he had only sold one house.

One day, someone suggested that he go to a sales training seminar. Inspired, he put the concepts learned, to work. Before he was thirty, Tom was a millionaire selling real estate. He is also a successful author, speaker, columnist, and sales coach who provides sales training for US companies such as Best Buy, State Farm Insurance, Aflac, U.S. Army Recruiters, and more. [2]

Brand and Selling = Success
What do Ikea, Red Bull, Mini Cooper, and Apple have in common? All four are strong and highly identifiable brands. You might wonder what role a brand name plays in selling strategy. Selling can only be successful when that thing that you sell has perceived value applied to it by the consumer. A brand is a tool to establish value in the eyes of the customer because it indicates something unique. On the surface, a brand is identified by a name, logo, or symbol so that it is consistently recognized. [3]

A brand is important in selling because it inherently offers something special that the customer values.

In addition, people trust brands because they know what they can expect; a great brand has four key characteristics:
It is unique
It is consistent
It is relevant
An emotional connection

When products, services, concepts, ideas, and people demonstrate the characteristics of a brand, they are much easier to sell. For example, if you go to McDonald’s for lunch, you know you can always get a Big Mac and fries, and you always know it will taste the same. The same concept applies to people. Think about your workmates: is there one that is always prepared? He or she is the one who always does well, is a good team player. This person has created a brand. Everyone knows that they can count on this person; everyone knows what to expect.

The concept of emotional connection is not limited to the brand, it is also an especially critical component in the actual practice of selling. Customers are much more readily persuaded to make a purchase if they develop an emotional connection with the salesperson.

Gene Simmons, front man for the rock band KISS and successful entrepreneur, summed it up best: “I have to have an emotional connection to what I am ultimately selling because it is emotion, whether you are selling religion, politics, even a breath mint.” [8]
Brands are fundamental building blocks in the selling process.

The bottom line is, great brands = great sales.

Uniqueness (no other fries taste like McDonald’s), consistency (a Coke tastes like Coke no matter where you buy it), and relevance (your college bookstore is only relevant on a college campus) are clear as characteristics of a brand, but the most important characteristic is also the most abstract-the emotional connection it creates.

Some brands create such a strong emotional connection that its customers become brand fans or advocates and actually take on the role of selling the brand by way of referrals, online reviews, user-generated content, and word-of-mouth advertising.

Harley-Davidson measures their customer loyalty by the number of customers who have the company’s logo tattooed on their body. [5]

These customers are emotionally connected with the brand, which offers unique selling opportunities for Harley-Davidson dealerships..


Another example of emotional connection to a brand can be found by examining consumer relationships to sports teams. Fans willingly advertise their favorite team by wearing T-shirts, hats, and even putting decals and bumper stickers on their cars.

They attend games (some of which require hours of standing in line) or watch them religiously on television. For popular events, in fact, many times customers are willing to pay more than the face value of tickets to attend.These consumers are emotionally connected to their teams, and they want to be there to support them.


Howard Schultz, the chief executive officer of Starbucks, has built the brand in his vision since the company began in 1982. He believes strongly that the brand stands for more than beans.

During an interview, he said, “By making a deeper emotional connection with your customers, your brand will stand out from the hundreds, if not thousands, of vendors, entrepreneurs, and business owners selling similar services and products.” [6]
The brand recently launched a new marketing campaign called “It’s not just coffee. It’s Starbucks.” [7]

Your computer, your car, your jewelry, your eyeglasses, and your cell phone-many of the things you own-were probably sold to you by someone.

Now, think about things you can’t see, like your cell phone service, your Internet service, and your car insurance. Those services were probably sold to you by someone as well. Now that you think about it, you can see that selling is involved in life in so many ways. But did you ever think about the impact that selling has on the wider economy?

In the United States alone, almost 16 million people were employed in jobs in sales in 2008. This number includes retail salespeople and cashiers, insurance sales agents, real estate brokers and sales agents, and manufacturing sales reps just to name a few.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number will increase to almost 17 million people employed in sales and sales-related occupations by 2018, which represents a 6.2 percent increase from 2008.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Personal selling is a powerful part of everyday life. The selling process can help you get what you want both personally and professionally.
You are always selling your ideas, your point of view, and yourself in virtually every situation, from class participation to going out with friends.
In order to understand the selling process, you have to understand brands. A brand can be a product, service, concept, cause, location, or even a person. A brand consistently offers value to a customer with something that is unique, consistent, and relevant and creates an emotional connection.
Brands are important in selling because customers trust brands. The brand doesn’t end with the product, service, or concept; the salesperson is also a brand.

Exercises

Identify a situation in which you were the customer in a personal selling situation. Think about your impressions of the salesperson and the selling process.


Think about the following brands: Xbox, Victoria’s Secret, and BMW. Discuss how each brand forms an emotional connection with its customers. Why is it important in selling?

Bibliography

[1] Michael Levens, Marketing: Defined, Explained, Applied (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010), 181

[2] Tom Hopkins International, “Tom Hopkins Bio,”http://www.tomhopkins.com/tomhopkins_bio.html (accessed June 7, 2009)

[4] Michael McCarthy, “Vegas Goes Back to Naughty Roots,” USA Today, April 11, 2005,http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/adtrack/2005-04-11-track-vegas_x.htm(accessed June 4, 2009)

[5] Fred Reichheld, “The Ultimate Question: How to Measure and Build Customer Loyalty in the Support Center,” presented via Webinar on May 14, 2009
[6] Carmine Gallo, “How to Sell More Than a Product,” BusinessWeek, May 19, 2009,http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/may2009/sb20090519_058809.htm(accessed June 7, 2009)

[7] Eleftheria Parpis, “Starbucks Claims ‘It’s Not Just Coffee,’” Brandweek, May 1, 2009,http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/retail-restaurants/e3i88d85d8ede4fd0afae2e6d752751e2a3 (accessed June 7, 2009)

[8] “Gene Simmons: Rock ‘n’ Roll Entrepreneur,” BusinessWeek, September 5, 2008,http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/sep2008/sb2008095_987221.htm(accessed June 7, 2009)