Sales - The Connector

Many salespeople often sell via the prescribed steps; 1 to 5 or even 1 to 9, depending on who your teacher is (if you have any). Often they'd struggle with their monthly, quarterly, and annual quota - restart with the target numbers, every month, every quarter, and every year. What if you can have sales coming to you regularly and regularly exceed your quota, without even trying to close? Would you like it? Would you like to learn from someone who knows and have done it, rather from someone who's clueless?

Sales - The Connector

If you go to see a “career counsellor” at your school today and ask the counsellor about a career and prospect in selling or sales, what sort of advice would you get? Or what sort of response?

Surprise? Aghast? Dismay? Hopelessness?

During my school days, our counsellor was to help us with post-SPM studies and career choices. We went to her to ask her advice on choosing between local & universities. A friend asked about a career as an “actuary” or “actuarial science”. Being clueless to what the word even meant, she just said, “you don’t have to worry about all that. Just get the right grades for your SPM”. Pardon me, but in my mind, the word “IDIOT!” blinked like neon signs!

That same bunch of friends went to the library to look at the directory of foreign universities, to see if such a course was offered. We also tried to find further details on “actuary”. We also searched for addresses for bodies that provided information on foreign universities where we found the courses that we were interested in were offered. This was way before the internet, mind you…

If you want to get something done...

We then collected money to buy the aerogramme (who remember this thing?) - just a sheet, pre-stamped on one side and you could write the address to send it to. On the other side, you have a single page to write whatever you want. If I remember correctly, it would take about a week, mailed by air, to arrive. We wrote to more than fifty universities in various countries. We received replies from almost all of them with their prospectus. Some even included handwritten letters, giving some ideas of how life in their campus, city, and country would be. We circulated these for those who were interested.

Just before we left school, we went to leave all these with the mentioned counsellor. And we could see her face - dumbfounded. I said, “we thought you needed help”.

Often when I reflect, I wonder what would she say if I asked her about being a salesperson? Might she think of that pesky insurance agent? Or that used car salesman that conned her husband into buying the rust bucket? Such a cliched & biased world we live in…

Today, we hope that teachers would be more open to possibilities for the students. Rather than negating students' ambitions, find ways to encourage them. Get them to explore their possibilities.

Career possibilities

Today, career possibilities have expanded beyond my wildest imagination, as a teenager. I have two adult sons who are doing very different things - obviously not in the traditional career paths. The eldest does investments, consultancy, trading, and now looking into crypto. My second is pursuing a diploma in business while working as a barista and doing Lalamove (delivery/runner services) too. My youngest had shifted from wanting to become a YouTuber to an artist with Marvel, for now.

My parents might have flicked my forehead if I said I wanted to be an artist! Honestly, I wanted to be a rockstar – a drummer; my dream (one of) at least. My winning essay for my SPM trial exam was about how I replaced the drummer of the rock band Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, who broke his thumb & pinky finger, on both hands! I had such a vivid imagination!

It was for some time too, that they found it difficult to tell people that I became a salesman. Their eldest son, who went overseas to read engineering, got a scholarship from LLN/TNB (the power/electricity company), worked for Schlumberger (you know, that French oilfield service company… earning in US dollars…), now is a salesman!

What? Selling?

Many still have the image of pushy insurance salespeople, pushy multi-level-marketing (MLM) people, and that sly used car salesman in their minds! So, parents, teachers, counsellors, realize this: selling is a career - of giving, helping, and serving. The word “sell” comes from the Old English word “sellan”, which means – can you guess it – to give; as explained by Bob Burg. Follow Bob Burg & John David Mann on LinkedIn and better - buy their book “The Go-Giver” - and read!

And those of you who some reason, woke up this morning and found out that you are in sales, either in the traditional sense or as described by Daniel Pink in “To Sell Is Human”, start giving and serving. Open your mind to many possibilities. Or even a portfolio of careers, around selling.

So, what is selling?

As mentioned earlier, it’s about giving.

Many would now say, “If I give, give, give, what to eat?” or some even say, “siao ar?” (not a nice word). I had a boss who even said, "I don’t need you to give. I need you to sell, to get. You- should be a go-getter!”

While being a “go-getter is great”, you have to differentiate it from “go-taker”. Again, read what Bob Burg had to say about “go-getter” & “go-giver”. Read also what Adam Grant had to say about "takers" and "givers".

If we think that the counsellor mentioned earlier was clueless, many salespeople and even sales leaders are clueless about this too! Look at your typical sales training and typical weekly sales meeting too. What do we normally talk about? Targets, quota, can we make the number this month, this quarter, this year; how much can we make from this account? How much budget do they have? How much can we grab from that? etc etc...

Is that wrong?

Not entirely. In selling, sure you need to have a target and a plan to achieve that target. So, we are typically taught this as “the sales process”:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualifying
  3. Needs assessment.
  4. Pitch, presentation, demo.
  5. Proposal.
  6. Closing.
  7. Handling objection.
  8. Follow up & referrals.

Depending on who you ask, they would say 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or even 9 steps to this process! Is there anything wrong with this? NO!

Except for someone like me, and probably a lot of you too, these steps could be “too mechanical”. You might say, “Well, people still got their sales and meet their targets/quota”. Very true too!

However, I was never comfortable in trying to close and handling any objection! How about you?

Crazy Salesman – Connector?

If I’m honest, I can’t prospect and I can’t close. What I learned to do very well are:

  1. To have a serious interest in people.
  2. To listen to people.
  3. Getting to know people.

I’ll admit too, it takes me a long time before someone called me and said, “Let’s sit down. I need this…” and best is, "How much do I need to pay you?"

Connector?

Thus, if we look back at career possibilities, can you imagine “The Connector”?

I know, those who are new at selling or those who had typically sold via steps 1 to 5, 1 to 9 or whatever it may be, it is difficult to imagine how this would work for you. Let alone telling somebody that this is a “career path” you can take!

Stick with me. In the following articles, drawing from the character “Gus” from The Go-Giver, and my own experience, I will share how you the salesperson can morph and transform yourself into a “Connector”.

But then you’d say, I have a quota to hit this month, quarter? Patience my friends, all will be unravelled in due time. Unlike that career counsellor, I had done it and will share with you how I did it.