Are you a “natural salesperson?” You know the type…the ones who walk into a room full of strangers and get energized. Those that talk you into things you would have never thought you’d do on your own. I know the type because I married one. But I, on the other hand, am the worst at small talk! A crowd of strangers makes me want to hide. And trying to convince someone to do something I know they do not want to do, makes me feel badly! So, the question I would like to pose, can you be in sales, without having that “natural sales” personality? I would say, “Yes!”
When I first started in the Consumer Products industry, fresh out of the MBA program, I started as an analyst. I was working in a Walmart sales office in Northwest Arkansas, but I honestly thought I would go into finance or marketing. I quickly realized I enjoyed numbers and the story that the numbers could tell, but I didn’t see myself as someone that could “sell to Walmart.” After a couple of years as an analyst, I was moved into Category Management. As an advisor for Walmart, I was given a unique privilege to see firsthand how basic changes could impact sales within the whole category. This is when I realized a win for a brand could also result in a win for the category. I had learned when you dig into the 4 P’s, (Price, Products, Promo and Placement), you can drive category change. Around the same time, I had the benefit of attending a Delta Associate’s training course named “Fact Based Selling.” This is when I was exposed to the idea of selling based on data versus relationship.
Delta & Associates has a powerful opinion that changed the way I viewed my role as a category manager. They suggested, “Most presentations fail. They tell you what the numbers ARE, not what they MEAN. They use too much data, too many slides and overwhelm the audience with a complex story that is difficult to quickly understand.”
Over the next few years, I was able to take multiple training courses through Delta Associates that shaped the way I viewed selling and my ability to do it. I was able to practice this idea of ‘fact-based selling” in a clear, concise way. I realized that once I truly understood the data, and what it was saying, it made it easy to frame my sell. The data would then dictate if my biggest sell would be an internal sell or an external sell.
In addition, being in Northwest Arkansas allowed me to work with two great companies whose cultures thrived from data driven, decision making mentalities. Walmart and Sam’s Club are sophisticated, driven by facts, and focused on the consumer. Tickets to a local event won’t get you anything with either. You must rely on your 1:1 scheduled appointment at the home office. All your convincing and influencing will be based on the data you bring and how simply you can articulate how this will be a win for not only your brand, but the category.
I know “sales” in today’s world is much more than selling. And specifically, when calling on Walmart and Sam’s Club, you are a business manager versus a ‘salesperson.’ However, my intent today is to encourage younger colleagues who may be starting their career, not to cross out sales just because they aren’t a natural salesperson. Also, to encourage the business manager who hasn’t yet experienced success at Walmart, to ask themselves the following: Am I considering the full impact of what I am selling and how it will drive the category? Am I sharing numbers or sharing what the numbers mean?
Here are a few of the key elements I like to consider when starting a presentation:
1. Know the data – You must do the work upfront to understand what is really going on. You must dig into the data, from all angles, to make sure you have a clear vision of what’s happening.
2. Know your audience – What is important to them? What will their key questions be?
3. Create a story – Make sure your data flows from slide to slide. Is there a logical flow?
4. Keep it simple & concise – If your audience has questions regarding methodology, etc., it’s much easier to follow up on those questions versus getting bogged down in the details before you get to tell the story.
5. Critique it – Try to poke holes in the story. What have you not considered? What questions will your audience ask? Present it to others and let them ask questions.
In summary, my hope is to encourage you, even if you aren’t a natural salesperson. With proper preparation and perspective, you can have a successful career in sales.
* Team Leader, Walmart – Upfield
* Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.