A young man threw me a pen and said “sell this to me!” I looked at him for a second and then followed up my confused look with the words, “huh?” The young man, a new intern at Logo, then proceeded to tell me a story. He was preparing for interviews. In his preparation he was told that there could be a case when he would need to sell a pen to the person doing the interview. I guess as a way of saying be prepared to sell anything to anyone if you want a career in sales.
This was his first day at Logo Chair and so my assumption is he wanted to test me to see how I would fair against some of his upcoming challenges. For the next four months he will be working at Logo and learning. Learning about business, the sales process, marketing, paperwork, and the inter-workings of a team. I will be his teacher. So he tested me. I think the interaction with the pen was two fold; first, he wanted to see how good of a salesperson I am and second, he didn't know how to sell the pen, so he was looking for any advice he could get.
As my response hit his ears and then his brain it was written all over his face that he felt the same as me, he just didn't know why! Right after I uttered the words, “huh?” the young man said “yeah, I thought the same thing.” What is incredible about this brief interaction is that our very first training session ensued. I started asking questions. What is special about the pen? Tell me about its features. What about the quality? What about the value of the pen? Is the ink special? Does it last longer than other pens on the market? Then I did something he wasn't expecting. I asked about the customer. Who am I selling this pen too? Tell me about him or her? Describe his or her office? Tell me about their personality? Education? Family? How long in buying position? Talkative? Organized? Long emails or short? Phone conversations? Contacted us for appointment or we approached them? ect...
This surprised him because in our conversation I asked more questions about the customer than I did the product. Why? Because who the customer is as a person is more important than the product. What the intern wanted, because what he has been told, was for me to jump into this elaborate sales pitch on this pen I knew nothing about to a person I knew even less about (at least I could see and touch the pen). He has been told you have to be prepared to spin anything. The intern has been taught, you have to be able to create on the fly because in the end you are selling yourself. Although I agree with that last statement (you are selling yourself) you are also selling a product or service to someone. Great sales people don't “SPIN” information (true or false) about a product to get you to buy it. They don't make up things about a pen to gain your interest. They don't have one sales pitch regardless of product and buyer. Great sales people adapt their sales presentation and process first to the buyer. They adjust the sales pitch to the buyers personality. Some sales presentations are short and less detailed. Others are full of detail urging the customer to make a decision. They are all different yet all the same. They are different in how sales people present the information, but all the same in that there is no “SPIN” job. Sales people uncover a need and match something in their line to resolve the buyers need.
After our conversation I could see his eyes were wide open. His mind was turning... He was already beginning to question “truths” about what he perceived a profession of sales included. He also left the first day with a clear understanding on something he probably never thought about before. Interviews are a two way process. I was clear that if a firm threw me a pen and said “sell this to me” without descriptions on the pen or who I was selling too, knowing what I know now, I would cross that firm off my list. The training and sales process wouldn't line up with what I know to be true, with my core values, or how I believe business should be conducted. They would be asking me to do something great sales people don't do. Sales isn't “SPIN”. Sales is first understanding people. Sales is then finding a need. Sales are completed by showing why your product best resolves the need which was uncovered in a way that is received well with the perspective buyer. No “SPIN” needed.