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  • Writer's pictureSean Lewis

A fish out of water?

Balance-driven Sales

Out of the blue, a new client asked if it would be possible to meet our representative at a conference and assist at a vendor table?

“Of course.”

In business, there is no maybe…and after all, California…in January.

However, it left little time for the apprehension that, at the launch of the new year, I would embark on a mission to help promote a product to which I was only recently introduced. Or that I would engage with a set of consumers for whom I don’t yet speak their language. Or that my professional experience can only scratch the surface of understanding the work they do or their world.

Scientific research.

In business, there is no challenge to be shirked…and after all, there’s no better way to learn than to leap into the fire…with both feet.

To balance the initial mix of imposter syndrome and excitement, I applied to myself the same PROCESS I normally would for ONBOARDING any new sales staff at the beginning of their position.

• Build an industry knowledge foundation: In this case, read up on how and why this type of research is being done, as well as when the product fits in.

• Understand the product: Memorize the specifications, who it’s for, and why it’s different.

• Develop context: Observe an experienced colleague to learn the industry jargon…

Listen to the order in which it is put together to form meaningful phrases…Identify patterns and combination of phrases to address the most frequent questions.

I arrive a full 8 hours ahead of my trainer, armed with my laptop, some brochures that had arrived earlier in the week, and a video of our products in action. Arrange the table, put the video on the monitor provided by the conference center, and await the 3pm vendor session.

Around 3:15, the table has its first person, and my first question.

I open with full disclosure.

“It’s not only my first time at this conference, but also my first day in this industry. I’ll answer what I can. My ‘handler’ will be here later and he can fill in any gaps.”

The honesty (and humor) was graciously accepted, and the process was invited to unfold.

By the end, we had established a match, pending some clarification to come with my colleague’s arrival. Beginner’s luck? Quite possibly. But the process with its tentative matches did repeat several times throughout that initial vendor session.

My colleague arrived late that evening. For the following four days, we reconnected with the interested parties, and I listened to how he filled in the gaps. I was able to see his process from start to finish, as well as learn a lot about the researchers’ thinking and styles.

By the last day, I could carry a majority of conversation about product specifications, value contribution, and uniqueness in the market. There were the beginnings of a slight overlap into match for a specific research or application, but here was mainly the signal that it was time to pass the ball.

All in all, what this conference and adventure reinforced for me—particularly that first, pre-supported afternoon—is a PHILOSOPHY OF SALES that is universal.

Sales happen when you find the balance between PRICE, UTILITY, and TRUST.

• Trust is easy to achieve with something as simple as transparency and full disclosure at the BEGINNING of any relationship development. 

• Utility means different things to the different roles involved in getting a project done. PROVIDING THE SCRIPT that each role needs to communicate the benefits with the others goes a long way in helping you bring CONSENSUS to a sale. 

• Despite the value or the utility provided by your product, if its price is not within budget there cannot be a sale. Understanding the MARKET and RESOURCES AVAILABLE, and developing a product within these constraints, HAS TO BE THE STARTING POINT of any sale.

Regardless the product, industry, or situation, if you can JUMP at a challenge, prioritize developing RELATIONSHIPS, and embrace a MENTOR…you’ll NEVER be a fish out of water.


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