The Art of Selling- Part II

A recap from our previous post: Recall any sales encounter you have had which has left you with a bad taste. That is called Transactional Selling where the sales person is only interested in selling his product/ service to you.

Relational Selling, however, is different.

Key elements of Relational Selling are:

  1. Relationships are the key to life. Emotional Intelligence trumps IQ every single time.
  2. Never lie. It is a sign of the times that we even have to say this. Sometimes people think that small lies are okay. However, invariably small lies become bigger lies and then more lies are needed to support the previous ones. Always put yourselves in the buyer’s shoes. Would you rather deal with people that you cannot trust or with those who are honest and upfront?
  3. Know your proposition cold. What does this mean? Very simply, know your business, know your costs, know what you need to achieve and therefore what you can and cannot do. Let’s assume that you really need the order. Be sure to know the lowest price you can make this work. What if the customer wants a large quantity quickly? Before you say yes, be certain that you can deliver both the quantity and meet the timeline. This is what it means to know your proposition cold. Commit to what you can do and will do. No more, no less. Additionally, ensure this understanding extends to every aspect of your business, whether it’s in manufacturing, service delivery, or outdoor advertising.
  4. Know your customer’s business cold. Yes, it is your job to know your customer’s business really well, especially if the customer is a buyer for a large organization. He may have responsibility for many products and may not have detailed knowledge about your product category. Understand your customer’s business better than he does. You should become the category expert that the customer turns to whenever he has questions or is seeking new ideas. In this context, it’s essential to have a deep understanding of financial documentation, such as seeking real check stubs.
  5. Start with the customer’s needs and not your needs. Many companies do not approach it this way. This opens up greater opportunity for you as you embrace a “customer centric” approach. Charting the Journey of James Dooley is a process that involves continuous learning and adaptation.
  6. Great sales people also:
  • Rarely complain
  • Keep perfect records
  • Understand and solve the customer’s problems
  • Keep their word

This is the essence of the Art of Selling.

Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within

The Art of Selling – Part 1

Good marketing, it has been said, can make selling obsolete. Apple is an excellent example of this phenomenon. When you get to an Apple store, you don’t have to be sold much. You have already sold yourself, but even Apple has to do some selling. First, it has to convince you to go to the store and then subtly sell you when you are there.

Beyond the selling that is required to attract customers, you should also develop personal selling skills. You will need these in many situations, including persuading your teammates to join you, getting potential customers to give you a try, convincing suppliers to ship you raw material and cajoling investors to put up money.

“Everyone lives by selling something.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

The Art of Selling

If selling is an essential part of life, why is it that so many of us are afraid to sell? Are you afraid to sell? The fear of failure and being rejected undoubtedly plays a part.

Many people’s distaste may also come from having been sold something they did not want. The memory of having bought a used car from an old style car dealership may still haunt you. At that dealership, you were exhausted standing in the burning sun on a Saturday afternoon, sweating in your clothes on the hot pavement and most likely arguingwith a particularly persistent car salesman in a polyester suit. You can remember the haggling, with a gnawing certainty, that you were not getting a square deal. The salesperson knew he would never see you again and you just wanted to get it over with and run. This is called transactional selling and can often leave a bad taste.

Zig Ziglar suggests a different approach to selling. “How should you prospect? Display a genuine interest in the other person.” Let us call this relational selling. As the name implies, this philosophy entails developing a relationship.

Let us look at one of its key elements:

1. Relationships are the key to life. Emotional Intelligence – meaning how you deal with people – trumps IQ every single time. Even 10 minutes can appear like eternity if you decide to connect with another person on a human level. In our modern milieu, overrun by social media, we mistake casual interaction for relationships. If anything, there is an even greater need for relationships today because of the overwhelming superficiality. Time and time again, my experience has shown me that people yearn for a meaningful conversation, a deeper connection than the ubiquitous “hey.”

Rich Cardillo is one of the best sales and people’s person I have ever met. When he took over the Colorado sales operations for a large company, one of his first calls was on an irate client. As he entered the room, he noticed pictures of fish and fishing everywhere. Rich, being an avid fisherman himself, found the perfect conversation icebreaker. Yes, the problem was addressed, but it was the personal connection that cemented the relationship. Twenty years later Rich and that client, now retired, still go fishing together every year.

Does the story sound far-fetched? Try it. You will be surprised. Listen to the customer of course, fix the problem quickly, but go further. What if you made all encounters an effort in human understanding rather than an exercise trying to figure out “What can I get out of this as quickly as possible?”

What kind of approach would you like someone to take with you?

We shall look at the other key elements of this in our next post.

Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within

Promotional Plan

It’s time to turn your attention to how you will communicate with your customers. Promotion embodies both personal and non-personal interactions.

Let’s examine the myriad possibilities moving from the micro to the macro. At the outset you may have a very small budget and may have to start with digital media only. As the business grows and the marketing budget increases, you will be able to utilize other media.

 Electronic Media

Website, Podcast, Webinars, E-mail Blasts, Blogs, Mobile, Video, Facebook, Twitter, Banner Ads, Social Networks.

Mini Media

Brochures, Public Relations, Yellow Pages, Free Seminars, Free Consultations, Mobile, Free Newsletters, T-Shirts/ Pens/ Giveaways, Signs/ Banners, Coupons, Rebates

Personal Selling

Sales force, Hire an Agent, Dealers, Distributors, Telemarketing, Trade Shows

Large Media Advertising

TV, Newspapers, Radio, Magazines, Outdoor Signs, Direct Mail

As you move from micro to macro media the costs increase rapidly, as does the reach. However, be sure to focus on effectiveness. While a Super Bowl ad might do wonders for your ego and social standing, it may not be the most cost effective use of your money. Always focus on what will work with connecting you and your message to your customer.

Small entrepreneurs are better off starting with social media, free promotions and in-person sales calling. In today’s digital age, establishing a strong online business presence is also crucial. Creativity will be a key ingredient of your success as will persistence and resilience. You will be your best marketing program and sales agent.

Sarah Levy, a friend and frequent guest speaker in my classes, has a love for baking and started her business “Sarah’s Candies” in her mom’s kitchen. She called on many nearby stores but her big break-through came when a buyer at Whole Foods decided to try her cookies in a few stores. The rest is, as they say, history. Luck, for some reason, seems to favor those with initiative and a willingness to work hard.

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”Thomas Jefferson

The greatest and purest form of marketing is word of mouth: nothing beats somebody raving about your product and telling others about it. This is called a referral. Word of mouth marketing and the power of customer loyalty is a powerful tool that successful brands use. Companies like Disney, Intuit, American Express and Microsoft use a metric called the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure how likely a customer is to recommend a firm or a service to a friend. Higher customer loyalty translates into a higher score, which augurs well for the growth prospects of the business. Companies like Zappos and Warby Parker insure high NPS by focusing on excellent customer service as a way to build brand identity and drive growth. Focus on figuring out how to get referrals. In today’s social media, going viral is the ultimate referral.

Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within


How should you price your product or service? It is normal for entrepreneurs to want to price low to try and get sales to get started. This is understandable and sometimes the best approach at the start. However, you must focus on what the ongoing sustainable price will be.

You have done a lot of research to date. You should have a good idea of your target customer, the problem you are solving, the competitive landscape, the marketing utility you are providing and your “point of difference.”

These are the key components of pricing. While being competitive, do not underestimate the value you are creating. Why are the prices at Whole Foods higher than at other supermarkets? It is because they are perceived to provide premium, higher quality products that satisfy the functional, social, and emotional utilities of their customers better than the competition. Would lower prices lead to more sales? In the short run perhaps, but in the long run it would diminish the value of the brand.

Why is a Mac priced higher than a PC? A Rolex buyer does not want to buy the $100 Rolex that can be found on the streets of New York. They want something different – the “real thing,” the one that gives them an excellent product, social standing and a feeling of “I have made it.”

You should experiment with pricing. But always remember: a low price is rarely the right answer. Only one business – Walmart, McDonald’s, Amazon – can be the low price leader in a category. Find ways to increase value and then price to reflect this higher value.

Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within


A product is generic – carrots, computers, phones. A brand gives the product an identity, a personality, an emotional connection, or even a call to action.

Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos: “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard thingswell.”

Designer, Tommy Hilfiger: “I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Iwanted to build some kind of lifestyle brand that was preppy and cool.”

Actress, Katherine Hepburn: “My greatest strength is common sense.I’m really a standard brand – like Campbell’s tomato soup or Baker’s chocolate.”

What emotion do you feel when you see Disney’s Mickey Mouse symbol? Do thoughts of childhood, good times or an especially memorable trip come to mind? That is what a great brand does. Here are some more examples:

  • The brand name Quaker Oats was created to evoke the simple, true values of the Quaker people.
  • ESPN today connotes sports, action, something happening, movement, 24/7.
  • Apple has evolved from being a maverick, to a stylish, elegant,easy to use eco-system with just a hint of exclusivity.
  • Brands can also be tied to a personality such as Rachael Ray and Emeril LaGasse in cooking and Richard Branson in just about all Virgin products.
  • Over time some brands can become synonymous with a category; for example Kleenex and Xerox and perhaps now even Google.

According to Professor Dobie, the cardinal rule to branding is to be different and memorable.

A brand must also look and feel the same way everywhere, in every medium. Branding encompasses positioning, packaging, a name and pricing.

Some rules of thumb for a good brand name are:

  • Short (IBM, BMW)
  • Distinct (Google, Yahoo, Mustang)
  • Sounds good (Zara, Virgin, Disney)
  • Suggests a compelling benefit or feature (Facebook, Home Depot, Sunkist Oranges, Spic N’ Span cleaner)
  • Breaks the rules (Red Bull)
  • Easy to say, to spell and recall (Tide soap, Crest toothpaste)
  • But make sure that the name does not mean something bad in another language. (The classic case is the introduction of the Chevy Nova in South America. Nova means “it doesn’t go.” Oops.)

A tagline to the brand will at times become an integral part of the brand. Sometimes it explains the benefit and at other times it captures the image of the brand memorably. Some of the most memorable taglines according to a Forbes article are:

  1. BMW: Ultimate Driving Machine
  2. Nike: Just Do It
  3. American Express: Don’t Leave Home Without It
  4. Avis: We Try Harder
  5. California Milk Processor Board: Got Milk?
  6. Apple: Think Different
  7. U.S. Marines: The Few. The Proud. The Marines
  8. McDonald’s: You Deserve A Break Today
  9. DeBeers: A Diamond Is Forever
  10. MasterCard: There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy. For Everything Else, There’s MasterCard

These are indeed memorable taglines. They capture the benefits and even more importantly the emotional and social benefits of the brands extraordinarily well. Many years ago, when people found out that I was President of the company that owned Rice-A-Roni, they would joyously break out into song: “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.”

Those memories still make me smile. Talk about a tagline.

Finally, you must execute all the elements consistently. Apple does this extraordinarily well. Their products are stylish and appear to work seamlessly together. The packaging has the same feel: sophisticated and understated, providing confidence that everything will just work.

Apple’s website is clean and makes it easy to find what you are looking for. Their stylish stores, with the open glass look, both welcome a person and make it easy for them to buy something. Every channel delivers the same consistent message.

What is your brand and its tagline going to be?

Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within