CARPETS AND SILKS, INDIA (2)

The second stage of the sales cycle was to show us how they made a carpet.

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Hand woven and then burned with a torch to remove the extra silk.

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An intricate process of burning (to tighten and seal the knots) and shaving. With the wool carpets he took a blade to the fibers to finish the process.

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While it is all staged to facilitate the sales process just like in other places such as Murano, Italy, it was interesting to watch. The problem I have as a “tourist” is what is the right price? This vendor was pitching us rugs that ran from $5K-$12K USD. While I know silk rugs in downtown Toronto often go for that price (or more), I was instantly on the defensive. Certainly they send those to foreign markets at a fraction of the cost – so what is the right price?

In the end, that is why we did not buy. Perhaps we would have if we felt there was a compelling reason and a deal to be had due to the “buy from the source” scenario.

MOTIVATION, DRIVE AND A BOAT

When I was younger with a new family, we tried out something new … a boat. We didn’t go for a small boat, we went for medium sized 28’ boat that you could sleep on. A nice Sea Ray with a significant price tag. In the end, we did it for a couple years and then made a family decision that we enjoyed golf and a nice pool more. But it was a great experience.

What has that got to do with drive and motivation? I was on the phone with my sales manager on the Monday after picking up the boat and he was very excited for me. I found it odd, as he was never the ‘interested in your personal life’ kind of manager. I voiced my question:

Me: “Why are you so excited about our buying a boat?”

Him: “I love to see you with a big new boat, hopefully you will upsize the house too. The bigger your mortgage, the harder you will work and the more you will sell”

Motivation, drive, that thing that pushes us to the next level is impossible to teach, very different for each person and often very personal. Good managers understand that and help it flourish. They also understand how to avoid hiring those without it.

A HOUSE, 2 CARS AND A CHANDELIER

I often reflect on my own personal purchasing experiences from a professional point of view, always looking to learn. While I don’t enjoy personal negotiating (I do enough of that at work), I find how salespeople treat me interesting. Upon reentering the Canadian market I provided a few sellers with opportunity, I needed a house (and didn’t need to sell a house to get one) and two cars. As I went through the different sales cycles, a few things stuck out in my mind:

  • Be careful about a flippant comment.  During the sales cycles, a few of the sales reps became a little too comfortable or too casual in my opinion. More importantly, certain phrases that they used are imprinted on my brain and really struck the wrong cord. When people are making a big decision, the ‘fight or flight’ mentality is at the forefront and inadvertent comments can send the whole cycle down the wrong path. Here are a few:

A few months ago we travelled to Italy (still not finished processing all of that, will blog it on a future date) with a stop in Venice and Murano for glass. We decided to buy a chandelier. It is a very well engineered sales process to trap the tourist. The hotel offers you a ‘free’ trip to the factory to see glass blowing. You arrive and a super slick salesman shows you the master craftsman as he blows the glass and then you are ushered into their showrooms. In the showrooms all the prices are very high but you are told that by cutting out the middleman and buying directly from the factory you will get 50% off.

The problem in this situation is simple – who knows what a good price is? If he is cutting off 50% will he cut off 70%? So we negotiated to the price we were willing to pay (65% off). We thought we got a fair deal (and when we went back to the island we looked at the shops and we paid ‘around the right price). But as we got on the boat to go back, our salesman said one thing that has stuck with me, making me feel taken as opposed to feeling that I got a fair price.

He smiled and said ‘Thank-you for the business. Please, make sure that you tell your friends about us. We would be glad to service them. We need more customers like you’.

I had to purchase two cars over the last 2 weeks. I have bought one already and know that we got a fair deal as there was a vendor program that took the negotiating right out of it. But I still have one car to go – my commuter car. I don’t care about this car – I am not a big car guy. I need efficient, reasonably comfortable, Bluetooth and an MP3 jack as I love to listen to books as I drive. So the dealer that I bought the first car is trying hard to sell me a second. The sales rep is alright, but I would not hire her. So as I test drove the car, I asked the price. She stated it and I said ‘That is about $3K more than the other car I am looking at and I am not sure that I am willing to pay the extra’. She smiled and made what she thought was a witty comeback ‘Well, then I guess you are buying the other car’.

This is about her 3rd faux pas. So I told her I think I will pass. The sales manager got involved and he said ‘He really wants to sell me a second car’ (What a shocker). So we went back and forth and as I was tired of looking for a car and have much bigger issues to deal with, agreed on a price about $1K higher than the other car. I felt that it was worth it and that I was getting a ‘fair deal’ until he said ‘Well, that was easier that I thought it would be’.

Later today I am going to call him back and tell him the deal is off. I want a fair deal and that just tells me that he took me.

For a house these days it is a buyer’s market. Agents will tell you differently because it is their job to ensure that you don’t take a long time – or they don’t get paid. So we low balled the house that we want expecting to go through a negotiation phase. After the first back and forth the other agent told our agent ‘Look, we are not going to sign back. My client is a wealthy man. He owns a house in England and a few houses here in Canada. He is a busy man and not interested in going back and forth’.

In any negotiation, I was always taught that you can only negotiate (truly negotiate) if you are willing to walk away. I didn’t want to but my wife was unattached and said lets walk. So I called the agent back and said we are walking, please start looking into these three other houses.

Well, magically, he came back. What he doesn’t know is that had he not said that, we would have probably gone $20K higher over the coming 24 hours. But we figured that because he was ‘too busy’ and ‘too important’ that he was also too arrogant and so why bother.

  • No one sent me a thank-you card:  If you have worked with me you know that I am big on thank-you cards. Less than 1% of sales reps do it and I firmly believe that the little things are important (and no, e-thank-you cards and e-holiday cards are not good enough. They show that you are cheap and take too little effort). I have yet to receive a single thank-you card.
  • Very few sales reps followed up:  In the car pursuit, I went to a range of dealers on a Saturday. Each of them had my information. A number of them provided quotes. Only ONE out of the entire car buying experience followed up. Pathetic.
  • It isn’t about you:  It was shocking to hear how little probing the sales reps did around my pain points, my buying cycle or about my personal situation. One extreme situation was at a the Lexus dealership.  By the time the test drive was done I knew that the salesman next to me was divorced, had two kids, lived with his mom in Collingwood, wasn’t ‘really’ a car salesman but really a golf pro, that he loved to give lessons and often did big corporate events for Audi and Lexus, that he had a 5 handicap and was really looking forward to driving home tonight to have a BBQ with an old friend. He didn’t know anything about me (he didn’t ask). He sent me a quote but never followed up even though I told him I was buying two cars. He absolutely didn’t send a thank-you card. He didn’t even get consideration.
  • I appreciate a great sales person: Our real estate agent has been truly awesome. It has been a rough ride dealing with the house and a furnished place (the other agent has been a nightmare). But our agent absolutely believes that ‘5 no’s make a yes’ and has pounded away. Awesome follow-up, open communication, tenacity and a willingness to fight for the deal. And most important, she has shown empathy to our situation and the stress that it can cause. I truly appreciate the person who does it right. Well done.

 

THE ART OF (KILLING) THE DEAL

A must read for every salesperson, Ben Stein on The Art of (Killing) the Deal. I personally found the following deal killers top of mind with me:

·         You are doing all the talking. I have done hundreds, if not thousands of presentations and to me, nothing is worse than a lack of interactivity. I will often stop and request comments, draw out discussion, get the customer speaking. Nothing is a bigger business killer than a one way conversation.

·         You think you are more important than the customer. This one kills me and I will admit, there are times when I have groaned about the inconvenience of a meeting, but in the end, the customer always comes first. Just the other day, I was unhappy because I need to travel 45 minutes to the same spot, two days in a row and tried to force it into one day. But, in the end, I could not get frustrated with my assistant because I always say ‘Everything else can move, customer first’.

·         Don’t sweat the details. This one kills me and I think that 90% of reps don’t take this seriously. The details are the thank you note, remember names, remembering details about people, birthdays, going that extra mile on holidays, etc. I will blog more on this one soon, but it is one that drives me crazy and I see very few sales reps do it well. Those who do, always have a higher chance of success. Every sales rep should adhere to the MacKay 66, or something like it.

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

I watched a great movie the other day Thank You for Smoking” . All about a lobbyist for the Tobacco Industry. Truly a great movie on sales, morals and the slippery slope. I think I know this guy. Pay close attention to his rationalization and the way he spins conversations. Truly mesmerizing to watch (And quite funny). Five out of five stars.

 

A few classic quotes:

Joey Naylor: Dad, why is the American government the best government?
Nick Naylor: Because of our endless appeals system.

Speaking to his son’s class on his job as a lobbyist:

Kid #3: My Mommy says smoking kills.
Nick Naylor: Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?
Kid #3: No.

Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Kid #3: No.
Nick Naylor: Well then she’s hardly a credible expert, is she?

Heather Holloway: My other interviews have pinned you as a mass murderer, blood sucker, pimp, profiteer and my personal favorite, yuppie Mephistopheles.

(Definition of Mephistopheles: Mephistopheles (also Mephisto, Mephistophilus, Mephist, Murphy, Mephy, Murphy Stoffelis, Mephistophilis, Mephostophiles, Mephostophiel, and Mephisophilus) is a name given to one of the chief demons of Christian mythology that figure in European literary traditions. While the name is frequently used as an alternative form of Satan or the Devil, it evolved during the Renaissance; the name Mephistopheles makes no appearance in the Bible.)

 

LAND A BETTER JOB

 Another great side bar article in Men’s Health (Sept 2006) was called ‘Land a better job’. The lines of questioning are often predictable in job interviews, but these a couple good ones. I blog them for future reference.

Q: Why should we hire you?   I produce results, and I have strong analytical skills and good initiative. Wouldn’t you like to work with a manager with 3 years experience in this position who’s a breeze to get along with?

Like that answer, and like how you can build on it (adding, ‘who gets things done’, add in a few examples). I remember in my last job interview (current role), the hiring manager was tough on me, and he was my last interview when I first came to the company. In my interview with him the first time around, he said to me ‘Are you the kind of guy who get’s stuff done? I need those kind of people.’

This time around, when he hit me with this one I looked him square and said ‘Because I am the guy who got it done for you for the last 4 years, and I will do the exact same thing here. I will run with this, I will ensure you are never surprised and I will nail this job. We both know it’

Q: What is one of your weaknesses?  I’d like to understand the nitty gritty of technology better so I can use it to implement my best ideas. The advise to forget the ploy of strength as a weakness (‘I’m a workaholic’), it is too transparent (I agree). Be real .. as long as it is not something like ‘I have a temper’.

Q: Why are you leaving your current job?  I feel like I’ve come a long way in the 3 years I’ve worked at initech (LOL, they reference Office Space), but I think now is the time to branch out into new areas.

Trash talking the old boss is a fools game. Everyone interviewer looks at you as their potential direct report or as a potential ex-employer. They do not want their weaknesses broadcast to the world. Focus instead on how the new job will allow for new challenges. Come across as a motivated self starter.

Q: What do you do with your off time?  I have a 3 year old daughter who keeps me on my toes. But I still shoot hoops on the weekends with college friends, and I’ve been reading about the revolutionary war’

They reference that the interviewer thinks that they will be seeing this person allot and it is almost like you are hiring a potential friend. I disagree with this, but think it is healthy to show well roundedness. After all, the workaholic will burn out and if I were hiring, I would want well rounded to bring new ideas, thoughts, approaches.

Interesting article.

NAVIGATE AN EVENT

Men’s Health magazine (September 2006) has a great article on the office. A sidebar article talks about navigating the office party (Titled ‘She’s hot. The boss is drunk. Make the office party work for you anyway’).

In my role, I am often put into situations where I need to ‘work a room’. A few of their office party tips are very relevant to sales people and/or sales managers, in no particular order:

1.       Hold your drink in your left hand: your right should be busy glad handing.

2.       Make sure your drink is empty before you join a new group. Use the empty vessel as an excuse to change groups. (I would also add that you should always take half drinks at the bar to ensure maximum flexibility of movement without drinking too much – see bottom)

3.       Always stay on your feet to increase social mobility, and introduce people. Be the one who is making connections. People will look at you and say “Here is someone you need to know, people will look at you as a connecting point and will return the favour”

4.       Hopping from conversation to conversation can make you look like a climber. Always looking over shoulders and you will be resented. Want to maximize face time, stand where there is lots of traffic.

Some other points from my own handbook:

  • Evaluate the crowd. If this is your event (You are the host), look for gaps. Important client alone or with the wrong people? Interject, be the connector, ensure they are comfortable. I remember a bad scenario where we had a big dinner and the rep did not control seating. The most important exec was last to sit (through the mingling) and was left sitting with a low level table. I looked on in horror as it happened (And ‘educated’ the rep afterward). As soon as I could break out, I hit his table and spent the rest of the evening at his table.
  •  Take control. When seating, take the time to think it out. Put the right people beside the right people. This applies to meetings and dinner events. For example, if in a meeting, think about breaking up tribes, of ensuring there isn’t an ‘us and them’ scenario (i.e. Where your team is on one side, they are on the other or your team is at the back, they are at the front. Intermingle).
  • Remember, always on. Want to enjoy yourself? Take your spouse out for dinner, go drinking with buddies. You are on the job. You are not allowed to sit in the corner, or stick with the ‘comfy guy/gal’ you like. You’re on, be on and control your drinking. Let someone else fall over.