‘Role perception’ key to sales success, author tells One Week KC crowd
Philip Delves Broughton took insights gleaned from a rug vendor in Morocco, an insurance saleswoman in Japan and a contractor in Baltimore and on Monday delivered them to entrepreneurs in Kansas City.
As part of One Week KC, a nine-day celebration of entrepreneurship in Kansas City, Broughton (left) gave a lunchtime talk at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation — which, he reminded the crowd "is a house built by a salesman."
When Broughton left his post at the Daily Telegraph to study at Harvard Business School, he was surprised to find the school offered no classes on sales. In light of successful entrepreneurial ventures built on the backs of salesmen like Ewing Kauffman, Broughton was puzzled by the absence of sales in the traditional business curriculum.
That provided part of the inspiration for his book, "The Art of the Sale," which chronicles the stories of successful salespeople from many different backgrounds.
Broughton asserted that all kinds of people are capable of succeeding in sales. They key, he said, is role perception. "Successful salespeople know why they're doing what they're doing," Broughton said, "and they're very comfortable doing what they're doing." Bad salespeople, by contrast, are plagued by doubts — about pricing, compensation structure, whether they're making a sales call at the right time.
"There are all these different sales types," Broughton said, "and you need to figure out which one you are." He discussed the different sales personalities he's seen, providing high-profile examples of each.
- The Wooer - "The person who, in every interaction, is trying to win you over." Like Bill Clinton or Richard Branson, wooers "crave a yes ... they don't just want it for their business. They want it for themselves."
- The Happy Loser - "Somebody who likes defeat because it gives them an opportunity to come back. They thrive in being told 'No'." This includes people like Donald Trump and Ron Paul. "He runs for president, he runs for president, he runs for president," Broughton said of Paul. "He seems to thrive on not being president."
- The Showman - This category includes people like P.T. Barnum and Oprah Winfrey "who use their sales to essentially make interesting things happen."
- The Ace - Everyone wants to buy from The Ace, his disregard for sales norms be darned. Case in point: Mark Zuckerberg, who Broughton called "a disastrous salesman. He gets on stage in his hoodie and you're waiting for the disaster to happen. He's just not a very engaging man."
- The Outsider - The person, like Estee Lauder, who uses sales as a means to break to ascend from the margins and break into "the establishment."
- The Hybrid - People like Magic Johnson and Steve Jobs who become masters of sales despite the fact that "what they're good at is something else entirely."
- The Two-faced B****rd - People like the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela who can can be very different sellers in different settings and whose means aren't always philosophically aligned with their desired end.
Broughton also touched on several points specifically pertaining to sales within startups. He presented a scale of sales activities, which ranged from delivery on one end to selling intangibles on the other. Unlike salespeople within established companies, entrepreneurs must make their first priority is the challenging task of selling intangibles. "You're essentially doing the highest-value activity first," he said, "when you have the least money and the least resources."
Broughton emphasized three things that are undervalued when it comes to selling in startups: optimism, tenacity and context. He also highlighted three things which people tend to overvalue regarding sales for startups: experience, contacts and passion for a product.
“I think that's nonsense,” he said of passion being essential to successful selling. "What you have to enjoy is the people who you're with and who you're selling to and the environment that you're in."
Credits: Photo by Prentiss Earl III for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.