The first salesperson to train me was a guy called John Abel; he was new to the company too and had actually got the job I’d applied for. The reason I didn’t get it was that I was barely eighteen and had zero experience – I was taken on however as a trainee sales rep. Surprising what a good, if rather vague letter and résumé can achieve. The sales manager couldn’t believe it when I showed up for the interview, but he was a good sport and interviewed me anyway.
John was middle-aged and a little rough around the edges, but knew his stuff when it came to selling to the railway station bookstalls I mentioned in Secrets of a Sales Rep #3. However, when he introduced himself to new customers he made me cringe saying, “Hi, my name’s John Abel, able by name, able by nature.” Amazingly, this seemed to break the ice and customers warmed to him immediately. He was quite hard on me especially when we discovered that he’d gone to school with my father who had punched him on the chin back in the day! What are the odds?
One of the things I learned from John that has stuck with me all these years (and there a lot of them) was the time he allowed me to make my first sales presentation. For those of you who haven’t read about my previous exploits I should explain that I was a trainee salesman for a book publishing house. We used to visit customers regularly to pitch them on our new titles. On this occasion, our lead title was a softcover called North Cape, by Joe Poyer which had sold well in hardcover and was expected to be a best seller in paperback.
I had done my homework and knew all about every title I was about to present. I was as confident as an eighteen-year-old can be and when it came to presenting North Cape I gave it all I had and the buyer seemed excited. I told her everything I knew about the book, relayed some great tidbits about the story, got her excited about it. I spent more time on our lead title than all the other books put together. When I was finished she gave me an order for 100 copies. This was a good order – in my mind amazing and I was very excited. As we left the store John turned to me, gave me the keys to his car and told me to wait for him.
When he returned, he reviewed my sales presentation. It was good overall he said. He was impressed I knew my products and that I was confident. The only trouble he said, was that I had not spotted the buying signals and had talked so much about the Poyer book that the buyer started having second thoughts and although an order for 100 was good it could have been more. He saw the look of disbelief in my eyes so pulled out the order we had just received and showed me that when he went back into the store he had managed to get the order raised to 250 copies. I was stunned. True story!
He told me that there is a point where a buyer is excited about what you are selling and will make a decision based on emotion; however, at some point, if you talk too long, logic and reason will take over from emotion and the quantity they were considering starts dropping. Take a look at the graphic above and see what I mean.