How bad are we in Britain at selling?
I would suggest pretty poor, and most certainly the majority are weak in the art of persistence and persuasion. Some do not even endeavour to practice these skills and barely make it through the early stages of a several stepped process towards winning an order.
I enjoy the process of relationship building; I do not cherish the type of sale which is only ever about one deal and then moving on. I always see the first sale as a foundation of greater potential to come. The work laid during this foundation will be useful later – indeed may become very profitable.
I would like to think I have practised selling – also referred to as ‘rainmaking’ – as an art form. I would also like to think I listened to the customer really well. I know, like many, I could always have done better. I also know that however good at sales we are, always learning and continually forgetting to apply the skills we learn. Old tricks need to be re-energised and previous promotions repeated with a new twist. The market moves on – we need to keep one step ahead of the pace.
The secret to successful selling is a little like golf, to be good you have to practise
relentlessly, even then you will not always get it right.
Selling has often been referred to as a funnel of activities. It’s about the effort at the top and pushing stuff through to the bottom, converting orders of different shapes and sizes in a continuous flow. But it is not simply about being busy with opportunities; it is about filling the funnel with high-quality, strategic fit and profitable opportunities; prioritizing the capture of these opportunities according to likely profit; then reviewing the result and repeating the process whilst constantly improving the offer.
I always equated this effort with a competitive race of some kind and have always felt that even if I was not the best at selling, I would succeed if I could put in more effort, do so in a better way than other people and juggle more balls than most. My effort has always been repaid in some shape or form and I advocate that approach still. Many people think they work hard when they’re not actually making the sacrifices necessary to fill the funnel and fill it relentlessly. If you do not continually focus on opportunity creation your business will hiccup and fly forward a bit like an old banger filled with kangaroo petrol.
Lara Morgan is best known for growing Pacific Direct, from start-up to successful exit, 23 years later. She now invests her time in fast growth companies and represents UKTI as an Export Ambassador, having previously exported to 110 countries. Her vast experience and business knowledge includes specialisms in licensing luxury brands, manufacturing toiletries and selling to the hospitality environment through complex global distribution chains. She's also an expert in leadership and developing talent having learnt through her own experiences of employing 500 employees in an open fast growth sales culture.