This Week’s B2B Word on the Street is: SELLING
In my opinion, the most riveting cinematic speech about the art of the sale is Alec Baldwin’s fiery monologue in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross.” He takes a disgruntled group of real estate salesmen to school, and from “Put the coffee down!” to “The leads aren’t weak… you’re weak,” he grabs their attention – and their throats – with his words.
I have been in the advertising and marketing business for decades now, and I believe it’s my understanding of the creative process, strategy, human nature, and selling that has helped me succeed.
Unlike the real estate agents who populate that film, my first sales job was in men’s suits and sportswear. I was a part-timer, so I didn’t have to take the job as seriously as the older salesmen I worked with. Our store branch was one of several in the Atlanta area. When the sales reports showed our location to be lagging behind the others, corporate sent a guy out to set us straight.
He wasn’t sent by Mitch and Murray like Alec Baldwin’s character, but he made just as lasting an impression on me. And it wasn’t what he said (which wasn’t much) that taught me a lesson, it was what he DID.
As soon as he arrived at the store, he searched the racks for the least attractive, slowest selling suit, shirt and tie ensembles. They were somewhere in the back of the store, which housed the things no one had been able to sell. Then he put them on display near the front. Of course, every size of every item was there, maybe a bit dusty until he spruced them up.
As each customer entered the store, he greeted them with a friendly smile and gave them their space. Once they had been allowed to acclimate to the store, he casually approached with a suggestion that he would like to show them a few things they may have missed that HE believed they might like.
Within a few hours that rack of clothes was empty. Sold out. It wasn’t through a hard-sell, or a bait-and-switch, or a deep discount. It was simply the POWER OF SUGGESTION. The fact he could support the suggestion with good product knowledge, personal conviction (whether manufactured for the moment or not) and good timing didn’t hurt either.
Anyway, I began to see how there was also a sport to selling. Instead of watching the clock, I decided to pass the time by seeing if I could outsell the full-timers using what I had seen earlier. All of us improved, but the impression really stuck with me. I discovered how to sell, and began winning the top sales each week as a part-timer – much to the chagrin of the older guys.
In advertising and marketing, and certainly in sales, sometimes all it takes is a great suggestion.
What was your first sales experience? Is what you learned relevant to your job today?