“I hate sales,” or “I hate salespeople.” You’ve heard that one before, or do you think that yourself? Well, I certainly do… to a great extent. This drivel deals with my thoughts on sales and salespeople. It is inspired (or triggered, depending on the way you look at it) by a chat with Predrag Rodić and a video by Mario Krivokapić, a few of the salespeople I respect (links to their Linkedin profiles… don’t worry, they’re mostly harmless). Let’s get on with it.
Predrag and Mario had nothing to do with this, it’s not their fault, and not a single squirrel was harmed in the making of this article…
This turned out to be longer than I expected – and boring as hell!
(“that’s what she said” 🙂 )
Here’s a table of contents to help you reach the end:
Table Of Contents (T.O.C.)
- The starting premises
- You know nothing, Jon Snow!
- The dark side of sales and reviews
- This doesn’t make any sense, does it?
1. The starting premises
Before we discuss sales and salespeople, this is where I’m coming from, so to speak:
a) I don’t like shopping
For me, it’s a necessary evil, just like washing the dishes. Except washing the dishes is at least a bit Zen-like. Shopping is just frustrating. Here’s an example. I needed a new torque wrench. These were my criteria:
- It must measure torque in both directions, ’cause some bike parts use the left-hand threads.
- Torque range must cover 15 to 60 Newton-metres (what on Earth is torque?).
- Accuracy should be within +-6 %.
(got too much time on your hands? Then read about accuracy vs precision explained – it ain’t the same! 🙂 )
- The socket interface should be 1/2″ in order to fit most of my sockets for that torque range.
The problem is that every damn torque wrench manufacturer claims to have the accuracy within the margins I require. But I know, from experience, that some torque wrenches are rubbish in practice. Even some expensive ones, so I can’t just go out and buy an expensive one and call it a day.
How did I solve this? Read on, we’ll get to that.
b) I’m not motivated by money – don’t really like it
For me, money is like a bicycle lock. I need one good bike lock, and sometimes a spare one. That’s it. Getting more bike locks is just an extra burden.
Similarly to that philosophy, I’ve turned down every well-paid job offer if it wasn’t inspiring, i.e. if I wouldn’t have done it for free, in case I didn’t need any money. I do the same for most advertising offers.
Doing stuff that inspires me is what I thrive on, money is irrelevant. I’ve always had enough money for the stuff I really need, and I don’t need any extra.
c) I don’t like capitalism
I find it to be very unjust. People who make our societies work: factory workers, nurses, teachers, even engineers, get paid a lot less than a CEO of a junk-food company. And a vast majority of people on planet Earth are living in very poor living conditions (if you are reading this, it means you’ve got an Internet connection, phone or electricity, and you are most probably not starving right now).
In a perfect world, everyone should be doing what they are good at, and we should all share what we have, according to everyone’s needs (yes, colour me a hard-core commie, and no, you don’t really need an expensive carbon-fibre bike to go cycling).
d) I know nothing about sales or selling
I know what kind of people I like (or: least dislike 🙂 ) buying stuff from. But I’m no salesman.
It could be argued that doing sales is a parasite line of work. There are people who build stuff. There are people who use stuff. Salespeople just get in between those two and take their commission.
e) I love bicycles and cycling
Among other things. So I’ll be (ab)using that topic to make examples and prove points.
2. You know nothing, Jon Snow!
I make a living by doing computer-related work (IT, systems administrator). My other passion, bicycle mechanics, gets you most work at the time when the weather is perfect for cycling. Since I love cycling, that occupation is a no-go for me, but it is still a great hobby.
For a year, just to hone my skills and see how good I really am, I worked in a bicycle shop – as an extra job.
…where I literally threw one month’s wage in a garbage can. That wasn’t deliberate and it’s a long story 🙂 but it stresses the point that I wasn’t in it for the extra money.
It turned out I was a decent mechanic and the best salesman in the bike shop. Selling a lot of parts and accessories that are considered to be on the expensive side for an average Serbian customer.
This was way before my cycling-related website and YouTube channel became popular and recognized locally.
Why did people buy expensive stuff from me? I’m not a salesman! These are my thoughts:
- I know
alla lot about bicycles, cycling and bicycle maintenance – with a ton of first-hand experience.
- Friends and acquaintances always turn to me for help and advice, so I know exactly what kinds of problems and dilemmas people face – and how to solve them.
- I’m quite good at talking with people, listening and understanding them.
(“client-oriented” is what an HR expert called me, told me not to say that I’m “communicative” 🙂 )
This allowed me to ask all the right questions, understand the situation, and recommend solutions that are best for the customers in the long run.
Just as importantly, I was able to clearly explain my recommendations. Without pushing for any sales – didn’t care to make a sale, just wanted to help people solve their problems. Literally.
Another important aspect that many people (including myself) often miss: sales, like any other customer-service industry, is about making people happy. Let me repeat this:
The job of a salesman is not to make the highest commission, nor to offer the best bang for the buck, or the cheapest product. It is to make people happy! Let’s do it one more time, using an example: 🙂
- A very good rear derailleur that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is Shimano Acera.
- Some folks love cheap deals. I could sell them the reasonably priced Shimano Acera derailleur, which would serve them well for decades, but Acera isn’t cheap, and they would feel unhappy and cheated.
The cheapest derailleur that isn’t too crappy is Shimano Altus (unless you have more than 8 sprockets on the rear wheel). Offer that as an alternative and everyone is happy.
- Other folks feel that paying more money gives them a better value. Those people would not be happy with anything cheaper than a Shimano SLX rear derailleur.
- Finally, folks like myself, looking for the cheapest that is good enough, will be happy with a Shimano Acera derailleur.
How do you know who you are dealing with?
It takes a bit of psychology, but mostly it boils down to knowing what you’re selling, asking the right questions and listening, trying to understand the buyers’ position, preferences and priorities.
3. The dark side of sales and reviews
Remember the talk about the torque wrench? Well, I’ve found a torque wrench that does the job great, is durable and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. One I’m happy with.
But I didn’t get any help from reading product reviews, or watching YouTube review videos. Based on my knowledge and experience, half of them have no idea what they are talking about, and the other half are paid to praise the products they are reviewing.
The same goes for most customer reviews (on Amazon and the likes).
Most people who leave reviews have too much time on their hands or are clueless.– An experienced salesman
One not excluding the other.
(whom I agree with)
What about the local bike mechanics? For some reason, no one seems to bother with having a decent torque wrench (or a mounting anti-seize paste for that matter). Can’t understand why. Really.
So, did I get a recommendation from a good salesman? NO! Didn’t find anyone who knows about the topic and does sales. While the local tool representatives seem either clueless or uninterested to bother with one sale for a one torque wrench.
I had to try stuff for myself, carefully read all the specs, compare prices and then make a calculated risk with a model that looked to fit all the criteria… and it was not very good! So I had to do it again, getting it right on the second go – which is very good I would say. I can now recommend that model (and earn an Amazon affiliate commission 🙂 ), if anyone asks, but I don’t do sales…
…except… wait… this was just a sales pitch, wasn’t it?! 🙂
Anyway, read on…
Of course, a good salesman could have saved me a lot of time, energy and even money. I would have happily paid for any extra commission, just to have my problem solved.
4. This doesn’t make any sense, does it?
If you expected all this drivel to have any point – this is as good as I’m able to phrase it:
In my opinion, doing sales right requires knowledge, experience and patience. It is a tough job – long hours and working with people.
Unfortunately, good salespeople are few and far between. In my experience, most are clueless and just want to make the highest commission or sales volume (one not excluding the other 🙂 ).
This article, however, in spite of its title, is about the good salespeople, those who know what they’re doing and selling. Good salespeople can save you a lot of time and money.
For all the good salespeople out there:
You are well worth your commission!
Thank you for your service. 🙂
That’s all I have for you today – go away now!