Sales 101: The Art of Selling

When was the last time you saw a matchbook? It’s been a while, right? Smokers tend to flick their Bics and smoking is somewhat taboo these days.

The matchbook was invented in 1889 by Joshua Pusey, a cigar-smoking patent lawyer in Philadelphia. The idea didn’t catch on until 1892 when a salesman, Henry C. Traute, made the matchbook usable and safe by putting the striking surface on the outside.

It was Traute who introduced the idea of the matchbook as an advertising medium and sold it to advertisers, manufacturers and retailers to use as a promotional giveaway. In 1897, a New York City opera company put its logo on matchbooks and distributed them widely to advertise its opening performance. After that, as they say, the rest is history. Demand for matchbooks grew exponentially.

Pusey sold his invention in 1896 to the Diamond Match Co. for about $4,000 – the equivalent of $110,000 today. By the early 1900s, Diamond Match was turning out 85% of all matches produced in the United States. It had plants here, Europe and South America.

In 2003, when Diamond Brands was manufacturing 12 billion matches annually, it was purchased by Jarden Corp. More recently, Newell Brands has owned Diamond Match as a result of acquiring it last year.

I trust you enjoy great stories about business. I know I do. The Business Journal is packed with them in every issue. Over the next 12 months, I will share with you some entertaining and illuminating stories about business, in particular, stories focused on the art (and science) of sales and selling.

In the next 10 years, America will need thousands more salespeople – men and women who will take their rewards in money and satisfaction in this honorable trade of creating and fulfilling needs with their products, and identifing problems and providing effective solutions with their services.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in sales and related occupations will grow 3% between now and 2026, which should result in a half-million new jobs. Among these new salespeople will be some of the highest paid persons in America. Sales and selling is truly a great opportunity. Sales keep industry booming, men and women working and raises our country’s standard of living to new heights.

One of the basic tenets I emphasize in all of my academic lectures and sales training workshops are the nearly inescapable seven steps of selling. The conventional sales cycle consists of:

  •  Prospecting.
  •  Pre-approach.
  •  Approach.
  •  Presentation.
  •  Overcoming objections.
  •  Closing.
  •  Follow-up and service.

At the end of each presentation, I always ask the question: In this age of the internet, social media and the sophisticated business-to-business (B2B) buyer, are the seven steps of selling still relevant? Maybe. Maybe not. We will see.

Over the course of this Business Strategies series — Sales 101 — I will venture to encapsulate constructive information about various aspects of sales and selling and deliver an engaging perspective on a more evolved selling process that will reflect the demands you face in your business. Topics will include:

  •  Selling technologies and sales force automation.
  •  Sales teams and buying centers.
  •  Sales training and courses.
  •  Account management and customer relationship management (CRM).
  •  Sales metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  •  Perspectives on hiring the salespeople of the future.

Other topics that I intend to supplement with personal interviews are:

  •  Entrepreneurial selling. A unique approach to launching a startup and moving it to scale-up while simultaneously increasing revenue and positioning it for investment or an initial public offering.
  • Women in sales. This topic reflects the rise of the social media-savvy female sales leaders and the slow decline of the boys clubs. It will provide insights into the evolution in many traditional industries once dominated by males.
  •  Integrating sales and marketing. How sales teams and new-wave marketing organizations can have closer and more collaborative relationships as they work together more efficiently and effectively.

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” In sales, the only two things you can control are the quantity and quality of your sales calls. This means that you must make more calls and make each call more effective.

Could you increase your sales 100% over the next 12 months this series runs? The answer is Yes! Could your competitors increase their sales (at your expense) if they read this series and you don’t? Absolutely!

So, consider beginning today with a goal of increasing by 25% the number of sales calls you make per week, and then your conversion (closing) ratio and order value by 25% as well. Neither goal is impossible and when combined can lead to a near doubling of sales performance, if not more, over that time.

To start, think about a salesman making an average of 20 calls per week where the average order value is $200 and the conversion ratio is 5:1. This salesman’s sales per week are $800 (20/5 = 4 x $200 = $800).

Increase sales call activity: A 25% rise translates to 25 calls per week. If average order value is unchanged and the conversion ratio remains the same, the average sales per week become $1,000 (25/5 = 5 x $200 = $1,000).

Increase average order value: A 25% rise translates to 25 calls a week. If average order value increases to $300 and the conversion ratio remains the same, the average sales per week becomes $1,500 (25/5 = 5 x $300 = $1,500).

Increase the conversion ratio: A 25% percent increase in sales calls translates to 25 calls per week. If average order value increases to $300 and the conversion ratio to 4:1, the salesman’s new sales total becomes $1,875 per week (25/4 = 6.25 x $300 = $1,875). The salesman improves performance to $1,875, from $800, a 134% increase.

You might want to ask yourself and your team: What can we do to increase the conversion ratio, the number of sales calls, or the value of the average order over the next week, the next month, the next six months, or year?

To be a salesman today is indeed to have one of the greatest opportunities in the world: a chance to collect top pay and benefits, enjoy personal satisfaction and enjoy the esteem of your peers – all while providing outstanding service to your fellow man and woman.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.