“How studying Psychology gave me insight into the true skills behind great salespeople.” Guest Blog by Liam Patrickson
I have a love-hate relationship with sales.
I used to think salespeople were persuasive, persistent, and usually ignorant and irritating. Particularly believed this of telesales, always calling at the worst time with something I have no interest in.
It doesn’t help that the phone is a channel used for so many scams or pointless calls that now, unknown numbers are immediately answered with impatience.
That ‘car crash’ we’ve all never had springs to mind.
On the other hand, I believed that somebody who could be successful in a sales career would have many desirable characteristics. They would have to be organised, charismatic and professional as well as consistent and knowledgeable.
There was a conflict between my experience of being sold to and what I thought made up success for those in sales.
I had a go at a charity call centre briefly in and around studying at 6th form. I only ever felt like a nuisance; the scripting and pitches removed it from being a genuine conversation with a human (I usually enjoy those) into a robotic transaction of noises that I hoped would secure the campaign a donation.
The metrics used to measure individual success also made it tedious, hit this call number, and you become eligible for a bonus! I understand incentivising productivity, but in this instance, it was delivered in entirely the wrong way.
We were not trying to have quality sales conversations; we were trying to have many conversations.
It wasn’t a problem to buy into the purpose of my calls, the charities requirement for donation. It was just too easy to disassociate from that cause while meeting personal targets set by the organisation.
At the time, I chalked it up as a learning experience; I did not suit the telemarketing industry. University on the horizon and anticipated I would find more engaging, compelling lines of work to build a career within.
I went on to study Psychology and Sociology at Brighton University, a reprieve from working and an opportunity to learn a little more about myself and what I could offer.
My degree had lots of fascinating insight into human behaviour, but by far, the most captivating for me was learning about non-verbal communications and discourse analysis.
Being able to identify the subliminal messages delivered around the words in a conversation was exciting.
I began to pick up the indicators for discomfort, misinformation and somebody glossing over the finer details. I realised I still wanted to work in a role focused on communicating with people, somewhere I could put this ability to detect additional information to use.
A ‘graduate’ business development opportunity within a local engineering organisation came up. The job description struck a chord with me, and I had a job offer within a day of the interview. I was excited to kick off a long and fulfilling career, leading my small local company to untold riches.
There is no exaggeration when I say it was a train wreck.
The realisation of becoming the ignorant and obnoxious salesman I used to hate answering the phone to. I had very little consideration of who I was approaching or whether they needed what we could offer. My entire strategy relied on persistence and fortune; the latter I rightly did not get much of.
It quickly came to an end for everyone’s benefit. I had had my fingers burnt and decided if I were going to get back into sales, it would have to be a vastly different, much more considered prospect than this.
No more scrambling for data or cramming information down the phone to uninterested contacts. I wanted to talk, ask questions and get to know people. With my activities and trust-building leading to relationships that would develop into opportunities organically.
My interview at Intelligent Talk was revolutionary in many ways. The business had a refreshing approach to their marketing campaigns; a good call, for instance, does not necessarily mean booking an appointment for a client or closing a sale.
Those will always be successful outcomes in business, but they are not the only valuable ones.
A great call is the genesis of a relationship between two mutually invested parties. An exchange of information and ideas to better understand what would most benefit the other with the opportunity of collaborating an arbitrary option in the right conditions.
My approach went from telling someone they need what I am offering to exploring their business, jobs and lives to understand better if we can support them.
It is an actively celebrated result to learn that our client’s product or service doesn’t suit a prospect.
We have secured valuable information for our client; we empower our campaigns to be dynamic and responsive by analysing these results.
The anxiety of trying to get wins’ is removed from the process. As a result, the success becomes conducting ourselves correctly in those conversations and representing our clients in the best way. We build a reputation for ourselves and our client in every call, and success lies in the relationships we carry forward.
Of course, it is nice to know that you’ve uncovered an opportunity. Still, it’s far more satisfying to discover the demands and requirements of a company or particular industry through engaging conversations with our contacts.
I no longer think those who work in sales are all ignorant and irritating anymore; myself and the team around me aspire to be evidence of the contrary every single day.
Published: 8th March 2021