Secrets of Successful Selling

Mark Komen, President

Kodyne, Inc.

Plymouth, MN

I didn’t grow up in business as a sales professional.  I was trained as an engineer working for high tech companies and got pretty good at solving difficult technical problems.  Eventually I got invited to tackle organizational problems and improve business operations.  Over the years, I learned how to influence and persuade using analysis and logic to get projects funded, get access to resources and win customer approval.

But finding prospects and closing the deal????  Someone else (namely marketers and sales people) did all that for me.  When I formed my own company, I literally had to learn how to sell from scratch.

There are boat loads of books available on sales and selling.  Rather than read them all and summarize their content here, I decided to interview a couple of people who I consider to be ace sales folks to learn some of their secrets.  Plus, I interviewed someone who was relatively new to selling to see what he had to say on the subject.  As a group, they provided some great insights to successful selling.

The participants in my research were:

  • Pete Zimpleman, Jr. of PJ Zimpelmann and Son, a Minneapolis, MN fourth generation manufacturer’s rep in the materials business.
  • Jeff Mattson, of Hi-Performance Engineering, a Minnesota-based distributor.  Jeff has a long track record in technical and financial sales.
  • Joe Byrd of Byrd Wellness Concepts, a Plymouth, MN health and wellness consultant who is new to selling.

What are your secrets of successful selling?

Joe Byrd advises to have a system as this forces you to be organized and stay on task.  Build strategic partnerships by aligning with businesses offering complementary services.  This enables both companies to do for each other those things that they can’t do on their own.  A third item is to perform a client needs analysis so you are able to understand their needs and goals and where you can add value.

Pete Zimpelman offers three secrets beginning with being truthful with the customer.  Whether the news is good or bad, never mislead them.  Always follow through – do what you say you’ll do.  Be consistent.  This promotes customer retention and, if someone does stop doing business with you (usually because they found a lower price somewhere else), chances are they’ll be back if the new provider can’t measure up to your level of service

Jeff Mattson says that people want to talk about their businesses so ask open-ended questions.  This way you can position your product or service to help a prospective customer with their needs.  Be persistent – people don’t always respond to your first inquiry.  Have an objective for each contact so you are clear and don’t waste their time (phone conversation, move from prospect to buyer, qualify the prospect, close the deal, etc.).  Under-set expectations so you can over-deliver – and ALWAYS meet or exceed expectations.  Don’t take rejection personally – it’s usually not about you and could be merely a matter of timing or current needs.  Sell to your strengths to position prospects to look for these strengths in your competitors. Hopefully they won’t find them!  Ask for the order – be ready to close.  Simple but effective.

What is the hardest thing about selling?

Jeff said that learning not to take rejection personally was the hardest for him.  He advises setting a goal of getting 25 rejections a day or week.  That gives you a goal to hit which helps de-personalize rejection and puts you closer to that sale.

Joe finds that it takes much longer than he thought to establish himself as a trusted resource.  “It takes time for a prospect that had no idea that your services were available before you showed up to make the commitment [to buy].”

Pete points to time management as his most difficult challenge in selling.  He feels he often runs out of time juggling activities such as office time, personal time, responding to emails, making follow-up calls, and traveling.  Being better organized is something he’s working on.

Just for fun, I asked – What is your strangest selling experience?

Pete’s story –   I once had to fly to Reynosa, Mexico to meet a customer.  Upon arriving at the border I rented a car.  The plant was only 10 miles from the airport, but it took 2 hours to get there as I had to sit on a bridge over the Rio Grande with all the truckers to get through customs.  After passing all the Uzi toting guards at customs, I sat in line on the other side of the bridge waiting to get to the city of Reynosa.  Once at my destination, I was told I needed a certificate that was given out at customs that allowed me into the building.  Therefore, I turned around and sat in line for another hour to cross the border and once on the other side I sat in line for another hour to get back to customs.  At customs I got my form, which they were supposed to have told me about in the first place, and then sat in line for another 45 minutes to get back to Reynosa.  All in all, I had gone a total of 30 miles in 8 hours and when I arrived back at my customer’s plant they had left for the day due to an emergency.  So, I turned around and went home. In total, with the flight and the border debacle, it was about 16 hours before I returned home and cost me a very expensive airline ticket.  Just another day in the life of a salesman!

Joe’s story – 2 of my clients were working with each other but didn’t know that I was working with both of them.  I brought up an area of my business to one of them and they mentioned that their friend at “company A” said they would do that for us.  Little did they know that I was going to be the one providing the service for them.  It goes to show how small the world is and you never know when you will run into someone that knows you.

Jeff’s story – I was the front-runner to win a multi-million dollar deal but lost out to a competitor.  Less than 90 days later, the CFO of the company that awarded the contract called me and asked if I would still do the deal.  The company that won the contract didn’t deliver and the customer really courted me to get me back.  They felt bad for not awarding me the business in the first place!

So is selling as involved as it seems?  Yes and no.  A lot of it has to do with your orientation to people, your confidence in your product and your ability to deliver it, and being willing to reach out and listen to others.  Selling is fun, aggravating, challenging, and rewarding.

  • Rewarding when a customer validates our efforts with a sale.
  • Challenging when we navigate the many ways to add value and close a deal.
  • Aggravating when we get stalled, can’t overcome objections or can’t even get an appointment (or in Pete’s case, get TO the appointment).
  • Fun when we enjoy the process of connecting with and learning about someone’s issues and finding a way to help them.

If you still want to read through those boat loads of books on sales, be my guest.  But start with these tips to get you on your way.

Copyright 2009.  Kodyne, Inc.  All rights reserved worldwide.