The Joy of Selling by sales consultant, coach, and speaker Steve Chandler is a small 132-page volume that anyone can quickly finish in a couple of sittings. But inside this skinny volume are some very potent ideas and concepts about selling that have continued to stick around the back of my mind long after my first read. I highly encourage anyone, even those not engaging actively in an official sales role, to check this book out. Below are some of my favorite highlights peppered with my own takeaways and reflections on the themes in the book.
Sales as Living
“Selling is no different from enthusiastic and courageous living. Like living, it’s based on creating interactive relationships. Master the art of selling, and you’ve mastered the art of enthusiastic living. Everyone lives by selling something. You can’t escape this adventure.”
“In sales you are on a fast track to understanding people. What makes them tick. Doesn’t that help you in your private life? Sales is about mastering the art of creating relationships. You are in an accelerated program for building self-confidence and inner strength in the face of your ‘people challenges.’ Nowhere else does it happen so quickly.”
Earlier in my career as an agency founder, I used to think that “sales” was an undesirable but necessary part of business. I had to put on a mask, try to sound as slick as possible, and persuade other people to buy something from me. When things didn’t go well, I’d tell myself, “I’m no sales guy, as soon as I can afford one, I’ll hire a salesperson so I won’t need to do this.”
What I would go on to learn is that sales permeates everything I do on a daily basis. It’s not just a commercial transaction but about getting people to buy into a vision, a plan, a pivot, an idea, and anything else that creates change and new opportunities. Whether it was with clients, employees, recruits, or my partners, I realized that selling is the art of navigating relationships and finding alignment in decision-making. In other words, it’s about living among other people, being social, and collaborating to make progress in life.
Desire Over Systems
“Your best sales system will always be your clarity of desire. When you know exactly what you want and why you want it. That will do more for you than any technique in the world.”
“We often think the system we are using to get something is not right. But we are wrong. What is not right is the intention we are using. What is missing is the desire to get that thing done. We buy books about systems all the time, not realizing that it’s not ‘how to’ that’s important, it’s ‘want to.’ The ‘system’ is the great false promise of 99.999 percent of all self-help books. ‘How to’ get what we want. The ‘how to’ is not what’s missing. What’s missing is the ‘want to.’ The ultimate ‘how to’ is to want it more than we ever did before. That’s the ultimate system.”
I often get excited about new techniques, approaches, and systems. In the harshest light, my career can be seen as a graveyard of countless ideas started that eventually had poor followthrough and abandonment. These two quotes hit hard because by being overly analytical, too eager to try new things, and too impatient to see things through, I often missed a key point: what did I really want to achieve and how strongly did I want it?
Focus, Intention, and Attention
“My poor performance, in any area of life, comes from a deficit of intention: If I don’t want an outcome intensely enough, I will lose focus. The internal power has leaked out. Without enough power in the hose, you can’t point the water, so you can’t water the plant. Lack of focus is why I don’t succeed. Every time.”
“Anything you pay attention to expands. It grows. Pay attention to your house plants and they grow. Pay attention to your favorite sport, and your passion for that sport grows. Attention is like that. Anywhere you point it, the object of that attention grows. Watch what happens when you pay a lot of attention to new opportunities for sales.”
I can beat myself up for hours thinking about all my shortcomings when it comes to setting intentions, giving something the proper attention, and maintaining intense focus. I’ve struggled greatly in these areas. But the takeaway for me here is that being strategic in directing my energies and sustaining the focus can lead to great results. A few approaches come to mind:
- Keeping my mind as clutter-free as possible using methods like Getting Things Done
- Having high energy levels through proper diet, sleep, and exercise
- Being very clear and specific on what I want to achieve both professionally and personally
Build Trust Through Service
“The more ways you can already begin serving people who are considering buying from you, the better the chance you have of winning their business.”
“When buyers narrow their decision down to two or three prospects, it is almost always the one they had the most communication with that they will choose. They will say they ‘trust’ that person more, but the truth is that they have already experienced working with that person and being served by that person. If you have prospects you would really like to sell to, figure out ways to communicate with them more. And figure out ways to serve them before the sale. When you start serving and giving before the sale, the buyer already has a trusted experience to base his or her decision on.”
Whenever I look back on deals we lost at Barrel, the pattern that jumps out most clearly are the opportunities where we simply did not spend enough time with the prospect. We were too quick to get them a proposal and hope that they would be impressed by our credentials enough to come back with a “yes.”
Spending more time with prospects is no guarantee that we will win a deal, but I agree with the quote here that serving the prospect before they’ve bought from us is a great way to gain trust. We often engage prospects in free hour-long workshops to learn more about them and align on their goals, but I wonder if there are opportunities to frame these as a clear benefit to them vs. something they have to do in order to work with us.
Know Your Product Inside Out
Your product often has a number of hidden advantages to it that you can discover if you dig deeply enough. If you are armed with lots of evidence of product value, you no longer have to have selling and calling feel so much like self-promotion. You can make it be about pure and enthusiastic communication of benefits. If I have to talk about me and my worth, I might get tongue tied and lower my price. If I can tell stories about how and why the product performs so well, and what the reasons and rationale are behind the product’s success, I can talk all night. That’s the zone salespeople get into and love. You know that zoned feeling, when it seems that life is a dance and death is a joke. Get there.
The best salespeople I’ve met are those who are filled with examples and stories of what their service or product has done for their customers. They can recall the problems, the details, and the stats with precision and passion, making it incredibly easy for the prospect to relate to situations and see themselves deriving the same benefits. In my own best sales moments, it’s all been about the stories and weaving in the detailed benefits our firm provided our clients.
A good takeaway here is that we need to ensure people across Barrel, especially those who engage in sales activities, are familiar with the important stories and can weave them seamlessly in their conversations. Without such knowledge, the conversation inevitably devolves into requirements, specs, features, and pricing versus helping the prospect see and feel what’s possible.
“The past is seductive. It is an easy place to go drift for a while. Sometimes for a long, long while. Because it can’t change or surprise you or betray you. It is dead. Living in the past is like flirting with a corpse. You will never get rejected.”
“Learn to flip regret immediately. The minute you catch yourself saying, ‘If I had that to do over again …’ realize that you do have to do over again. Right this minute.”
This is akin to Ted Lasso’s “be a goldfish” comment – forget the past and move forward. Whether it’s nostalgia for earlier success or deep regret over something gone wrong, there’s no upside to dwelling on them. Look ahead at what’s next and try to do better.
In the past, I’ve sometimes felt paralyzed by what at the time felt like overwhelming amounts of bad news and disappointments. The “what ifs” would linger and drag me into a pit of despair and regret. I love this particular lesson because it clearly points out the futility of such wallowing.
Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt
“Self-doubt is like a puppy you tuck under your arm before running across a six-lane highway. Previously, as you were walking the side road, that puppy might have been your whole mental focus. But not right now, because you have decided to make the run.”
“When you keep fear and worry locked inside your head, it brings on migraines and more fear. It affects your stomach. Your whole nervous system gets edgy. When you speak out, really step up and speak out, you are back in command of your own voice. Your own soul. It is a bold and provocative thing to do.”
The imagery of tucking a puppy under my arms and making a run across the highway is so perfect. My takeaway here was that fear and self-doubt will only drag me down if I let it, but if I just go for it and avoid overthinking, I’ll be just fine. Sure, I might fail or disappoint, but I’ll feel much better knowing that I fully engaged and gave it my best.
Related to this is the act of putting myself out there, sharing my ideas, publishing my writing, and speaking up in group situations. I firmly believe that the upside to actively participating in these ways outweighs the nagging self-doubts (e.g. will anyone care?, what if I sound dumb?, what if I’m wrong?) and resulting silence.
Acknowledge the Feelings of Others
“Too many people in this world try to make other people’s feelings wrong. They try to talk people out of what they are feeling. It not only doesn’t work, but it causes people to dig in deeper. They become even more defensive, and they defend the logic of their feelings.”
“Every feeling anyone has ever felt has been the right feeling at that time for that person. It’s also the exact feeling you would have if you were that person. Yet I’m amazed, constantly, at how many people try to talk other people out of their feelings. ‘You shouldn’t feel that way,’ they say. ‘You have no reason to feel that way.’ But a feeling is just a feeling. It’s just like a fever. It is felt in the body, like a fever. It can’t be right or wrong (like a judgment) because it’s just a feeling. You would never tell someone they shouldn’t have the fever that they have.”
Leadership & Self-Deception is another book that goes into depth about feelings and how we are all, at one time or another, “in the box” with our own feelings, unable to see opposing viewpoints, and prone to doubling down if we feel attacked.
I catch myself every week in at least a couple of situations where I am quick to dismiss the feelings of others because I believe I am in the right with all the facts and reasons to back me. The urge to spell out why I am right and to question why someone is feeling a certain way burns strong, but 10 times out of 10, the best approach is to back off and try my best to understand where the other person is coming from. It is very hard, but accepting that I can’t change the way someone feels allows me to focus on something else–perhaps to change my own behavior or the conditions impacting that person. And in making such moves, it’s very possible that the person’s feelings do eventually change.
All About The Numbers
“Because I make my living as a human performance coach, there has been one key observation revealed to me over and over again: The clients who have the most dramatic successes are fanatical about their numbers. When I come in to do a training project, they know the numbers that are being produced and they know the target numbers they want to reach.”
“People who work directly with their numbers succeed. People who hide their numbers, disown their numbers, or simply avoid their numbers fail.”
“When you stay focused on what needs to be done, you will almost always achieve your goal. And for the human mind to clearly focus, numbers need to be at the forefront. Activity needs to move to the beat of those numbers. If you consistently do this, you will solve your problems. You will reach your goals.”
For all the soft skills, mindset shifts, and attitude that one needs to embrace in order to excel at sales, the beauty of selling, in the economical sense, is that it can be measured with numbers. One of my weaknesses in business has been the inability to go deep into the numbers and hold myself accountable. An area that I vow to improve is to go beyond a high-level goal and to really break down the numbers to truly understand what we need to do daily, weekly, and monthly to achieve our desired outcomes.
The other takeaway is to continually face and live up to the numbers. It’s one thing to set all kinds of targets but I’ll need to make sure that as a team, we are constantly reviewing our progress, addressing the shortcomings, and unafraid to know where we are at any given moment.