More used to being chased by agencies and consultants pedalling their wares, Andy Taylor at The Desired Effect is finding that being on the other side isn’t as easy as it looks.
I’m one of the first people to admit that I’m not a natural salesman. My business partner Laura Sullivan is, and I envy her talent. But me? I’d last a week selling double glazing. Nor would I survive long doing outbound telephone fundraising or face-to-face on the street. And I can’t act either so it’s very hard to feign enthusiasm for a process I find inherently quite difficult. But if I’m not out there selling my heart out, how on earth am I going to get us more clients?
Undeterred, I’ve been looking at various ways to tackle the problem. A google search on ‘how to be a good salesman’ yields a predictable list of self-help websites and corny lists of golden rules for success. One website told me that it’s no good just being an extrovert (good, because I’m not), nor for that matter a bookish introvert. Instead I should become an ‘ambivert’, a chimeric combination of the best bits of both. Sadly, the same source was utterly silent on how I get to become one.
But all’s not lost. The answer to the problem I’ve realised comes straight from eleven years working client side. Back then, what I always looked for in a consultant was someone who showed that they understood me and my business and how they could add value. I knew straight away when I was being sold to and nothing was more guaranteed to turn me off. What switched me on was somebody who didn’t talk about themselves at all, rather someone who spent all their time asking me all about me and my fundraising.
Out of His Misery
I’ve decided then to kill off the budding seller in me before he gets the chance to grow and thrive. If salesmen bored me for years, what on earth makes me think I’ll manage anything different? What I can do instead is just be what I am; endlessly curious, a habitual bringer of order and rationality to problems, a lover of change and above all someone who is passionate about helping our clients to raise more money. These are what come naturally to me and they’re the very reasons I decided to become a consultant in the first place. Losing sight of this amidst a flurry of fake smiles and cheap sales tricks would be the sure-fire way to certain failure.
I remember chatting to a consultant years ago who was so good at asking questions and so good at getting under the skin of my business that when he left I couldn’t at first remember the name of his company. It was a paradox; I’d been sold to by someone who didn’t try to sell to me at all. And he got the job of course.
I can’t think of a better example to follow than that.