At DeWalt Power Tools, I drove to construction sites in a Dodge Ram pick-up truck with a bed full of tools to sell to construction workers. I knew enough about tools to be dangerous, and went through the DeWalt product training so I could spit out the speeds and feeds with the best of them. But, I never used the tools to the extent of knowing the real difference between DeWalt and other tools.
When my colleagues would arrive on a job site, they would bypass all the workers and go right to the Foreman (the ultimate decision maker), to pitch him or her on the tools. While I’m all about top down selling, it doesn’t work when you don’t know anything about the product.
Instead, focus on the people using the tools and have them educate you on why certain products are better than others. One day, I sat down with the construction workers at lunch and talked to them about what tools they liked or didn’t like. I let them use the tools for a week in exchange for their insight and feedback compared to what they were currently using. I learned more about the tools in that short period of time than I ever would have otherwise. This approach allowed me to then go to the Foreman and sell based on real world experience with confidence and credibility.
Don’t bypass and disregard the people that are not the decision makers. While they may not have a direct impact on your sale, you can learn something from them, good or bad. That will help you be more effective and successful.
Here’s are a few more tips and examples of learning from anyone in any situation:
1. If you make cold calls, ask your receptionist about the approaches that work when trying to get through.
2. If you sell IT services, sit in a server room with some engineers and ask them what they are doing and why.
3. If you sell copiers, go on a maintenance call with a service tech.
4. Visit a current client to see how they use your product, and ask for honest feedback.
5. When you lose a deal, ask why.
6. When you win a deal, ask why.
7. When you get fired, go back after the dust settles and find out the real reason.
I’ve lived every one of these examples and I’m a much better business professional and overall person because of them. Keep your eyes and ears open all the time and be open to learning something new every day.