Pre internet, I spent a good few years with Xerox, I became a Xeroid. Xerox were famous for their sales training, which was the main reason I joined them. It’s instructive to know their induction and training process. There’s a lot here that still applies to the less than gentle art of selling online as I share a short case study that happened in just the last couple of days – where the problem was pricing – and the solution is personal attention as I reveal.
Learning To Jump Through Hoops
Albeit nearly twenty years ago, it took me eighteen months to get the job! Every day, to this day, remains very clear to me. It seemed I was not their first choice! They were right to be cautious, as they invested the first six months in training me.
To be honest they told me from the outset when I approached them there were no vacancies. I had to push for the interview, and then the next interview and then the next interview and then the next, each seemed months apart, each to a higher level of management, they made me jump through hoops, and literally eighteen months passed.
Miracle of miracles I got the job, at the time it was hard to believe, after all that time, I had never experienced anything like it. They told me all sorts of things, including that I should go work for Canon. I never once lifted the phone to Canon or anyone else.
I was the pipeline
I realise now that if they were to spend so long in training me, paying me, giving me a car then with that level of investment, they should take their time in selecting me for the job, certainly the interviews were tougher than I expected. It turned out I was in a pipeline of people and because I had not come via a head hunter there was no one other than me to put pressure on them to take the next step. Interesting lesson, having always been a techy to that time in my career. It had not occurred to me to put time pressure on them, although I did maintain contact and dream up ways of keeping the ball moving. I could have been more assertive from the outset and maybe knocked a few months off the process!
They had me zig and zag
Once given my start date, everything kicked into action, the car was delivered and an initial meeting was set up – in Welwyn Garden City, a very long distance from home, that at the time was Woking – I had to be there for 8:30 which meant basically waking up at 5am. I bought a map too. This turned out to be the beginning of a regular theme, next, at a similar hour we were to meet at the Southampton offices, then City, the Camberly, Milton Keynes and so on, it felt like we were zig zagging across southern Britain. We were. I was not the only one. There five or seven us taken on at the same time. Within three months there were only five. We got to know a lot of the Xerox offices and introduced to many Xerox people from engineering teams, at R& D, repair and manufacturing plants to knowing regional district managers. What we did not know was that we were to be assigned to one of them and it would not be the one nearest our home town!
There was also Vic, our Southern Irish Training manager, a proper character, always carried what I now know as the cocktail smile, always a half smile, always ready to nod to say hello, to agree. He was also to be our role model. Now long retired, cherished memories remain. This so called sales training seemed nothing like. All we were doing was zipping around, looking at lots of product and being tested on the specs. Vic gave me a lengthy book on psychology, it had became apparent I liked reading. It turned out too much to read I never really got into it. It was all about the differences in people. I appreciate these things much more nowadays. But that was it, no great insights, no great sales techniques, just lots of knowledge about the people, the products, the locations, the breadth and depth. I have to say all that was impressive, although they are not quite the company they were today, apparently.
Spreading The Xerox Gospel
After my looong Xerox induction where was my sales training? Was that it? I felt short changed.
Turned out I had all I needed, all I needed was the gumption to get up, go see existing clients and while there call on neighbours. With existing clients my job was to upgrade them if I could, but most were happy, not long enough generally to have a contract copier that could be upgraded and so the knowledge of the company and its various offices came in handy and gave me the information I needed to have pretty positive conversations with most people I met and spread the Xerox Gospel.
It Pays Not To Feel Like A Salesman
I had a few sales areas ‘patches’ to work over the years, the biggest being Slough Industrial Estate, but also Wycombe and I have fond memories of Bourne End too. I made my largest sale during my first month on patch, near Wycombe. I really did not feel like a salesman at all. I was in the offices of a very large medical client, there to look at some of their smaller machines – they were on my patch list and within my remit. The ladies in charge said they did want a new machine, not any of the small ones, one of the largest available and they wanted two, immediately.
Frankly I had no idea how to switch one on, no knowledge at all of what it could, or any clue about how it worked. I told them that too. Yet, gracefully I agreed that they should indeed have two of the biggest machines sold by the Xerox Corporation and that I would be more than happy to help them.
In all my travels around Xerox I had never seen or heard of a machine of this magnitude before, this was the responsibility of the HVSE team. The High Volume Sales Executive. The ladies did not want to speak to the HVSE, just me. I became the highest paid taxi drive in town as I drove them to the showroom and brought them back. I had no idea about the machine, the pricing or anything, so I simply did not talk about that – I couldn’t, I had no knowledge whatsoever.
I reasoned they had all the information they required, the spec, the pricing, I knew the prices were non negotiable other than the addition of extras. All I could discuss was the weather, family relationships, the news and what was going on in the world and of course the efficiency, the investment and the nice people at Xerox and the enormous resources that I had witnessed and as an engineer been very impressed with. I won more awards that quarter than any since. I also took home the highest amount of commission for that month too. This was a doddle, I knew I would enjoy this ‘work’.
Lessons? There are more than a few here. The first is to know your product or service to understand where it comes from, who is involved in its provision or manufacture, why it was made, the problems it solves and the ingenious ways that it works. Knowledge of case studies are vital. Also, if you don’t know the answers honesty is the best policy.
Third, the human element. People buy from people. In practice selling is just down to human rapport, there is no magic trick. You just need to show that you are knowledgeable about the product or service and that you are there to take an interest in your clients business. I still have friends I know from those days and that is many years ago now. Remember, and this is hard online, but there are humans involved.
As Sales Are Lost, Surely It Is Time To Cut The Budget
This little case study demonstrates the point – and happened last month. I was recently told by a client that he had to cut his budget and thus his SEO spend, not because we had done anything wrong, on the contrary. He could not see how he could actually pay for the service that we offered any more, as his business had changed. It transpired that his nearest competitor had slashed their prices by about 25% from £125 to £95 per person per flight. I asked if he showed his price on the site, he said he did.
I suggested that he take the price off his site completely. That instead he uses the words all inclusive, competitive pricing, or something similar. He revealed to me that the other supplier sells all it can to its captured audience in flight – so I suggested we make all those elements inclusive and add a second differentiator – you will not be sold to whilst flying allowing you to enjoy the experience as nature intended. The third thing he told me was that when people actually call him he always closes the deal. The competitor is large and can get a lot of people on board at once. So I suggested he makes something of the fact that his flights are comfy and personal, you can even talk to the pilot. If you would like to know more about the experience, why not call the pilot right away, again something passengers clearly want that my client is able to provide.
The scenario is now that he knows he can offer things his competitor cannot – a peaceful, comfortable and personal service and a level of service his competitor cannot provide. His confidence in his product came back. He knew what to say and he knew his conversion rate would grow as more people would have to call him to find out the price. Sales went up in the short term and we expect, so will repeat bookings. All sales are still made via the site online. SEO spend has since increased. Everyone is a winner.
This is the way to do business. I have written a short email series on selling more online and you can sign up for it on this page: Daily Marketing Ideas – where you will find enough ideas to keep you busy everyday.