Sales is my passion

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Amaro Araujo is the youngest of five brothers, born in 1967 in Barcelos, Portugal. In 2007 he moved with his wife and two kids to Netherlands where they still live in The Hague area.

His open mind, passion for life, curious mind and positive attitudes made integration easier, despite the challenge to make a southern and northern mentalities to come together (easy going and relaxed vs direct, structured and direct).

He speaks six languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, English, Dutch).

His first book "Sales is my passion" is a tribute to his profession and a guide to all those willing to embrace a journey in B2B sales.


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Book synopsis:

This book is an A to Z guide to the sales process and will provide you with a solid foundation to help you become an expert sales executive and master the art of closing deals.

Sales isn’t a “by the book” process, but this book will provide you with the insights, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that will make all the difference in your life in sales. 
It’s divided into three parts: the science, the deal-making process, and the practicality.

At the end of each topic, there’s a short summary or bullet points. It’s a kind of “quick reference kit” that you can consult at any time for a practical application or implementation.

First Chapter:
The B2B Sales World

 
There are studies showing that the sales role is one of the best-paid and rewarded in the corporate world, and the modern image of the salesperson is of someone who is extremely trustworthy, knowledgeable and skilled, therefore it is no  surprise that often he or she becomes part of the Board or even makes it to CEO.

Commerce and the exchange of goods and services have been the basis of mankind’s evolution, and keep growing exponentially. Each day there are new items available and we keep creating more needs. The sales role is crucial to keep the machine running and the recent growth of technology in the sales process will not reverse that but leverage it to a different level and demand of skill sets.

 

Despite all that evidence, there’s a general feeling that sales is a very complex activity. That it requires the use of tricks and persuasion techniques perceived as negative and creates some kind of doubtful look on those on the outside. A sort of doubt between admiration and suspicion.This book will shed light on the role and activity of the salesperson and hopefully, encourage you to step into this journey.

 

Sales isn’t about tricks and isn’t for sure about a magic formula that you can use to close deals and beat targets. If you want to become a professional in sales and make it your career and passion, be aware that there are no shortcuts. There are no “step by step” guides. It will be a journey – a step by step journey, for sure, but not step by step guide in itself, as every situation, every customer, every deal, will have its own specifics.

 

The profession of sales manager has evolved a lot, particularly in the last decades. There has been a kind of upgrade of the sales professionals to keep up with marketing evolution, economic growth, fierce competition and a higher level of expertise needed in their domains. Facts, studies, and details overruled simple talk, price, and persuasion.

 

Access to bigger markets, globalization, technology, faster and additional information, and the explosion of social media forced the sales professionals to uplift their skills and ways of working. Technology is seen as a major threat to field salespeople, but be aware of the nature of selling: people and needs (or wants, but that’s  another story). Someone who has something to sell and someone who’s looking for that same item or solution backed up by information, expertise, outlook, advice, features, market knowledge and often times a strategic partner to assure a smooth transaction. That’s where the sales professional steps in.

You might think technology and new platforms allow buying/selling without field-based salespeople. That’s a peculiarity mainly of the B2C world. Nowadays you can buy items without knowing who’s on the other side. You go to the internet, you order it and it gets delivered. But that’s mainly for items that are not so costly or the vendor is so well known that you trust him.

 

Otherwise, even in the B2C (Business to Consumer) world, when we buy some expensive item (car, house, etc) we like to see the seller, you want to have a conversation, you want to understand the market. In the B2B world, that interaction and liaison between offer and demand become more important and even crucial – again, at least for relevant items- despite the easiness of e-commerce tools also available at the B2B level. A company might order non-strategic and non-expensive items without the help of a sales rep, but would they do it with an important and expensive product?
 
 

This book is mainly intended for people who are or will be dealing with B2B (Business to Business) sales. Very likely, some of the attitudes or behaviors you’ll find here can be applied also to B2C (Business to Consumer) sales, but each has different requirements in terms of approach, strategy, and preparation, due to their nature.

 

A typical car seller dealing with private end-users has a completely different methodology than a sales manager dealing with top 500 clients. A private person goes to a dealer to buy a new car once in let’s say, four, seven or ten years. Most B2B companies buy their products on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. For instance, that same car dealer selling cars to a company that has a fleet to manage would require a different approach.

 

To those who still have doubts or difficulties affirming themselves as salespeople or still have some thoughts of resistance, you need to recall the purpose of the function and the contribution it gives to the society. You’re helping to provide or make available products and services to companies who need them to thrive and exist. Supporting them – and their co-workers – to have access to materials or solutions so they can contribute to the rest of the chain until it reaches the end user, the individuals like you and me.

A sales professional is the vehicle, the bridge between companies– sometimes from different corners of the world. It’s a major contribution to an individual’s comfort and quality of life in general. It would be useless to create or discover something if it would remain limited to a certain place, area or region.

Salespeople are at the heart of that. Facilitating solutions, comfort, joy, health, knowledge, vision or pleasure.You need to embed that thought in your heart and mind and treat the profession not only as a source of income but as something really useful where you can make a difference and contribute to society through your job.

 

The role of a sales manager has evolved a lot in the last decades. Boosted by technology and IT, but also forced to raise the bar by a more challenging market environment and far better-equippedcustomers. There has also been a need to redefine or reorganize the company structure and department, bringing more clarity in functions and roles that used to be a bit confusing. For instance, marketing vs sales and the link of those with R&D.

 

In the past, the role of a sales manager (as well as his counterpart, the buyer) was seen as a dead end or the end of a career. Folks that had joined sales would remain there for their entire life. Often times when companies didn’t know what to do with someone they would offer him those positions. Sales was a routine dead-end position waiting for retirement.

 

But as said, corporations evolved a lot on the last decades – mostly forced by the pressure of the market and rising competition – that it came to light that those roles or departments were crucial in the company’s position and ambition. Sales wasn’t just an ongoing and routine exercise. Sales was the company output and ultimate source of income. It had to be leveraged and re-invented, it had to be uplifted as if the company’s existence and future expansion depended on it. No more time for trivial sales techniques – sales needed to be taken seriously.

 

The trigger was in large part due to growing competition, but also the huge difficulty in handling objections and rejections raised by better and better-prepared purchasers. Purchasers actually did start this “renewal” process by their activity.

 

Companies needed to improve their results. Selling at higher margins is one side of the balance but also there, you have limits and competition. So you turn to the other side: reducing costs. Where would you start on that journey? In the purchasing department, of course. Buy cheaper, make better deals, and become smarter than the seller. Put the seller under pressure. Let’s challenge the sellers, let’s challenge their positions, strategies and positions, and the market. Let’s promote competition among our suppliers.

In fact, while sellers were still a bit on “auto-pilot”, purchasers have been the first to “wake up” from their sleep and started using new processes, technologies and sharing information. They became more professional, more organized and better prepared to object to sellers positions.

Salespeople had a tough time to cope and to get through with their deals as easily as they used to. They had to do something. The time for amateurs was gone. Selling was becoming much more than offering a product and providing a price. Game over. Re-invent selling. Create professionals and experts, not messengers or vendors.

 

Sales departments reacted and created new frameworks and methodologies using different tools and attitudes, and revising their (almost non-existing) programs. In the end, both sellers and purchasers elevated their profession to a completely new level, where not just any employee would be able to do the job but only people with a good set of skills, attitude, behavior, and knowledge would be moving into such crucial areas.

 

Buying and selling became a key component in every corporation. It’s not only about product and price, but market knowledge, product knowledge, innovation, solutions, different pricing methods, customer approach per their needs and requirements, instead of a one-fits-all attitude.

 

Fast forward. Nowadays the sales or purchasing departments are seen as the core departments of any business and are actually very coveted positions due to their status. To a point that in most companies, they are as almost a mandatory step if you want to pursue a high-level career. Often employees are stuck or blocked because of their lack of sales or customer interaction experience in their records in order to move up the corporate ladder.

 

Times for the “I can sell you anything” folk or the “big mouth” that could sell a fridge to an Eskimo are over. Being a sales manager is almost a science. Not a complex one, but one requiring a certain set of skills, knowledge, attitude, and behavior, making it a very complete “package”. And that’s what this book is about. Not a theory or a step- by-step guide, but an overview of all that it takes to thrive in the corporate sales world, directly from someone who has been there.

 

This book intends to demystify the role, as there are still many wrong ideas and conceptions about the sales role, and to expose how it works in real life. You won’t find a lot of complex tools, jargon or systems, but I’ll emerge you in what it requires in terms of mindset and where your real contribution and difference comes from. It won’t come from the tools or systems but from yourself.

 

During my extensive sales experience, I’ve seen colleagues and newcomers struggling in many situations. I struggled myself in the early days. I still remember when I had to face my first customers – big companies in the stock exchange – often doubting I could be at “their level” and able to stay steady or just giving away everything they wanted. Almost frightened, as often times, the numbers involved were huge. When you’re in the early days with a small salary and you need to handle six-figure deals, it can be scary.

 

There are quite a few things to learn or be aware of if you want to step into the field and do a good sales job. You must acquire knowledge and skills. But being a Sales manager requires something that often times you can’t learn or acquire as a process, in books or classrooms. It requires attitudes, behaviors, persuasion, and empathy. Many may say those are natural attributes – you either have them or not. My opinion is, we all have them, we just need to bring them up by awareness, discipline and supervised consistent practice. Why supervised? Because you need a mentor, a coach or someone who can guide, advise and alert you to any derailing. The risk of consistent practice without supervision is that you might be practicing in the wrong direction or in the wrong way. Practicing alone will just keep you further away from your objective.

 

When you have those, you have the most elementary requirements.  In the next chapters, I’ll go through those attitudes  and behaviors and why they make a difference. I’ll share the tools, systems, processes, and steps that I adopt in my daily life as a salesperson to beat my targets, build long-term relationships  and close complex deals. All of it out of many years of experience, seminars, training, and of course, meeting and negotiating with all kind of customers and companies. The lost deals, the much-longer- than-expected negotiations, the giveaway or loss of customers, the closing of an unexpected deal.

The real life of a salesperson with no BS. I’ve come to realize how much empathy plays a role in this world. Anyone can offer prices and products. Not everyone can do it with empathy. As in the famous quote, “Aim for the heart, not the head”. You don’t change someone’s opinion using a rational argument; people make decisions emotionally, and then they use reason and facts to sustain their emotional decision, to rationalize it. So it’s an emotion/reason process. And don’t forget, it’s much easier to convince someone with his own opinions than with yours.

 

Sales are about people. I’m sure I will repeat that often in this book.
My biggest deal or contract was worth $45,000,000 a year. My smallest one? Probably around $30,000. Of course, each required different time investment, resources, and work, but to both, I showed genuine interest in people, in solving their problem or providing a product they needed. I’m open, sincere, and respectful – regardless of their size. Remember, most of today’s big companies were once small. Respect, regardless of the size of the company, is another attribute. But make no mistake, respect doesn’t mean give them everything for free. It’s all about a good balance between time, investment, and returns.
My intention in sharing the above numbers is just to make it very clear that if you’re able to make a small deal, you can make a bigger one. Don’t get confused by numbers or don’t let numbers impress you. Depending on the market and industry, big numbers don’t relate to the difficulty of the deal. There are industries that float on low figures but have very high margins and on the other side, for instance, you have the commodity businesses where the numbers involved in any transaction are of several thousands of dollars but probably with much thinner margins.
Put away the idea that company size or numbers are intrinsically related to sales complexity or with sales skills and ability. The type of organizations – and the set-up of purchasing departments – will have an impact on the way you deal with them. But not the numbers per se.
 
 
Sometimes it’s much more difficult to sell a one-off or a small spot deal than to land a big contract. There’s a lot more competition and limiting factors in spot deals than with big contracts, where in several areas you can make a difference (and not only the price/availability of the product).
One of the biggest obstacles and unnecessary difficulties in life is complexity. Our life is flooded with complexity and details. Don’t try to complicate what is simple and don’t get the idea that if it’s simple it’s not valuable. Make it simple. Always strive for simplicity. Any fool can make things complicated – the difficulty is in doing something simple.
This is absolutely key in sales. You don’t need to add complicated formulas or elaborated pitch when something much simpler and straightforward would have brought better and quicker results.
Don’t fall into the trap that you need to use jargon and sound pompous. It will have the reverse effect. If you can’t say or explain something in plain English, it means you don’t fully understand the topic, and the purchaser will perceive that you’re trying to color something that is simply black and white.
You will fail. Be prepared for that. And it will be the best thing that could happen to you. But only if you’re humble enough to seek feedback, to ask the customer why your offer wasn’t accepted, and to recognize where you could have done or said something more impactful.
Life in sales isn’t like the games we play at business school. It hurts when we fail out there in the real world. But use those lost deals and opportunities to stand up and improve the next negotiation. As Richard Branson said, “Business opportunities are like trains, there’s always another one coming.”
Every time I leave a negotiation or meeting and I have the honest feeling it didn’t go that well, I don’t beat up on myself. Instead, I tell myself, “Bring on the next one, it will be better.” Beating up on yourself won’t help. Though, recognizing weaknesses and gaps is crucial to make that “next one” better. Don’t beat up on yourself, but
 
 
don’t put your head in the sand either, pretending all is well. Remember, there’s always a place for improvement, even when you think you’ve “got it”.
You must always be watchful and an observer of yourself, and. Take nothing for granted. Even long-lasting relationships. You have to act always as if the deal, negotiation or opportunity is at risk.
Often we have those “old” customers or loyal ones where we think things will go almost automatically or they will buy because that’s what they’ve been doing. Stop and change that assumption immediately. Environments change, competition changes,  pressure on the customer side changes, strategies change, disruption appears, purchasers are replaced.
Always run your sales without assumptions. Treat your old customers very attentively. Did their needs change? Are they going through any reorganization? Acquisition? Are the premises of their purchasing department the usual ones? Is competition at the door?
Don’t lay back. Don’t ever lay back. Competition is watching you. One false step and your loyal customer goes away – and it’s not his fault. It’s your fault, for being distracted and taking things for granted.

Main Message Wrap-Up:

 

• You will fail. Be ready for that. Be attentive and watchful. Debrief and understand what you can do better in the next round.
• Sales isn’t about tricks and exploring weaknesses in people but in building trust and long-term relationships, seizing opportunities, and coming across as a trustworthy expert in your field.
• Don’t fall into the trap that you need to use jargon, clutter  and sound pompous. Avoid complexity.
• Don’t assume big numbers mean more complex negotiations or important sales skills. It’s not about the numbers themselves, but in how relevant the items become to your customers.
• Empathy is key: Aim at the heart, not the head.
• Sales and purchasing are key departments in any company.
• Sales is not about having a textbook, even one like this. You can’t become “certified” as a sales professional (well, there might be some certifications but that doesn’t guarantee your ability and success).
• Nothing is for granted. Even long-lasting customer relationships. Don’t ever sit back and relax. Competition is watching you – one false step and your loyal customer goes away and it’s not his fault. It’s your fault, for being distracted and taking things for granted.
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amaro araujo

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