Over the last few weeks the subject of ‘sales’ and ‘selling’ has kept cropping up at various events I’ve been attending.
It’s a thorny subject, or at least seems to be for a lot, probably the majority, of people.
And there’s a lot of confusion about what activity actually constitutes ‘selling’.
Many people get mixed up between selling and marketing, but for the moment hold that thought.
You and I buy stuff.
We like to buy stuff – even things like fuel for our cars, insurance, gas and electricity, things we need but may not think we want.
But really, we do want that stuff – not necessarily the product in itself, but the benefit that it provides.
And the thing is, when it comes down to it, we only ever buy things we want, or the benefits we want that those things give us.
And we put a value on those wants, how important they are to us, in comparison to other wants.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle considered that every object (or thing or ‘stuff’) had two uses, one being the purpose for which the object was designed and the other being as a means of exchange to obtain different ‘stuff’.
The idea of ‘the market’ or ‘marketing’ was a place where you could take your surplus ‘stuff’ and exchange it with someone else for other ‘stuff’ that you wanted.
So people would spend the day at the market ‘trading’ one thing for another until they had gathered all the things they needed to fulfil their wants.
This could take some time and maybe at the end of the day they ended up with some stuff they didn’t want because they couldn’t find anyone who was willing to exchange that for the stuff they did want.
So instead an easier way of trading one thing for another developed.
You’d exchange, or ‘trade’, what you had but didn’t want for, shall we say a handful of cowrie shells, and then you’d exchange those shells for something you did want.
Cowrie shells (or it could have been grain, or anything that was readily available) became ‘money’; which in itself is valueless, it’s just a token we use to facilitate exchange.
And according to the abundance or shortage of supply of the various things we all want we ascribe different values to different things.
To get some stuff you need lots of shells, for other stuff only a few.
You see – you and I must now ‘persuade’ each other of the ‘value’ (in money) that we put on what we provide and the ‘value’ (in money) that we place on our wants.
When the ‘values’ match up – the value of our want is equal to the value of what is being provided – then a ‘sale’ is made on the one side and a ‘purchase’ concluded on the other.
This is often referred to as a ‘deal’.
And when the values don’t quite match it can become a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ deal for either ‘side’.
Back to ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’.
Marketing is what it always was – finding, or attracting, people who want our stuff and finding the people who have the stuff we want.
We advertise our goods and services and we go to the shopping centre – real or virtual to buy stuff. That’s marketing.
When we find a potential buyer or provider that’s where the ‘deal’ comes in and where ‘sales’ and ‘purchasing’ starts.
It’s important to look at these two activities separately because otherwise it can easily go wrong.
Some people are excellent at marketing – finding the right people or sources; and others are brilliant at the buying/selling bit, making the ‘deal’ work.
Not many people can do both well.
The trick is to stop thinking about the money but to think about the trade.
Consider the real value of the exchanges you and I may be making by measuring value according to what the other person wants, not the value you or I might put on something.
What is the value of what you and I have to offer, not from our point of view, but from the potential buyer’s point of view?
They may want what we have to offer more than we realise!
More on this another time.