Just before Christmas the Catalyst team were lucky enough to have Simon Chuter, the Sussex Innovation Centre’s Sales and Marketing Advisor deliver a sales training day. The day was packed full of advice, anecdotes and exercises that sparked debate and enthusiasm.
Reflecting upon preconceptions, I think it would be fair to say that at points a lot of people, including myself, see sales as the black sheep of the family, a necessary evil that more often than not creates awkward and forced interactions. True enough when we were asked to come up with a few adjectives that best describe a stereotypical Salesperson words such as pushy and sleazy came up. An interesting paradox, as there was also a clear consensus that sales is both an essential necessity in running any business and for most people one of the hardest aspects of it.
It was with these assumptions where Simon started the day. Referencing ‘To Sell is Human’ by Daniel Pink Simon proposed that selling is not an alien process and actually we use sales in everyday life. From persuading a mate to have a kick about in the park to getting your children to tidy their room, the act of ‘selling’ is simply persuasion. A process of moving people to act in harmony with our requirements. Good selling is effective communication. Merely listening to and understanding your audience, creating a report and fulfilling your promises.
So with this in mind after lunch Simon introduced us to ‘Project Limitless’. A task that brought excitement and trepidation out in all of us. Using the skills we had picked up in the morning session we were given two hours to turn 1 pence into something more valuable using only trading. We were paired off and as the clock struck 3, we started.
Some raced to Brighton, others stayed at the Sussex Innovation Centre. Some moved quickly eager to get going, others were more calculated in their approach.
There were two main tactics that became apparent;
The 1st, taking a risk out in the big bad world, asking for some goodwill from strangers, and hoping they would believe you weren’t trying to swindle them.
The 2nd involved utilising existing networks, asking clients and colleagues within the Sussex Innovation Centre for any ways in which they could help. Or giving friends a call pleading for goodwill. There are some obvious benefits to this, If people know (and like you) they are more likely to want to see you succeed, also they will probably (again dependent of how positively they view you) recognise what you are saying as trustworthy.
As teams returned, we got to regal tales of success and glory, trials and tribulations. I’m happy to say no one returned with only penny in hand but final trades could be easily described as the good, the bad and the ugly. Amongst others items included a small stuffed cat, a dog selfie kit and a rum mug.
Who was the winning team and what did they achieve through trading? The winner and the item responsible for 1,599,900 % profit turned out being a wrestling figurine, acquired on the first trade which with a quick google search, revealed itself to be worth an outstanding £160 pounds!
On to the judging, it’s fair to say that there was one item which was a clear winner in terms of monetary value. That being said, all teams made a pretty impressive gains, and also got to practise sales skills along the way. There was bargaining, bartering, persuasion and spin.
On reflection ‘Project limitless’ certainly reiterated the point Simon put forward in the morning session. We all have the ability to listen and understand, to converse and persuade. We do this every day. We do this more often than not within groups of friends and colleagues. We do this at work, at school or at home. We all drew upon skills we have learnt in everyday life to trade our penny’s. It is this natural, authentic, human style of sales which we influence with and are influenced by every day.