March 26

How to get (and do) a job in sales with no experience


No one likes to be that slimy salesman.

Yes, that one.

You know, the one who comes immediately to you when you come into a shop, and asks you if you want to try the shoes, even though you just walked in for the air-conditioning.

I confess. When I quit social work, I didn’t expect to be a salesman.

But then I realised that if I wasn’t selling, I would never earn enough money to feed myself. I would continue needing to eat horribly, suffer with more cans of baked beans, and eventually be unable to walk away with anything more than a thousand dollars a month.

Kudos to you

You’re probably here because you want to sell. Or worse still, you need to sell in your job.

And you want to be better.

But are you sure you want to do it? Because there are much easier jobs around, where you just tap on keys behind a computer, and happily draw your salary at the end of each month.

But if you want to, here’s what I learnt from one year of mentoring with Tom Abbott, the cofounder of SOCO Selling.

Ah Tom Abbott saved my life with his sales techniques
Ah Tom Abbott saved my life with his sales techniques

Selling is not hard, but we make it so

Most of us have a natural aversion to selling, especially as Asians. We think that asking people for money, is just evil.

In the early days of business, I was so scared to charge that I would always offer to do things for free. I would never ask for any money.

But one afternoon, whilst I was still in my final year of university, and looking all baby-faced at 24, my mentor roped me into a social work conference she was organising.

She asked me to speak.

I shared proudly with my friend in Singapore over a call.

Curiously, he asked,

How much are you being paid for this?

I hemmed and hawed. I didn’t dare to say that I hadn’t asked for any money.

So I lied and said,

Yup, we are still in the process of discussing the price.

The next day, I had to ask for money.

I popped up with a £200 price tag, telling her,

Hey, I realise there are going to be some costs involved, can I ask to be paid £200?

Even though I had never been paid a single cent before, and I was hugely worried about her dropping me, 3 hours later, she agreed.

Many times, our mental models about our value make us reluctant to charge, even though the value we are delivering is incredible.

One major reason is due to our fear of not being able to ‘close’ the deal. We fear that they would just walk away, and never come back.

We fear because we pitch out of lack, not abundance.

No, I hate Rhonda Bryne

Don’t worry.

I’m not going to go all Rhonda Bryne on you and tell you to ‘manifest’ your sales, imagine, envision, make a vision board, and that all those sales will stop coming through your door.

But what I’m saying is that until you have an internal locus of the price you are worth, before you walk out of the door.

Else you will continue to internally discount what you do. And end up leaving money on the table.

Sure, if you’re in your early stages of business, and you know that what you’re doing is portfolio building, rather than charging the market rate, then continue.

But don’t let that continue for too long.

It’s true that at the start, your biggest differentiator will be price

But it can’t be a price that’s free.

Having done many gigs for free, I’ve come to see that may not be the most helpful thing, as ‘clients’ (if you can even call them that) will end up taking advantage of what you do.

Closing fast at a $0 initial commitment, is not a close

One of the biggest mistakes I made, and which Tom helped me to see, was that a close means cash in the bank.

How do you get cash in the bank, faster?
How do you get cash in the bank, faster?

Your aim is to get cash in the bank, as quickly as possible, from the initial point of contact, to the point when they sign, and agree to pay.

That means you need to…

Rapidly disqualify

Yup, that’s right.

I know. It’s scary.

And I’ve been there, many times, when I’ve been angry at how much time I’ve spent with a client, only to realise they were there to see how much they could get from us, without paying.

But we often hold on to them because we smell money, and want to get as close to it as possible.

The problem is, our clients smell money on us too. They smell the money, we, the provider ,can give to them, with them paying as little money as possible.

Who doesn’t like a free meal?

But you and I know that we need money to pay for the lights, and the food.

Some people simply don’t have the means to pay for what you do and you need to know that, fast.

Double fast.

There’s nothing as destructive for a salesman soul than to spend time wining and dining a client, spending time listen to them talk about their child, without realising that they have no

  1. Budget – a price that will make both of you happy
  2. Authority – they don’t have the ability to say yes
  3. Need – they don’t have the need for your service
  4. Timeline – their timeline for buying differs from yours

Knowing this, the most important thing I took away from Tom was to start from the basics.

Start from the basics by tracking every sales activity

What do you do everyday for sales?

Well, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you should start tracking it.

Tom lays out a simple framework to qualify where your lead is at, at each point.

Fill up the template with

  1. Date you spoke to him
  2. Previous conversations
  3. Plan of next action

Simply having an Excel sheet, and tracking can help you more than anything else.

Recently I spoke to a property agent who was telling me how he started.

When he stared down the barrel of his rapidly dwindling bank account, he realised he couldn’t even afford the money to list on Property Guru, a listing platform.

Everyday, he was just focused on making cold calls. He would reach the office with his mentor at 9am, and then hit the calls.

His priority was not hitting the sale.

It was hitting the number of calls.

It might be more about lead generation, than lead closing

Often, we fear that we will lose customers if we are too explicit in selling.

But when you know that you have a strong pipeline, that you will always be hustling for more leads, then you won’t be tempted to take on bad customers.

Can you imagine?

At one stage, when I was doing things for free, I realised

Shit. I am paying to do my customer’s work.

Why should I?

Why should you?

I will close off with this quote from my mentor, Alan Stevens,

If you don’t value yourself, no one will.

Baby, it’s about the pipeline

Start hitting the numbers, and worry less about the closing.



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