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The Top 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting Into Sales

OPINION: Sales is interesting as a profession. When I first decided to enter the world of selling it was because of comments like "You got the gift of the gab, so sales is a good profession for you." 

But what I did when I first got into sales and what I do today are two totally different things. The reason for this lies both in my own development but also very much in the way our world has changed. 

by Joey Nanai    I     16 September 2020

We used to talk about how we sell, and now we're starting to discuss how customers buy. This is a huge shift that necessitates changes in seller behavior.

Are you considering a career in sales? 

If so, you might want to consider the following first. Here are five things I wish I would have known before I got into sales.


When I started selling, I was very much focused on giving the customer a good deal. This often meant that I would negotiate price and introduce discounts.

But as time went on, I realised this wasn't a great strategy. One of the many bad things with discounting is that you end up being placed in the same box as your competitors. When you discount, you are conditioning your customer to think that your product isn't actually worth a higher price or they could get a discount every time they buy from you, so why wouldn't they sign on with a competitor?



I also used to think that sales was "a numbers game." But over time, I realized that approaching sales as a numbers game is to miss out on the core of selling.

Prospecting behaviour through your activity is important, but meaningful progress is more important. Your activity metrics only matter if you are focusing on the right opportunities. If you are booking meetings with "bad fits," the results will not present themselves just because you made 10,000 calls. Focusing on the right activity and not the amount of activities is key.




The Internet has changed sales. Customers now come to the table with more knowledge than ever before.


With this in mind, it has also become more and more apparent to me that helping customers is the way to close deals in the long run. Had I known this when I started selling almost 20 years ago, I would definitely have been more successful, and I also would have invested less time chasing customers who would never buy.


In addition, when I first got into sales, I clung to the role of a seller. But as I gained experience, I realised that the customer doesn't have all the answers, and that my rightful role was as a trusted advisor. What does it mean to be a trusted advisor? You have to bring insights to the table (something I didn't do at first). Insight is information beyond the obvious. Do your research and get to know the customer's business.




When I started selling, I clinched to my slides like a script. I found that by reading my slides word for word I might as well have told the audience it was a read along and/or handed them a brochure. I wasn't comfortable running a sales meeting without my trusty slides by my side. But what I learned before long is that the interaction with the customer is the most important part of any meeting, regardless of the tools used in your presentation. If your tools are becoming the focus instead of a helpful aid, it's time to re-evaluate your use.




Before I started in sales, I wish I had known that the most common reason I would lose deals was to "no decision" and not to a competitor. Today, companies buy in groups. This means that we need to approach each stakeholder and enable them to decide together with their peers.


Another relevant point: For things to change there has to be friction. Without friction and unease, everything will stay the same. So dare to challenge the customer with a new point of view. It would have been incredibly valuable for me to know at the beginning of my sales career that challenging the customer is a good way of moving the dialogue in a new direction, one that focuses on development, and not comfort.


Experienced salespeople: Looking back on your career, what do you wish you would have known before getting into sales? 


Joey Nanai 

Tel: M +64 22 429 2299 


Twitter: @joeynanai

Skype: joey.nanai

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