How to Improve Sales. Tips From the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time]

Posted on 12th July 2017 in Business

Written by James Marren

Muhammad Ali was the self-professed ‘Greatest’ and very few disagreed with him. Many subsequent world champion boxers have credited Ali as a source of inspiration and someone who’s skills inside and outside the ring they learnt from. In the same vein, this blog looks at some of the greatest salespersons of all time to see what can be gleaned to make your sales strategy a Knockout.

Erica Feidner

Having sold more than $40m in Steinway pianos before retiring, it is perhaps not that surprising to learn that many of Erica Feidner’s customers described her as a “Force of nature.” Her passion for music and her ability to be a lightning rod to stimulate other people’s passion was arguably her greatest strength. She was also known for changing her sales approach to fit the stage the prospect was at in relation to the sale. For example, she would use her ability to teach the piano as a way to entice novices, while for experienced pianists she focussed more on matching the “personality” of the piano (age, sound, material etc.) to the person and would work tirelessly with prospects to find the right fit and chemistry. The key to this process and to build trust was her genuine passion for what she was selling and her ability to use her vast expertise and willingness to help teach or piano match. Creating a compelling vision of each piano, highlighting its personality/uniqueness, generated a much deeper level of connection between prospect and product and was a major part of her success.

David Ogilvy

“The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore.”

David Ogilvy is a legend in the advertising world having created iconic campaigns for Dove, Schweppes and Rolls-Royce. Evidence for his exceptional sales talent came early on in his career when he sold cooking stoves door to door. He was so successful at it that the company he worked for asked him to write a sales manual that was handed out to the entire sales force. This document went on to become a classic, filled with timeless advice. The gem we like best is, “The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore. Foster any attempt to talk about other things; the longer you stay the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted.”

The GOAT oozed charisma, was never boring and knew how to promote a fight!

Building genuine rapport and engaging your customer is crucial to sales and is of course helped by being passionate and believing in the product you are selling. Rather than fake it with a product you don’t believe in, it’s better to seek out one that you love or find a new angle on what you’re already working with and you’ll be far less likely to come across as boring when you’re bubbling with genuine passion.

Dale Carnegie

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

When Carnegie arrived in New York City, he began offering public speaking classes that became popular and were frequented by numerous salespeople of the time. His book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a great guide to becoming a more effective communicator which the wisdom of the quote above demonstrates. He shows us the benefits of listening to others, to build rapport and to better understand your customer’s pain points. He was also a pioneer in encouraging work-life balance, realising that sustained business success depended on it.

Learn how to optimise work-life balance for business success

Mary Kay Ash

We love this lady’s spirit and the story goes that Mary Kay Ash quit her job in 1963 because a man whom she’d trained was promoted above her for double her salary. Planning then to just write a book, this quickly turned into a business plan for a beauty/cosmetics company based on women selling to their friends and acquaintances through direct sales. She knew how to catch people’s attention and was known for her companies pink Cadillacs, which quickly became a symbol of women’s economic independence. She strongly believed in equality and making the people you meet in life feel important and this was the cornerstone of her sales and business success.

Joe Girard

“The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs…one step at a time.”

Joe Girard made his name as perhaps the greatest car salesperson of all time. He discovered the advantages of a strong work ethic at a young age when selling newspaper subscriptions door to door. He quickly noticed that the more doors he rang, the more cash he had in his pocket at the end of the month. He carried this philosophy forward to selling cars, where during a fifteen year period starting in the 1960’s he sold more than 13,000 Chevrolets, with his record for most cars sold in one day standing at 18.

We all know deep down that hard work is imperative for reaching our goals and maintaining business growth, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded, particularly by a great, so that we don’t trick ourselves into believing in quick fixes and waste too much time looking for one. Yes, you can get lucky from time to time in life, but as the legendary golfer, Arnold Palmer famously said, “The more I practice the luckier I get.”


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