Sales & Marketing is on this site because… although I don’t profess to be a professional in either, my successes in doing both would qualify me to be.
As one of my boss’s used to say “it’s a question of semantics”. If I had an idea, a concept or a product that I needed to get to a customer I would use the methods available to me to do that.
So how did I start not being a salesman?
1993. My first job in computing was sink or swim, showed me that nothing after it would ever be as daunting or as challenging, taught me how to get back up swinging and that confidence is key.
As a timid, self taught programmer who had studied systems analysis, telesales was not on my cpmputer job job to-do list. However I do have a soft spot for British Companies trying to make stuff, so I signed on to pitch their range of in house designed & manufactured PC Peripheral products to every computer shop in the UK.
My breif was simple ring up pitch the product, point them to one our our Distributors the biggest of which were Northamber, RSD and MISCO. Although potencilly making 1400 call to complet strangers was daunting I found I liked the challange.
Telesales improved my confidence and communication skills. And the value of an extensive product knowledge, customer profiling and leveraging customer benefit. That saw me develop a casual but direct, non aggressive and honest method of exchanging goods for money, commercially.
My sales career began in 1992 with a copy of the Kelly Business Directory, a phone, a bit of technical information and a brief that said ring every IT shop in Britain to introduce them to the companies range of printer switching, I/O Card products and the Distributors who sold them.
The plan had it’s flaws but turnover steadily increased and ringing up 1400+ complete strangers was character building. With only a few minutes to start a dialogue in telesales, I learned to refine my sales patter, know my stuff, listen to the clients needs and leverage benefit to the customer. From talking to retailers I slid confidently into key account management adding UK Distributors such as MISCO, Northamber and RSD to my own Frontline (Computer2000) account, when the Sales Director left some months later.
Apt-able, able to maintain an extensive product knowledge and capable of developing a rapport with most clients quite quickly. My career has been successful and varied that has seen me sell conceptual ideas to JVC Professional and Interbrew, pitch Big IT Solutions, new technologies and even become a top national salesman for a certain PC Retailer in the mid 90’s.
My marketing career began, as another hat I would wear when my Sales Director left during my first IT job. With the opportunity to address one of the key flaws of our telesales campaign, product awareness within our Distributors sales floors. I would use a small pocket reference guide outlining our benefits and secondly custom printed “post it notes”.
When I rang 3M about my idea, they took an interest and gave me 3x box’s of printed notes for free… In hind site, I may have managed that one better.
The next marketing idea would leverage free advertising from magazine product reviews to raise the companies brand awareness. The first product enabling a long serial cable to plug into a parallel printer was eclipsed by the second, that extended a parallel printer/data cable past it’s recognised maximum of 10m to 305m. Causing disbelief, more than a few arguments and upset. I learned the value of disruption and how doing the impossible, gets you noticed and has the opportunity to open new doors.
Marketing may have evolved via internet, Facebook and YouTube, but the principles of those early successful campaigns stayed with me “keep it interesting, add a wow factor and keep it short.”
Pitching, Negotiating & Closing
Making a deal is a deal, whether that’s for £160 or a £160,000 my simple logic is… I would not be in front of the client if they did not have an interest in me being their.
I have successfully pitched, negotiated and closed from SME to boardroom level and even sold conceptual solutions to clients such as JVC Professional, Interbrew, Executive Home Builders, The Whitbread Group and Bristol Myers Squib.
Never one for the hard sell my early career taught me the value of developing a relationship with and working with the client, to attain a mutual beneficial goal. Coming naturally or just luck, I have always managed to find that early common ground resulting in long term benefits for both parties.
Notable Sales - OCTOBUS 1993
4/8 Port Multi-User Serial Cards were a form of networking product supplied extensively as a limited order product for an EpOS specialist working for a large Video Rentals Company.
When a limited order came in for this product I proposed a radical redesign of the product that would simplify it’s manufacture, drastically reduce it’s cost yet increase our unit profit. Working to assure our client they would see no loss of functionality/specification, they accepted the new card that would cover development, manufacture costs and add demonstration stock for me.
Placing evaluation product into potential customers, I was to drop quickly onto a 360 piece order for £100K+ making OCTOBUS the companies largest and most profitable first order in its history.
Notable Marketing - Lili Marlene 2006
My client had an agreement to import a number of unique US female clothing ranges into the UK and a loose idea of selling them through a web presence and a home party network using agents.
Rebranding the project “Lilly Marlene”, we developed an e-commerce website and a stand-alone interactive presentation module for the clothing ranges and accessories to run on a TV tosupplement the limited physical stock taken to the parties.
We would use this presentation module to successfully market the brand, it’s products and even recruit home sale agents. A quick setup and very cost effective, I would promote a number of local pop-up fashion shows and gain interest from a few local nightclubs to stage runway events.
Painful Negotiation - The Server Job 2006
The client a UK subsidiary of a larger US Steel supplier. We had recently been brought in to get the company up and running following a virus that had brought the business to a standstill. My after job report had highlighted changes and upgrades, but the US asked me to tender on all new.
Negotiation is not only understanding the companies needs but identifying what blockers stand in the way of delivering them. Mine was the office IT guy who was looking to reaffirm his position, after we had been called in to clean up his mess. Using the time difference I emailed the head of IT in the US to review the system specification passing it before our guy opened the CC next morning. Branding was to become the final hurdle, as I adamantly wanted bespoke SuperMicro kit over off the shelf Dell. Sometimes you have to discreetly leverage someone to make them think your way.