Hunger. The quality that separates sales ‘men’ from ‘boys’



A labourer’s appetite works for him, the Bible proclaims; his hunger drives him on.

Hunger. The mark of a true salesman.  What makes the newspaper vendor trot after you in traffic? Hunger. Hunger makes the hawker I met in the evening traffic the other day plead as a tactic to a sale. “Ninunulie machungwa tu unifungie kazi, boss” (“ Buy some oranges from me please; this is my only remaining sale”).  Hunger keeps the successful salesperson closing more and more sales.  Hunger keeps the salesperson seeking for a selling strategy that works. Hunger shows in the salesperson face; it comes from within; the prospect senses and respects it. Hunger is part of the salesperson frame of mind that propels the momentum to closing the sale.

What is hunger?

First, what it is not. Hunger isn’t desperation. Desperation is the salesperson, poorly clad, sweaty collar with dust filled shoes and famine stricken face. Hunger isn’t a craving; craving is the pregnant lady yearning for a specific brand of charcoal over a 9 month period. Hunger is not specific to a period; hunger is perennial. Hunger is the salesperson’s killer instinct that aims to professionally shorten the sales cycle; hunger keeps the salesperson appreciating that pride comes before a fall; hunger lets the salesperson stoop to conquer.

The average salesperson thinks asking for the cheque is beneath him; he is too proud to do so. “I cannot be seen to be begging”, he tells himself. The progressive salesperson, on the other hand, knows the prospect wants to be asked for the cheque and does not hesitate to do so. The average salesperson tells himself, “I cannot keep following-up the sale; if the prospect wants the deal he can also call me.” Meantime, the leading salesperson in his team follows up in like manner to the nibbling of the rat; he bites and blows, professionally pushing and pausing till fruition. Hunger.

The progressive salesperson knows when and how to stoop without exposing himself to being kicked on the hind side. Such a salesperson doesn’t cheapen himself; he or she still holds his own throughout the stooping process such that at the end he conquers. It is much akin to wisely playing the bigger person in a situation that puts him on a collision course with the prospect.  The hawker who told me to buy from him, nimfungie kazi, surely wasn’t going to close shop after I buy from him. But he made me feel important and in that instant he stooped; and with the sale in hand, he had conquered. No skin off his nose.

A labourer’s appetite works for him, the Bible proclaims; his hunger drives him on. Hunger, like ambition, is drive. Successful salespeople are restlessly ambitious; their unquenched hunger drives them on. Yet, this hunger does not make them reckless; theirs is not a case of the end justifies the means. No. Far from it. They diligently follow the sales cycle. They also know that product knowledge, integrity, believability, reliability, and hard work are important to have; but without hunger these are not enough-they cannot grow the salesperson- hunger does. It’s hunger that makes the progressive salesperson keep abreast of his competitors products and the goings-on in his industry

The lamentation by the business owner, “You’ve lost your spark”, in reference to a salesperson, implies complacency on the part of the salesperson. Lacking the look of hunger on his face, the salesperson projects this contentment to the prospect; and more often than not the sale is lost. 

Many are those, in or out of the sales profession, who say they cannot be seen to be begging (that’s how they see hunger); paradoxically they also speak highly of the successful salesperson. My take: anyone can argue about hunger; no one can argue with success.

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