One of the challenges many salespeople face is the inability to think like a businessman. This happens because their buyers are businessmen and they are employees.

One of the challenges many salespeople face is the inability to think like a businessman. In most instances they get by without having to, but in some they struggle when they don’t. Sales representatives in oil companies and fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) plus corporate and wealth managers in banks and investment firms are examples of sellers who find themselves in this dilemma.

This happens because their buyers are businessmen and they are employees. An employee’s thinking is as different from a businessman’s as day is from night. The employee works in a structured environment, with a regular income and his financial horizon is usually 30 days to the next salary. The businessman is intensely focused on the success of his business, a comparatively unstructured environment, erratic income and a long term financial horizon. He is not a buyer you will ‘push’ a product to that does not make business sense to him.

Employee vs businessman

For instance, in addition to overseeing the supply of the contractual amount of fuel, say 10,000 litres, to the dealer (petrol station owner) the oil company’s reps job is to ‘push’ more sales with every depletion. Phone calls, visits and emails insisting on this rarely help. Understanding business, banks have Premier Business Clubs to act as a platform for their businessmen clients to network. And FMCGs have aggressive marketing campaigns ‘pulling’ customers to ask for their product much as the distributor has already bought them and are on sale in retail outlets.

The ‘push’ must make business sense

The salesperson though must offer a ‘push’ with business sense. This starts with a genuine interest in the buyer’s business and therefore gaining his trust. I once read in Forbes that to be useful to an organization, find out what keeps the CEO (who is a businessman) awake at night, and make it your business during the day. To succeed in selling, understand what the businessman wants from his business and make it your business to help him succeed. The typical employee response I get whenever I ask this question is, “It’s just money he wants”. As if to suggest the employee would work for free! It could be he wants recognition or to plug an income leakage for his fleet of lorries.

No, it’s not just money he wants

Remember he’s depositing Ksh. 10M as security with your oil company was not for lack of an alternative avenue to invest it in. With genuine understanding, it becomes easier to help him succeed in achieving his goal. It is also easier to present a business case to your employer (the other business you represent) why the delayed payment has occurred and how it will be settled in a win-win fashion. Bereft of such a case, credit control follows what the policy says. And the account is suspended or closed and your selling is impeded. (See debt collection is a formidable salesman)

The businessman’s frame-of-mind is solution-oriented. He wants to know how it can be done, not why it cannot. Company policy is therefore subject to interpretation for the progressive seller. This does not imply engaging in unethical practices. No. It implies not wearing blinders in the application of the policy and using policy as a guideline not deadline to protect your employer while growing and retaining business.

Root for the businessman’s success

The progressive sales representative therefore visits the dealer’s clients with him. He even presents credible cases to him on how to increase traffic to his fuel station. Thus, he can justify to the dealer why he should replenish when he requests him to, because there is business sense to it. And the more the dealer replenishes, the more the oil company sells and the more the salesperson sells too. And all because he thought and acted like a businessman.


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