Boston, MA—After more than 30 years in the luxury jewelry business, Peter Smith realized that sales aptitude is not something that can be taught. While proper sales techniques and skills can—and should—be taught, only those with an innate, inborn talent for selling are going to be truly successful with those techniques. He leveraged his experience and observations into a best-selling book titled Hiring Squirrels, a guide to finding, identifying, hiring, and managing people who have an innate talent for sales.
“If you want to climb a tree, hire a squirrel, don’t try to teach a horse,” he explains.
His new book, Sell Something, builds on his original premise: that having the right people can make the difference between a business that’s successful and one that’s just hanging on. In an exclusive interview with The Centurion Newsletter, Smith—president of Vibhor and a part-time contributor to this newsletter—tells what his new book is all about.
The Centurion Newsletter: What's the overarching theme of Sell Something, besides the obvious point of selling more stuff?
Peter Smith: I would argue that selling more stuff is the whole point. There are far too many folks masquerading as salespeople who believe it is their job to regale the customer with good intentions and an over-abundance of product information. The first role of a salesperson is to understand that their primary function is to influence and inspire customers into making purchases. That’s how businesses stay healthy and that’s the best way to satisfy customers. How we do that is why I wrote the book.
Centurion: What are the key themes you explore? How does each impact the sales process?
Smith: Some of the themes include using humor in sales; the importance of body-language and utilizing the paradox of choice and the contrast principles when presenting product. I also talk about the importance of making emotional-connections with our customers and how giving the customer permission to buy is so vitally important. I have been using some of these processes for years and there’s no doubt that they can be very effective for salespeople looking for something beyond sales-101.
Centurion: What can salespeople do to re-set consumer behaviors and beliefs or lead consumers to the behavior they want (i.e., purchase?)
Smith: I think it starts by having salespeople re-set their own behaviors and beliefs first. There’s a chapter on being proud; there’s a chapter on optimism and on avoiding negative- people and mindsets. If we believe that customers go into stores to buy, we will be right more than you can imagine. If we believe the customer is not going to buy, we will be right more often than is healthy. The job of a salesperson is to engage with the customer on a journey of discovery, sometimes mutual, that makes a purchase a natural conclusion; not an end-game that is all about realizing the salesperson’s agenda.
Centurion: How is this book different from Hiring Squirrels?
Smith: Squirrels is the book I would want to have read as a hiring professional. I think it’s a great how-to-guide for hiring managers and owners who are serious about getting better results. Sell Something is aimed at salespeople. In fact, it is specifically aimed at engaged salespeople; those folks who are committed to improving themselves on an ongoing basis. It utilizes great stories from the field and it is fundamentally grounded in the great teachings from the field of social-psychology and neuro-science that we simply didn’t have access to just a few years ago.