World’s Greatest Salesman and the King of Networking share insider secrets on how to sell just about anything
Salesmen are often avoided like the plague, in part because of this perception: those who sell for a living are always, without exception, tirelessly following the ABCs (Always Be Closing) of sales. But is that really the case? Not according to two experts in the business. Matt Whitman of Halifax is billed as the King of Networking, and Michigan’s Joe Girard has been named the World‘s Greatest Salesman by the Guinness Book of World Records. They both say the secret to being good at sales is this: never actually be actively selling.
While Whitman’s official title might be life insurance agent and financial advisor at Sun Life, he says he spends very little time actively pushing his company’s products.
What does he do instead? “I meet people,” he says. “I’m just a relationship guy. I focus on connecting with, rather than convincing people to buy.” New to the area? Whitman would rather help a family find a church or connect with local charitable organizations than sell them an insurance product. He’s also an expert match maker and has ‘hooked up’ many couples. Why bother? “Helping people connect, romantically or otherwise, for no other purpose than to be helpful, winds up helping me in the end. Someone might not be in a position to buy insurance right at that very moment, but they will at some point. And I guarantee you they’ll think of me and how I helped them out without pressuring them to buy a thing,” he says.
Girard spent 15 years of his life in one of the most mocked professions of all time: he was a car salesman. But he wasn’t just any car salesman. By the time he retired in 1977, Girard had sold 13,001 new vehicles — an average of six new cars a day — though to hear him tell it, he never really ‘sold’ anything at all.
“People buy people, not things. Once someone bought from me, I serviced them to death. A sale is not the end of the party, it’s just the beginning. Too many in sales forget that,” he says.
Girard’s secret was how he treated those who worked in the service department of the dealership where he worked. Once a month he took the entire staff out to lunch. He also bought them Christmas gifts. But more importantly, he told them often how appreciative he was of the hard work they did.
Those small gestures paid Girard back a thousand fold. If something went wrong with a car he sold, the service department took exceptional care, not only of the car, but of the customer. “Word got around pretty quick. Once someone knew how well they’d be treated if they bought from me, I owned them. But more importantly in the sales world, I owned their family, their neighbours and the members of their church. Word of mouth is a powerful, powerful thing,” he says.
Whitman agrees, saying sales isn’t about who you know, but about who you know that is out there saying good things about you.
So, while selling isn’t all about getting someone to immediately sign on the dotted line, there are a few guidelines the experts follow. The first step, build a ’huge’ network. Whitman has close to 5,000 ‘friends‘ on Facebook. While he admits not all are clients of his, they all have the potential to be. “If the quantity is there, then the quality is in there as well,” he says, explaining how having 70 ‘good friends’ in amongst the 4,930 others means the sales possibilities are infinite.
The second guideline is this: make sure everyone knows what you do. People can’t buy if they don’t know you sell, though Whitman stresses he always follows the ‘reverse networking model’ which is to promote others before oneself. “If I meet someone new, I find out who they are first. Only as the conversation is winding down do I tell them what I do for a living. And I leave it at that. I never try to pitch or convince anyone of anything ever, especially when we first meet. I’m talking to them because I care and because I’m interested, not because I’m in sales,” he says.