Making Your Sale a Masterpiece

art masterpieces

The meaning of words shifts over time. Today the word “masterpiece” simply means “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.”

In the past, it was different. Under the system whereby apprentices learned their skills from a master craftsman, a “masterpiece” specifically meant a demonstration of ability, proving that the apprentice had excelled in their learning, and was now able to graduate from apprentice to master in their own right.

I’ll relate this to one of my favorite aphorisms, which says that “the first one is always the hardest.” I like it because it applies very neatly to many scenarios. Once you struggle to complete your first masterpiece, the rest are less difficult.

A couple of weeks ago, I delivered a training presentation to the B2B team of one of my biggest customers. I covered several topics, but the one that’s central here is that I was hyping the new advanced training and certification modules from my vendors and encouraging the sales team to register for them.

And how did I encourage them, specifically?

Simple: I appealed to their self-interest. They’re salespeople. They want to close more deals and make more money. I laid it like this: In my experience, the number one reason large commercial deals don’t close is price sensitivity from the client. Although I suppose to some extent that may be true of all deals, both large and small. But I digress. Anyway, one of three things happens when the client gets sticker shock from the quote: They either shelve the idea completely, kicking the can down the road for another day. Or they scale the proposal WAY back to a shadow of what it started out as. Or lastly, and least desirably, they find someone who tells them what they want to hear: that it can be done much cheaper. Far too often the client finds out the hard way that’s simply not true, but that’s a topic for a different column.

I said all that to my client’s salespeople and reminded them that the more they know and the better they understand the systems they’re selling, the better they will be able to overcome objections and successfully defend both their price tag and their margins.

Making my point and getting it across to them, I could literally see the light bulbs over their heads, as the wheels started turning as this clicked for them. I recognize I garbled that metaphor just now, but when you’re presenting a topic, and everyone in the room suddenly Gets It, that is immensely gratifying.

Ideally, everyone selling complex systems should have spent time as a tech actually installing and troubleshooting these systems. That hands-on technical experience is invaluable to people who go on to be designers, salespeople and the dreaded sales-designers. But I recognize that in the work world, that’s not always going to be feasible. But, as I pointed out to my client’s team, even if you’re never going to put on a tool belt, taking all the training your vendors have to offer, and passing the certification, especially the advanced ones, equip the sales team with selling tools that are arguably more powerful than sales-specific training. They equip you to be able to close clients on projects that you can proudly look back on and call your masterpieces.