How to sell anything to anybody

I did several part-time jobs while in college but the only part-time job that I held for all the four years of my degree was as a salesman in a jewelry store. The managing partner of the store and still like an elder brother to me, Haresh, gave me this book, How to sell anything to anybody by Joe Girard. Haresh considered this book to be his bible on sales, and once I read it, it was my sales bible too. However, this book is not about sales.

This book is about creating a systematic approach to

  • Recruiting new customers without burning a hole in your pocket
  • Getting your customers to like you
  • Getting your customers emotionally attached to the product
  • Attaining (and maintaining) a high closing percentage
  • Engaging with your customers even if they don’t buy right away
  • Engaging with your customers after you have made the sale 
  • Getting referrals from customers, friends, family and service providers (including your barber!) to grow your business
  • Creating a team around you to ensure you get the highest return for your own time

Joe Girard sold 13,001 cars in his sales career. That is a staggering number because his sales career ended in 1978 i.e. way before the internet; WhatsApp or Facebook made it easy to reach out to a customer.

Joe was profiling his customers, listening to their needs, adjusting his approach to sell his customer. He also made several sales by reaching out to his customer just at the time that their car was ready to be replaced!

How did he know when to call? He kept all this valuable information on his customer in a physical CRM i.e., way before Salesforce, Dynamics, PipeDrive, etc. made record-keeping infinitesimally easier. 

It is for these reasons that this book is a must-read for all founders whether they handle the sales function or not because as I had mentioned before this is a book about creating systems. Therefore I recommend that every founder know how to support the sales function whether they sit in tech, operations, HR, or fundraising.

I have re-read this book several times in my career. Most recently, I re-read this book to create a system to approach, engage, and recruit LPs for my fund. The system ensured that only 13% of the 115 crores we have in commitments came from distribution relationships. Therefore, in the remaining 87% of the cases, I utilized Joe’s system to recruit, involve, and close LPs. My team used a CRM to manage follow-ups and we created new content to reach out to our LPs.

This approach saved us almost one crore a year in paying out fees to distributors, which is a massive cost saving for a MicroVC fund like ours. What is the investment?

Rs. 280 and 8 hours of reading time.

You don’t require a finance degree to explain that these are fantastic returns on your investment and time.

Now it’s up to you…

Do our systems create rebels out of entrepreneurs?

Solve this… Person V does consulting for Person G. The deal is closed, Person G promises to pay Person V. Invoices are issued and Person G changes colour to stall paying out Person V.
Person V has invested months of personal time,  employee time, rent and other overheads to close this deal and it is one of the largest deals in its sector in India. 
Person V has waited to close this deal expand his team (unaware that Person G has other plans). Person V builds a framework to build on the success of this deal. A data mining platform is built which creates new opportunities at minimal costs. The newly hired team starts work and is successful to pay for itself and start repaying the money taken from investors. 
In between a large deal with Person K is done in which Person K pays 25% and then starts to make excuses to avoid payments. Infact the taxes collected by Person K are not paid for months which puts Person V in a position where he might have to cough up taxes that he hadn’t collected! The stalling of payments creates a cash outflow situation for Person V.
Now, the predicament our legal, tax, investment and family places on Person V.

  1. Tax department says pay service tax and income tax on revenues that were invoiced but not received. This will lead further cash outgo. 
  2. Investor says only book what is received, this leads to a book loss as the money that isn’t received so shouldn’t be booked.
  3. Legal says you should litigate for dues which is long tailed. Additionally to prove your case follow point 1.
  4. Family & Investors say your running a loss (on the books) so cut down or shut down. 
  5. How each faction interests is pitted against each other is quite visible.

Person V wants to get paid and is making all out efforts to own up to his responsibility, sending emails, messages, legal notices and even taking on political forces head on to get his dues. 
Meanwhile Person V is confident that the new business that has been built can repay the investors even if the money from Person K and G continues to be outstanding.
In this entire scenario the blame is on Person K and G for not paying on Person V but the entire system works in a manner that it blames Person V for actions of Persons K & G instead of getting Person V his dues. Family, Investors and Government don’t want to take responsibilities for getting Person V paid (so they all get paid) and will instead take the role of blaming the Person V for the actions Persons K & G.
Meanwhile Persons K & G are roaming around posting pictures on social media about how awesome their lives are.
What should Person V do?