#SalesSkillsAreLifeSkills

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His mantra was not to push but to use the art of the nudge – 1% better every day.
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Venkataraman,

Singapore

It is interesting how much you could learn from tradespeople. I was in Sydney last week – it was wonderful to feel the cold nip in the air again. I have always felt the Australian pride with their R.M. Williams boots – over the years, they had become part of my wardrobe as well. This Craftsman boot, however, was feeling quite tight, and I decided to get it set right.

I headed out to the Strand, a 1891 Victorian style building on Pitt Street, to find another customer ahead of me in the store. It gave me the opportunity to observe the store owner in action. This customer had a Louis Vuitton cloth bag from which he took out a sneaker to complain about a biting sensation around the heel. I observed that this customer was nattily dressed and exuded an aura of money – surely, an opportunity for the store owner to levy a hefty bill.

What happened next surprised me – the store owner pulled out a small cushioning pad from his shelf, adjusted it within the heel of the shoe and told his customer that his problem should now be resolved. The customer pulled out his wallet to pay, but the owner declined. He would only charge if it was a bigger issue. The surprised customer smiled, thanked him, and left.

It was now my turn. I smiled at the owner and said, “Did you observe how happy that customer was, when he left?”. The shop owner introduced himself as Robert and said that he did that often to his customers – surprise them with genuine service and never charge for trivia. Robert was curious to find out what I did for a living, and I told him that I had the pleasurable vocation of coaching leaders.

Robert shared that he had been a Rugby coach for 27 years before opening this shop. He coached the cerebral kids at Sydney Grammar to stand up to the stronger, faster kids from other school districts. His mantra was not to push but to use the art of the nudge – 1% better every day. I smiled as I recalled Atomic Habits by James Clear: 1.01 to the power of 365 equals 37.8. A 1% improvement every day yielded 38 times better results by the end of the year, and Robert knew this instinctively.

It was now his turn to examine my boots, and he said that it would take at least 3 days to get it fixed. I was leaving the next day, so he promised to send the shoes to Singapore. He took down my address, shared his contact details and I pulled out my phone to pay. He said that I could pay only after I have received the shoes and it met my satisfaction. I was taken aback and asked him how he could trust a stranger so much. He said “Sir, After all, it’s only a pair of boots!!”. We smiled warmly at each other, shook hands, and I took my leave.

On reflection, I realised that here was a tradesman who lived the truism of “Go Givers get more”. He invested in his customers, led with trust, and acted with integrity – making every customer visit memorable. I wonder how all of us can make every customer meeting memorable every day.

How could your art of giving, beget you more?

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I need the client to remember me after the sales, after the delivery, after the payment and even after the celebration. I want to hear a good story after its been implemented.
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Shatha Salim Al Maskiry,

Oman

We always try to have value creation conversations with clients before pitching. Let me give you a reverse story to address the value creation. I had one of my team members in my previous job who came to me and said that he got me a lead and I should go meet the client. He said it was a done deal. He told the client about what we do, and they were ready to buy, so all I had to do was sell. I asked him if he knew what their problem was, and he said it didn’t matter as they were ready to buy. I went and spoke to the client and realised that it was not something they needed.

My team member heard about the call and asked me why I was shutting the door on the leads that he was trying to bring in. I told him that we don’t open doors by just closing one deal. It is easy to win a deal today and make everybody happy, but it does not create any value for the client and it’s not what they need. When I spoke to that client, I told them that this was not what they needed, and I offered them what would add value for them, and I converted it into a $300,000 deal. The client was happy and asked us to come in and do the job. They understood that I would not sell them something they didn’t need.

The whole point of my job is to create value. It doesn’t matter whether it’s $5,000 or 5 million. I need the client to remember me after the sales, after the delivery, after the payment and even after the celebration. I want to hear a good story after its been implemented. To hear the client say that the reason they are here today is because of Protiviti and because of the conversations we had with them.

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I had taken a decision, but I did not think beyond that. I think the open mindedness to discover myself every day is my purpose.
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Srimathi Shivashankar,

India

Children have their own way of making you see what is beyond yourself. Usually a guru tells you this, but children have a beautiful way of doing it. For example, around 15 years back, I wanted to give up my job. So, one morning, I got up and I said, I’m not going to work. My husband thought it was for one day and left for work. My daughter was going to school. She was only six years old. She stepped out and then stepped back in and asked “What do you mean? Are you saying you’re not working today?” I said, “No, I’m not going to work forever.” I told her I was tired. Between home and running to work, I was just tired. And she asked me, “What else would you do, if you’re not working?” I could not say that I will figure it out. I had taken a decision, but I did not think beyond that. I think the open mindedness to discover myself every day is my purpose.

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Goals should be huge, stretched and maybe even unreasonable and these need to be set with a 10x mentality.
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Sunil Kumar Thakur,

India

It is not about setting a goal; it is about commitment to the goal. There is a lot of research that says that companies that have lasted long had commitment to their goals. Goals should be huge, stretched and maybe even unreasonable and these need to be set with a 10x mentality. There is a story about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, where the commander told his men to “Burn the Boats” giving them no option but to either conquer or die. Visions should not fade in the light of day-to-day problems. Take your time setting your goals, but once done stay committed.

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I realised the power of a genuine connection, focusing on others' success, and the power of asking hard questions in a soft way.
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Venkataraman,

Singapore

It was a lovely Friday evening in Auckland and we decided to end our workshop slightly early for everyone to get back to their families. Tom stepped up to me and asked if I could spare some time for him. He was a Sales Director and wanted some coaching. My flight was only the next day back to Singapore and we decided to meet on Saturday morning for a post-breakfast coffee.

Auckland is a beautiful city – I could still recall the sun-soaked pier where we sat down at a table, with seagulls screeching all around. I could see the multiple boats ferrying tourists, perhaps taking them for some whale and dolphin watching. We started talking about managing time, building teams, leveraging talent and utilising technology.The conversation naturally veered towards customers and I asked him “What would it take for you and your team to make every meeting memorable for your customers?”. He started to think and came up with a few good pointers – I could sense that all of these related to reason and not connected with emotion. It was important for Tom to realise and appreciate the power of emotion.

I switched perspectives then to ask him “Tell me about your most memorable meeting this month”. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said “This one. In fact, I think this is probably the best meeting I had this year”. I was taken aback but secretly very pleased. Rather than revel in the oxytocin, I decided to stretch his thinking “What specifically makes it so memorable?” He said ” Well, it is the genuine connection I feel with you – you really want to make me successful. You are asking the right questions to make me think, and I know that I am taking down a number of actions that will change my future”.

This was his moment of insight, and all I needed to do was to the reframe the context again. “So, what would it take for you and your team to have similar conversations with your customers?” He smiled – Tom was smart enough to understand what was now expected of him and his team. We wished each other well and promised to keep in touch.

I now realise that this meeting was memorable for me as well – I realised the power of a genuine connection, focusing on others’ success, and the power of asking hard questions in a soft way.

Can these simple skills make the world a better place? – Most certainly, and all it takes is for all of us to move from instinctual responses to intentional engagements, where everything is focused on making the other person greater. What is your set of life skills that is unleashing greatness in others?

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Sales skills show up in our behaviour every day. Some are loud, some silent. Some are obvious, while others not so much
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Swetha Sitaraman,

India

I have donated my hair twice so wigs can be made for cancer patients. It is a cause that is close to my heart. It is more personal than writing a cheque as you are sending a piece of yourself to a child or adult who have lost their hair to cancer. I then posted about my experience on social media. I shared the details that the Doctor in the Psycho-Oncology department told me about the dearth of wigs made with real human hair and how unaffordable it is for poor patients. I was overwhelmed with the love that friends, family and colleagues showed after reading my post. Many were inspired and wanted to donate too. Some were in their 20s, others in their 70s. A few sent me pictures of their new short hairstyles after donating. I was happy that I was able to inspire and influence others for a good cause.

Every day we indulge in acts where we have to Persuade, Influence, Negotiate or Storytell (PINS). Some are loud, some silent. Some are obvious, while others not so much. These are all ‘sales’ skills and it shows up in our behaviour. For as long as there have been people, there has been sales! No wonder it is said that #SalesSkillsAreLifeSkills #sales

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I win because I got him to write at least that much. He wins because he got off without having to write more. It feels like a win-win.
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Sowmya Nair,

India

Every day at home I feel like I’m a #saleswoman trying to negotiate with a somewhat rigid customer – the customer being my 6-year old son. I ask him to write number names from 1 – A10:E1050. He’s unwilling, of course. I give him a lecture on why number names are important and how writing makes his fingers strong and what not to coax him into submission. Then he says, “Alright, I’ll do it but I’ll only write from 1 – 15”. I’m in shock because that is such a bad deal. I then come down to 1 – 40. He comes up to 1 – 30. Finally, we settle.

I win because I got him to write at least that much. He wins because he got off without having to write more. It feels like a win-win. And in a few hours, we get back on the negotiation table with some other task. And then some more. I can say with utmost sincerity – I believe that #SalesSkillsAreLifeSkills.

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The intuitive capabilities we posses helps us to constructively influence situations and provide win-win opportunities.
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Sripriyaa Venkataraman,

Singapore

It was the year 2013, while I was busy setting up Global Coaching Lab LLP and also establishing myself as an Executive Coach.

I reached out to many people in my professional network. I informed them that I was a Certified Executive Coach and that I was establishing an organization that focused on building an expert panel of certified coaches to help address various people and talent developmental requirements within organizations. Everybody wished me very well and was very appreciative about the initiative. But Istill had not landed with any client for myself or my organization. I was also deliberating the idea to niche my practice and was thinking around the lines of Cross Culture and Business Leadership, given my earlier experience in South East Asia.

This continued for a while, until, my Business Partner was able to get an opportunity for me to speak with a Business Leader in one of the Indian Multinationals. I met the leader and spoke to him passionately about the possibilities through Coaching and asked him about specific opportunities he saw for coaching within his organization. During the conversation, I understood that they were expanding their Agri business to South East Asian Markets and intuitively I decided to share my thoughts on how Coaching can expand possibilities for their South East Asia Leaders in new markets and how Cross Cultural Diversity Coaching can support this growth for them.

I remember walking out of the meeting from their office in Connaught Place, New Delhi, with my First Coaching Engagement with their Country Managers for Vietnam and Indonesia.

The intuitive capabilities we posses helps us to constructively influence situations and provide win-win opportunities. I truly believe that #persuasion #Influence #negotiation and #storytelling are life skills that each one of us posses and we should be brave enough to use them. Sales skills are not just for #SalesProfessionals.

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I am struck by how simple influencing skills can bring about significant changes to people's lives.
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Venkataraman Subramanyan,

Singapore

It was my second trip to Central Eastern Europe and I was returning home via Dubai. Dreading the long layover, I headed to the Emirates counters to take a chance for an upgrade – Lo and Behold, they upgraded me to First Class. Being my first time ever, I tiptoed into the First Class lounge and plonked myself on a plush sofa and started pretending to be busy.

Looking around I could see a few people scattered around the lounge, from various nationalities. After a few minutes, a gentleman sitting close by, started talking loudly on his cellphone. After a few minutes, I could sense that a lot of people were getting very annoyed with his loud voice – so I decided to walk over to him to let him know that his phone calls were disturbing everyone else in the lounge, and perhaps he could consider keeping his voice low.

God knows what got over him, he walked over to my seat and started yelling at me in a mixture of English and his native tongue. For a moment, I wanted to be instinctual, but decided to be intentional. I told him “Why do I think you are a much better person than how you are sounding right now?”. It took him some time to register what I had said. Looking very confused, he asked me to repeat the question. I empathetically and smilingly said: “Why do I think you are a much better person than how you are sounding right now?”.

This brought out the most amazing reaction in him, which I will never forget. He folded his palms together and asked for forgiveness. I was very quick to say it is all right. Then the most extraordinary thing happened – he sat on the floor, and not on the sofa, till I left that lounge. I could sense the hurt his ego had caused, and saw how he was making up for it. I want to dedicate this story to this Middle Eastern gentleman, who allowed his humility to triumph over his ego.

As I reminisce about this incident, I am struck by how simple influencing skills can bring about significant changes to people’s lives. I am sure that there are many such incidents and anecdotes out there that would have transformed others and helped people acheive more.

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Art is not magic but that day influencing her to draw and paint gave her a breather from the rush of feelings.
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Kavitha Chandrasekhar,

India

It was the first day of my internship at a de-addiction hospital in Chennai and I was assigned a 14 years old patient from Bangalore for counselling. As I entered the inpatient room, I could see that she was floating in a general state of “meh”. I gave a big smile and she responded saying she was having weird feelings and did not know why she was feeling this way.

The atmosphere was silent and to break her out of the cloud like feeling, I said let us draw and paint to change the mood. There was no response, so I took out a sheet of paper and some colors that I had in my bag and sat next to her in the couch. Her eyes slightly lit up and she said “Can we draw a villain?” Her choice of words gave me a clue as to how she was feeling. Without much thought we started drawing Cruella De Vil – the villain character from 101 Dalmations. When we were coloring, she immediately hugged me and said- “This is how I feel.” All her feelings of “meh” came into focus and she gave a big happy smile.

To be honest, art is not magic but that day influencing her to draw and paint gave her a breather from the rush of feelings and make her change her mood. I totally agree that #SalesSkillsAreLifeSkills.

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Now that you have walked through the door of inspiration, why not share your story?

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