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The ‘Accidental Salesperson’ speaks

We spoke to one of the masters of modern salesmanship.

Chris Lytle's 2000 book, "The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Sales Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve," is treated as gospel by many salespeople across the country. Lytle has been lecturing on his straight-ahead, nonmanipulative style for over two decades. The American Management Association will rerelease "Accidental" this month.

What's changed for salespeople since the initial release of the book?

There's a lot more buying committees. There might be five or six people making a decision, and you've only met one. Plus, the buyer is only one or two clicks away from a lower price. But the other side of that is that there's information overload, and a good salesperson can cut through the clutter.

What hasn't changed?

You've got to be of the mind-set that you're going to help the customer get what they want, instead of what you want, which is a commission. You're never a successful salesperson until you walk away from a deal that's not right for you or the customer. As soon as you say, 'I don't need this sale for my quota,' you're on the right track.

Why do you say that "closing" is not the purpose of selling?

When I was a young radio advertising rep, I figured out that the second and third sale was more important than the first. If I could create a customer, I could create a base of business, and I didn't have to sell so hard. For me, you should replace 'closing' with 'opening.' It's more accurate: You're opening a business relationship. But you don't have a business relationship until they write you a check.

 
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