How to Sell Anything to Anyone

In the 1960s and ‘70s, every big Consumer Products Company had a huge Field Sales organization. Procter & Gamble (P&G) alone had 33 sales districts across the U.S., each with a District Manager, and up to 10+ Unit Managers/Sales Representatives. There was an identical structure was in place in each of six different divisions – Paper, Detergent, Health Care, Food & Beverage, etc.

This structure reflected a grocery retail market which was highly fragmented with dozens of local and regional chains. Indeed, everything was still local, with many purchase decisions still made at the individual store manager level. As a P&G Sales Representative, it was nothing to see sales reps from Lever Bros., Nestle and Colgate Palmolive all in the same store at the same time. Everyone was trying to sell the same Winn Dixie or Ralph’s store manager on building an end-aisle display, fixing a shelf price, etc. Moving fast was essential. The sales rep had perhaps 20 minutes total to get in (“greet the dealer”), check the store (shelf, display, pricing, back room), buy back any damaged product, make the sales pitch for “today’s great offer” and get on to the next call. P&G Retail Sales Reps were tasked to make 13 calls every day.

To deliver on this frenetic schedule, P&G developed a sales process designed to structure every customer contact for maximum results; as measured in cases sold on each call. Everyone was trained to use the identical process on every single call. This was called the “P&G Nine Point Sales Call Procedure.” The example below has been shortened just a bit and the instructions have been updated for a software sales example, but the concepts are identical to what worked then – and works now. Human nature hasn’t changed at all over the last fifty years, and neither has the relationship between the peddler and his or her customer. Our point is this: If you follow this process step-by-step, you can’t help but to succeed. Don’t resist. Just try it!

The One Page Sales Call

The Eight Steps

For Example

What This Means

Start With Context

“Hello, Bob. I am the CEO at a new company called IPMiner. Mary Smith at ABC Company suggested that I introduce myself to you.”

When you approach people, give them a starting point – a lens through which to see you and what you want to convey.

Summarize The Situation

“The problem we solve is one that many companies are trying to address: the inability to keep track of all the intellectual property their employees are developing.”

Honor the listener by including them in your target audience of forward-looking executives, even if they have never thought about the problem you solve.

State The Idea

“IPMiner is a software service which tracks internal company e-mails. It scans constantly for new ideas, big and small. In this way, even accidental inventions can be captured and reviewed for potential patentability.”

Make this as simple as you can. Don’t start talking about how you do it before you explain what you do – and why that is a potential breakthrough benefit. Avoid jargon words like “SaaS.”

Tell How It Works

“Our system works by tracking key words in your employee e-mails. We then mine the information collected using an AI algorithm which lets you identify new ideas being developed … IP … along with the seven words before or after it. Words you might not expect like ‘wow’ and ‘never works’ often surround breakthrough thinking … new IP your people may not even know they have invented.”

An example always makes the explanation better. It begs challenge, engagement and ideally, surprise. And please note: No one cares about the details of “how” you do it! Whether you are using software, direct mail or pony express, focus on what’s in it for them.

Explain The Benefits

“IPMiner has two major benefits. First, it gives you an easy way to capture more intellectual property. For example, our Beta customer, a med-tech company, filed three additional patents in the first six weeks, based just on what their employees were already talking about. Second, and perhaps more important, IPMiner lets you prove to a third party when and where your ideas were first being developed inside your company.”

Any time you can position your product as having both offensive and defensive value, say so. When you say “Our technology makes your boat go faster – and it prevents leaks,” you show both sides of the same coin. Remember that fear and greed are partners in any successful business. Appeal to both.

Ask For Feedback

“Bob, would our service be of interest to your company?”

Ask. Just ask. Don’t let the presentation end on “that’s very interesting.” You are selling, not telling. And if they say no? That’s great news! It means they must need more information!

Embrace Customer Objections

“Bob, we understand the employee confidentiality issue. It has been raised initially by many of our customers – as well it should be.”

Objections are your friend. Don’t jump all over them. Acknowledge them and, if possible, collect the whole set! This will lead to a much more productive follow-up meeting, since you know where the potholes are.

Suggest Easy Next Steps

“If I could address your concerns about employee privacy, would you be interested in learning more about the IPMiner system? Could I come by to show you more?”

Everyone loves a quid pro quo: “If I can do this for you, can you do this for me?” This is a proven way to engage. Plus, words are important: “Come by to see you” is friendly and engaging. “Get a meeting with you” sounds like one more meeting – which no one wants.

© 2018 One Page Solutions, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Source Credit: This approach is adapted from the traditional P&G sales call process, developed in the 1960s.

We recommend you try this approach on your next customer call. Anyone can use this technique. It works for every union boss, spouse, religion or little league team on the planet. While it’s easy to question the relevance of a 50-year-old technique to selling software or medical devices, remember that what’s behind this is simple human nature. As legendary P&G Global Sales Manager L. D. “Mike Milligan” put it, the process of selling anything to anyone is universal.

“Selling is the process of convincing people that what you want them to do is in their best interest.”

Mike Milligan
Procter & Gamble
1946-2018

This principle will never change.