Friday, January 9, 2009

Lessons from the First Salesman
The Serpent

The serpent is one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols. “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made,” Genesis 3:1. The serpent is indeed the original salesman. It is no wonder that when being derogatory about a person’s characteristics one might say that they are slippery like “snake oil”. But (for our purposes) the serpent must have been one heck of salesman. God, as the story in the bible goes, created for Adam and Eve the ultimate in luxury.

Think of the Ritz Hotel, Naples Florida with all expenses paid. Everything, from food to worldly pleasures was merely a touch a way. There was but one rule – do not eat from the forbidden tree.

So let’s review the selling environment for the serpent;

(A) No compelling reason to purchase,
(B) No purchasing authority at the local level (we can assume God’s commandment was the guiding principal),
(C) Not a very big market (although 2 out of 2 would be considered 100% market share) and...
(D) Decision making shared between two people.

The odds were certainly stacked against the serpent being successful in making his sale. As the story continues, the serpent convinces Eve to bite from the fruit and God punishes Adam and Eve by banishing them from the Garden of Eden. How was the serpent able to convince or sell Eve on eating the fruit? Taking into consideration all the elements working against the serpent – he must have been some salesman. Perhaps there is something to learn from this salesman:

1. Get your customer to start talking. The serpent didn’t start his dialogue with Eve about eating the forbidden fruit. Instead, he asks her a question about all the trees in the Garden of Eden. Listening to your customer, or moreover getting them to speak about their issues and concerns, is far more important than you rattling off your pitch. Perhaps by actually listening to your customer, you could, on-the-fly, adjust your pitch accordingly.

2. Deal with arguments one at a time. The serpent jumps on one of the facts that Eve states – that touching the forbidden fruit will kill her. By focusing his argument on this one issue the serpent is able to get Eve to let her guard down. There are always barriers to a close but getting your customer to state them in detail and then dealing with them one at a time until there are no barriers left.

3. Portray a compelling image post purchase. After dealing with the arguments against eating from the forbidden fruit the serpent immediately began to paint a picture for Eve what her world would be like if she ate from the forbidden fruit. Giving tangible examples of revenue generating or cost cutting solutions is critical to selling success. Most folks want to be a hero in their organization (or at least to themselves). How will buying your product/service make them a hero? Make sure customers have a clear image of what will occur once your product/service is deployed. Is their life easier? Are they able to earn more money? Save time? Be clear and specific. The serpent convinced Eve she would be like a God if she ate the fruit – now that’s a compelling argument.

4. Get the customer engaged in a trial. The serpent didn’t ask Eve to take title to an entire forbidden fruit tree, he merely convinced her to take a bite to see what happens. Make sure it is easy for your customer to try out your product/service. Everyone likes to try before they buy and while some services don’t work well in a trialing environment, perhaps you could package a subset of your product/service for a trial. Making it easy for your customer to chew on your product/service will help them get a taste for what it will be like when it is fully deployed.

"You could always learn something from everybody" as the phrase goes. While most symbolic representations of the serpent are indeed that of evil, let us not forget the caduceus or Wand of Hermes - a staff entwined by two snakes in the form of a double helix. The caduceus represents the authority to quickly deliver vital or wise information to aid, assist, negotiate, and enlighten. Perhaps there is something to learn from the serpent after all.

Author Currently Unknown