Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Zen and the Art of Selling

Zen and the Art of Selling



|Views: 4,361 |Likes:
Published by bobheuman
On the importance of selling your ideas, by Robert Metcalfe. From Technology Review May/June 1992. Posted with permission of Robert Metcalfe, Polaris Venture Partners
On the importance of selling your ideas, by Robert Metcalfe. From Technology Review May/June 1992. Posted with permission of Robert Metcalfe, Polaris Venture Partners

More info:

Published by: bobheuman on Aug 04, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





en and the Art of 
May/June 1992www.technologyreview.com
A Better MousetrapSelling ConsciousnessSelling versus EngineeringSelling Curriculum
wenty-eight years ago I was anMIT reshman, and I wish some-one had sold me then what I plan tosell you now—the idea that selling is anart to practice no matter what your calling.Ater decades o painul on-the-job salestraining, I am sad to nd that the MIT cul-ture, at all levels, is still permeated withthe notion that proessional salespeopleare properly placed in the ood chain justbelow green slime.That attitude relegates too many MITstudents to bleak Saturday nights alone,because they think it unseemly to dothe bit o selling conducive to lining upa date. But there are also serious proes-sional and institutional eects as well aspersonal ones: Too many MIT proessorsare marginalized and their ideas ignored,not in technical journals or academics orscience, but where they are most needed:in the corridors o power. Too many MITadministrators, paralyzed by alse notionso academic dignity, ail to put MIT’s besteet aggressively orward to win the IvyLeague endowments that MIT deserves.And too many MIT entrepreneurs launchcompanies that give no thought to sellingand so promptly crash and burn.I can tell you rsthand that selling isone o the highest arts in entrepreneur-ship. Most companies, even successulhigh-tech companies in Silicon Valley,spend 10 times more on selling than onengineering. And i it’s proo you need,then read “How to Succeed in Business:An Interview with Edward B. Roberts,”in the February/March 1992
Thnoogy Rviw
. Roberts shows the strong correla-tion between the success o startups andthe marketing orientation—the sales con-sciousness—o their ounders.In short, nothing happens until some-thing gets sold.So now let me tell you about a anta-sy o mine to which I think MIT gradswill relate.
A Better Mousetrap
It began with my attending a meetingabout better ways to catch mice. Themeeting opened with a supercial dis-cussion o mousetraps, to which I per-unctorily listened. Having settled onone o several ideas that occurred to meduring the discussion, I spoke.The meeting ell silent as I sketchedmy concept or a better mousetrap andthen sat back. A moment o suspensepassed, and then the meeting came alivewith enumerations o the many advan-tages o the mousetrap I had proposed—all in what seemed to me like slow mo-tion. As enthusiasm built, and ater onlymy occasional corrective interjection,a consensus ormed around what wasthereater reerred to, on every occasion,as “Bob’s mousetrap idea.”For years ater the meeting, my long,contemplative weekends were too oteninterrupted by ceremonies at which Igraciously accepted prestigious awardsor my mousetrap idea and its many de-rivatives, all o which, no matter how re-mote, were scrupulously traced back andcredited to me. I was invited to posh par-ties by the most hip and happening mouseexterminators and was approached otenwith outrageous propositions rom beau-tiul strangers.Among the many checks I receivedspontaneously in the mail, I cashed onlythose rom companies whose commercialapplications o my mousetrap idea weresocially responsible, environmentally sen-sitive, and politically correct. My antasticwealth grew, and all but the modest rac-tion required to support my ascetic ex-istence in various hideaways around theworld went to support the selfess teachersand researchers at MIT’s Robert MetcaleLaboratory or Mousetrap Technology.
Selling Consciousness
I have been waking up rom this antasyor 28 years. In reality, inventors who be-lieve that better mousetraps automaticallybring the world to their door are in thelowest o the our states o selling con-sciousness: the unappreciated state. Andthey are probably alone in the bushes.I moved up to the next higher state o selling consciousness when I venturedout to hit people over the head with actsthey were too lazy or stupid to nd outor themselves—that they should havebeen beating a path to my door, buy-ing my mousetraps. In this state o con-sciousness—the argumentative state—I
people to buy my mousetraps. Theyargued with me, I snickered at their igno-rance, and I expected that my clever anddecisive counterarguments would orcethem to buy. This occasionally worked,but only up to an unsatisying point.In our ree-market system, o course,people are not compelled, even byoverbearing cleverness, to buy a bettermousetrap. And so, with experience anddesire to succeed, I moved up to the thirdstate o selling consciousness: sueringools gladly. I quietly listened to con-cerns about buying my mousetraps andwas careul not to call them stupid. I ex-plained in single-syllable words why mymousetraps were superior. I ound thatpeople respond positively to politenessand simplicity. Increased sales resulted.I have observed, however, that peoplestuck in the ool-suering state o sell-ing consciousness are twisted by theirown insincerity and soon stoop to thekind o overselling and underdeliverythat have given sales its poor reputa-tion. What ultimately separates thesheep rom the goats in this eld isunderstanding that prospective buyerso mousetraps are not ools. I learnedthat they are in act experts—in know-ing what they need. When they did notbuy my mousetraps, it was either be-cause they didn’t need them or becauseI ailed to sell them competently.Now, in this ourth and highest stateo selling consciousness, I learned to
en and the Art of Selling
ost o our rutn tos oms rom r tht i wsk or th ordr w wi  tod “NO.”
by Robert M. Metcale
listen to prospective buyers to nd themaximum overlap between their mouse-elimination needs and the mousetraps Ihad to oer. I worked hard to understandmy buyer. I learned to communicate thebenets o my mousetraps, rst estab-lishing my credibility and always keep-ing in mind that it is not mousetraps thatbuyers need, but ewer mice.I learned to ask buyers or their order,to listen or their objections, to handleobjections creatively, and to ask ortheir order again … and again. I deliv-ered my mousetraps when needed andensured that buyers were satised.This was selling as a high calling,and I learned to revel in the subtletieso its practice.
Selling versus Engineering
Let me fash a ew numbers by you aboutthe relative importance o selling and en-gineering. Let’s say a buyer spends $181on a Metcale Mousetrap. Right o thetop, $81 goes to distribution—the out-side people responsible or locally sell-ing and delivering our product. Believeme, they earn it.O the $100 ater distribution, about$50 goes to manuacture the mouse-traps, including $40 to buy the parts, $9or overhead, and $1 or the direct laborto actually assemble the device. Admin-istrative expenses absorb $5, taxes take$7, and shareholders receive $10 or theuse o their capital.That leaves $18 or my company’s owneld sales and actory marketing activi-ties and, nally, a mere $10 or what MITteaches best: engineering. (O course, thislast $10 is also spent on engineering sup-port and management, not strictly on en-gineering, but let’s not split hairs.)Almost all o the $81 spent on distri-bution is selling, and o course the $18or eld sales and actory marketing isselling. That pattern—spending about 10times more on selling than on engineer-ing, $99 versus $10—is true o 3Com,the $400 million company that I ound-ed. 3Com is not atypical o a successulhigh-tech company.Perhaps instead o using the old mathto make my point, I should use the new.The set o all potential buyers or mouse-traps is useully divided into three dis- joint subsets: the set o buyers (includ-ing my mother) who will automaticallybuy mine, the set o all mousetrap buy-ers who will never buy mine (parents o my competitors and the like), and the seto mousetrap buyers who will buy mineonly when competently sold.Clearly the sizes o these sets varyboth absolutely and relatively, but thethird set is much larger than many MITpeople think. Selling matters.
Selling Curriculum
Let’s say I am successul in selling theMIT aculty on the importance o sell-ing. What would be covered in a curricu-lum designed to teach it?Certainly there would be the basics o talking—and, especially, listening—topeople. Students would learn that one o the nicest things they can do or a personis to ask or advice. They would be taughthow to identiy prospects or mouse-traps, and how to “qualiy” them—to de-termine whether they need mousetrapsand have the means to buy them.There would be some instruction onmaking presentations that build credibil-ity and translate the eatures o mouse-traps into benets or buyers. Studentswould learn—this is critical—that it israrely the purpose o a presentation toshow how smart you are.Students would learn about spotting“buying signs,” asking or the order,and handling the inevitable objections.Toward the end they would learn thedierence between sales and market-ing. It would be hard to cram all thisinto the existing our-year programs,but selling, like engineering, requireslielong learning.So now, while I work on getting MITto establish the new InterdisciplinaryProgram in Selling, perecting your salesskills is something that each o you hasto do on your own. Start with the mostintimidating part o selling—asking orthe order. Most o our reluctance to sellcomes rom our ear that i we ask orthe order, we will be told no.I there is one trick to selling, it is get-ting over the ear o rejection, and I cansuggest a strategy or doing it.Decide that you are going to sell some-thing today. Start with something simple,like selling the idea o going to a partic-ular restaurant or lunch. Find a coupleo people with whom you would like tohave lunch and ask them to go with youto this restaurant. Then orce yoursel tostop talking so you can listen to the an-swer. I they say yes, you can move on tomore challenging sales situations.But what i your worst ears are real-ized, and your associates say no? This isit, the moment o truth. Smile and justask why. Listen to the objections and tryto deal with them. The way to overcomethat paralyzing ear o rejection—thewhole trick o selling—is to hear “no” asa learning opportunity. That’s the distil-lation o years o learning about selling.So, I urge you, sell something today.And i you are not convinced aboutwhy you should sell, I want to hearyour objections. Or i your rst ewselling attempts go awry, I want to hearhow. So, sell already.
 RObeRT M. MeTcalfe 
received bachelor’sdegrees rom MIT in electrical engineering andmanagement, and a PhD in computer sciencerom Harvard. He invented the Ethernet local-areanetworking system and ounded 3Com in SantaClara, CA, to commercialize it. This article wasdeveloped rom a lecture at the MIT Laboratoryor Computer Science.Reprinted with permission o 
Thnoogy Rviw
,published by MIT, Copyright © 1992.
May/June 1992
ing is high ing, nd  I rnd to rvin th suttiso its prti.”
Technology Review

Activity (44)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads
Soe Moe Win liked this
Jeppo X. Julian liked this
Jean Heutte liked this
Ashu Rajdor liked this
takashiro liked this
stellar2046 liked this
Oxony20 liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->