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You Don’t Have To Be A Shark by Robert Herjavec describes his journey as a salesman and the lessons he has taken away from his experiences. Herjavec is a self-made millionaire with a strong background in technology and star on the popular reality TV show on ABC, Shark Tank. 

Born in Croatia, his family fled to Canada to escape communism. When his family first came to North America, his parents didn’t speak English, so his father worked as a janitor to support them. This was tough on Herjavec’s family as it was a low-paying job, and what held his father back was the inability to speak the language.

Herjavec describes his first job in a debt collection agency and this is where he begins sharing his principles and lessons about sales. He touches on the 80-20 rule in this section but explains it in depth later on, saying that 80% of income is earned by 20% of its sales. He claims that Microsoft found that fixing 20% of the bugs in programs fixed 80% of system errors and crashes. Because of this rule, Herjavec talks about knowing when to stop pursuing a potential client that won’t budge because time is money, and if they are not the 20%, you’re missing time pursuing a potential client who is.

He also lays the foundation of a reoccurring theme: you’re selling to people, not robots. The pre-written scripts and the easy “how-to” step-by-step formulas don’t often work because people are complex. They have a variety of different concerns and factors in a decision-making process a salesperson cannot begin to understand. However, if your focus is to build a relationship with a potential customer, you will get a lot further. 

My favorite example was the classic “sell this pen” scenario. Many people begin with “It’s a very nice pen… ballpoint for smooth writing….” blah blah blah. Don’t you hate that question? I know I did until I read Herjavec’s solution. When you start your sales pitch about the product, you’ve already blown it. The answer is to not talk about the pen. It’s to talk about the potential buyer. Your first step is to gather information from the potential buyer about what they expect from the product or need. He explains to ask questions like: 

  • How often do you use a pen?
  • What do you use it for?
  • How long have you been shopping for a pen?
  • Anything you’re specifically looking for in a pen?

By being focused on the potential buyer’s experience, you’re building a relationship and qualifying that the potential buyer’s needs are matching well to the product you’re selling. Herjavec explains that if you switch buying a pen with buying a house, those qualifying questions are quite similar. Imagine if you were selling a house without knowing what your buyer was looking for… It could make for a very awkward and less successful outcome.

In this book, Herjavec outlines very digestible steps or bullet points about salesmanship that make the concepts easy to understand and absorb. They are also laced with his experiences to reinforce those lessons. 

Overall, it was an easy read full of valuable nuggets. I’ve already applied a few steps and details to my own process and found more confidence because of it. I would highly recommend this book to any entrepreneur, regardless of if you’re technically in sales or not. The big takeaway is that everyone is selling something. Whether you work for The Man and you’re selling your work for a promotion. Or you own a business that provides a service. You are selling that service everywhere you go. Don’t underestimate your role in sales.

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