Sales Lessons From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was inspirational to me personally, as he was to many people.  The difficulties he overcame, the things he was able to accomplish, and the devices he was able to bring into people’s everyday lives had a profound impact on me personally, as I’m sure they did on you too.

From a sales point of view, I especially admired his ability to release new products that people don’t even realise they needed until he released them!  At which point they became must-buys for a lot of people – and that’s said by the owner of an iPod, iPhone, Macbook Pro and iPad 2!

While Steve may no longer be with us, his legacy will continue to be.  So what sales lessons can we learn from it?

Sales Lesson No 1 – Don’t Be Afraid Of Being Different

Steve Jobs was never afraid to be different and stand out from the crowd.  To pursue things ways of doing things that other people thought were stupid.  Until he did them and people stood back and applauded.

In a sales context, what aren’t you doing right now because other people think it’s stupid?  If other people say “cold calling is dead” that’s great!  It means less people are doing it, so less competition to your calls – so long as you’re still making them that is!

If colleagues or competitors are saying “prospecting is hard work” or “difficult” – that’s great!  It means they’re doing less than they should – so a great opportunity for you to win business from the people they’re not calling on, and retain your best accounts as they’re not bothering calling them either.

If people are saying “sales are tough right now” or “business is tough out there at the moment” you can bet they’re not picking up the phone or walking into their sales appointments with the right mind set – meaning they’re less likely to win the deal!  That means there’s more deals for the people like us that are prepared to go out there and get them!

Being different and doing things other people don’t want to do, and even tell you not to do, takes a certain mind set.  The mind set that you’re not going to worry about what others tell you, and that you’re prepared to work harder than they are.  That you’re prepared to win the business that they would have given up on ages ago.

Steve Jobs wasn’t afraid to be different.  Are you?

Sales Lesson No 2 – Love What You Do

One of Steve’s favourite sayings was “love what you do”.  My question to you is “do YOU love what you do?”

The answer for most salespeople, and most people in general, is “yes, when things are going well”. I’ve always said that in my opinion, sales can be the best job in the world when things are going well…. And the worst job in the world when things are going badly!

So for those of you that don’t currently love what you do, you need a more compelling reason or outcome for doing what you do.  That can be a compelling reason for your customers, for example –wanting everyone to have access to better quality IT support at a more competitive price.

It can also be a more compelling reason for yourself  – wanting to have family able to have two foreign holidays per year and be able to afford the things they want.

It could also be an even bigger compelling reason. Mine for example?  I want to be able to change the quality of life for the better of everyone I come into contact with.  How do I do that you ask?  By increasing their sales, thereby increasing their income, thereby helping them to increase the quality of their own lives and those of their families.

Do you think that compelling reason drives me to be better at what I do?  Do you think it drives me to give as much value as possible in my speaking and training engagements?  Do you think it drives me to do whatever it takes to get the best possible results for my delegates and people that train with me?  Of course it does!  Do you think I love what I do by any chance?

Sales Lesson No 3 – Turn Your TV Off!

I remember Steve saying: “We think you watch television to switch your brain OFF, and work on your computer when you want to turn your brain ON”.

I’ve always loved that saying.  When I ask most salespeople “how much time do you spend on trying to improve your sales or your sales career against how much time do you spend watching TV?” guess which one is normally most popular?

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t watch TV.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use it relax, or watch it with your kids.  After all, it’s your personal choice what you do.  I am saying however, think about how much time you spend watching it, as opposed to working your sales career.

Most salespeople I meet rarely work on their sales career outside of work and even inside of work they rarely work on improving it, more that they just end up doing it.  When I ask most salespeople “when was the last time you listened to a CD to improve your sales?” what do you think their answer is?  The same answer I usually get when I ask them when they last read a sales book or had some external sales training or coaching – that answer is usually “never” or “not for a while”.

Sales Lesson No 4 – Create A ‘Buying Experience’

Steve Jobs and Apple were fantastic at creating a ‘buying experience’ every time you bought one of their products.  Pretty much anyone who’s bought from Apple will confirm this!  Whether it’s been an iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac or anything else in their product line, if you’ve bought one you’ll know that it’s a bit different to the usual buying experience for example.

If you’ve also experienced the Apple Store in person, you’ll have an even higher opinion.  Forget trawling around a usual computer store trying in vain to find someone that knows anything about what you’re trying to purchase, and isn’t just the Saturday boy.

An Apple store experience is just that – an experience!  The majority of people on the shop floor know exactly how to answer your query, or find someone who does in a minute!  Does that have any impact on how many people buy more products from Apple?  Of course it does!  Apple is one of those manufacturers that once you have one Apple product, most people go on to buy more!

The sales lesson in this is therefore – how do you currently go about making buying from your company an experience like the Apple one?  Or maybe if you’re a salesperson, how do you go about making buying from YOU an experience like the Apple one?

Because if you can create that kind of buying experience, then perhaps you can create the kind of customer loyalty and raving fans that Steve Jobs and Apple have managed to create around their company and their products and services.  Don’t try to tell me that wouldn’t be useful for your sales figures?

Sales Lesson No 5 – Don’t Fear Failure

The majority of people I speak to, at some point, have to deal with failure.  So therefore most people also have to deal with a fear of failure.  Something that happens in advance of an event that they think will mean failure for them.

So one of the things that I do when I work with an individual or sales team is to look at what failures they’re afraid of.  Number one on this list is usually cold calling, or in some cases, any kind of sales calls at all!

Now the second will seem strange to those professional salespeople out there, but for some non-traditional salespeople – i.e marketing staff trying to make appointments for field sales reps, business owners who’ve never been in sales, professional service people for example – getting over the fear of making a sales call or cold call is probably the biggest barrier that’s getting in the way of increasing their sales.

You might not even be thinking of it as fear of failure because you might not be physically afraid of it, but what if I changed the question into what are you putting off right now that you know you need to do? That would bring up some interesting answers.

How many of you or your team are putting off calling a prospect that could be a really good source of income for you, because you feel like you’re not ready?

How many of you are putting off calling a customer back that’s called in with a complaint?  Even why you know it’s better to deal with it swiftly and smooth things over?

How many of you aren’t calling a prospect right now that you’ve sent a proposal to, and are just allowing them to decide without you trying to influence it to come to you?   Might that be because you’re afraid of messing it up?

Sales Lesson No 6 – You Can’t Join The Dots Forward

I remember watching a recording of Steve’s speech to Stamford University in 2005, where he said: “You can’t join the dots forward, only backward”.

It was a great speech and I remember the impact the above phrase had on me.  For me, it meant that sometimes you only realise what actions got you to an outcome – once you’ve got there!  And whilst we can plan and prepare and go for our goals, we never know what action helped us get there, until we get there!

In sales, as in life, there are no guarantees.  Just because you make 10/30/100 prospecting calls today/this/week/this month, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you hitting your target.

Just because you decide to pick up the phone or get out of your car and speak to that prospect you’ve been thinking about contacting for ages (but done nothing about it) doesn’t guaruntee that you’ll get their business.

Just because you write a great proposal, make a great presentation and do your best sales meeting ever, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win that account.

There’s one thing I can guarantee you however – if you don’t make the effort in the first place, you’re definitely not going to win enough deals!

Far too many people dismiss someone else winning a big deal as luck – when in fact that salesperson has probably put in lots of effort in the past, in order that they can look back with satisfaction now!  Winning business on a consistent basis usually leaves behind a trail of good sales activity and behaviour – can you be proud of your behaviour and current activity levels?

Don’t worry if things seem tough in the moment – put the effort in now and you’ll see the results happen for you going forward.  Then you can look back once you’ve achieved the results you want and join the dots going backwards realising you have success because of that activity and behaviour that everyone else gave up on… apart from you.

Follow the tips above and watch your sales soar! I look forward to hearing how you get on.



Andy Preston

Andy Preston is the UK’s leading authority in sales training and business sales techniques. Not only has Andy worked with some top brands in the UK helping them to negotiate better deals and even close on a higher price, his impressive client portfolio encompasses brands such as HSBC, Nissan, Siemens, McAfee and FedEx – to name just a few!

Andy Preston is the UK’s leading authority in sales training and business sales techniques. Not only has Andy worked with some top brands in the UK helping them to negotiate better deals and even close on a higher price, his impressive client portfolio encompasses brands such as HSBC, Nissan, Siemens, McAfee and FedEx – to name just a few!