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Clarence "Kelly" Johnson is credited with coining the KISS principle, i.e., "Keep it simple, stupid."

According to Wikipedia, Johnson, an aeronautical engineer in research and development, came up with the principle during World War II. His work team went on to develop some of aviation's most significant breakthroughs in record time.

"Keep it simple, stupid" is a valuable reminder for all of us. Too often, we overcomplicate business. I propose that we keep it simple. Secure a sale. To start, one simple sale will suffice. 

Years ago, I worked as a senior sales manager for a business owner who lived out the American dream. He took all of his life savings and poured it into a computer training franchise, hoping to make it big. And make it big he did. In less than a decade, he parlayed an investment of a couple hundred thousand dollars into a sale of close to $15 million. 

If there were a single statement that defined his business DNA, it would have been with the simple understanding that "everything starts with a sale." From the outside looking in, the organization was an educational learning center. Classrooms. Curriculum. Courses. Certified trainers. But behind the scenes was one of the most well-run sales organizations I've ever seen. Students were served well. The secret? It was simple: Start with a sale.

Here are some of the secrets behind securing a sale:

1. Have a clearly defined sales process. 

Every employee who ever worked for this business owner probably to this day could recite "the seven steps of the sale." Steps 1 and 7 were identical. "If you can't give it away, you can't sell it." It was a demonstration close. Because he charged two to three times what the competition set, students had to see and experience the quality of the training, or they wouldn't pay a premium. So, he gave the first class away for free. It was a massive bet on the come. Give potential students hundreds of dollars of training at no cost. Trust the sales process. Because he delivered a superior product, that investment of a few hundred dollars, more often than not, turned into future sales of thousands of dollars.

2. Execute the sales process with precision.

As an example, sales prospects were only to be contacted three times by sales reps. Period. It was one of the seven steps of the sale. Heads metaphorically rolled if sales reps "chased" future prospects by contacting a potential client a fourth time. If you couldn't get the sale (i.e., give a free class away) with three touches, they weren't going to buy down the line, or it was time to improve your closing skills. He trusted the sales process and demanded his sales managers execute it daily.

3. Celebrate every sale.

Small sale, large sale, single-location sale, multi-location sale, any sale, every sale got celebrated. For a few brief minutes, the work world stopped spinning. Reps received instant recognition. Celebratory emails went out. Non-sales-related employees came over to the sales side of the building for high-fives and shoutouts. Spiffs, lunches, plaques, awards, bonuses, recognition and company rewards all were a part of the sales culture. To the owner, behind every student who received a great education was a sale. To him, every good thing that happened in the organization began with a single sale. Regardless of the size, he never "threw a sale back into the lake."

4. Believe that details define and determine the extent of sales success.

To say he sweated the small stuff would be an understatement. His five locations were perfectly and strategically located across the Front Range of Colorado to maximize every potential sale in his franchise territory. Classrooms were equipped with state-of-the-art technology and decorated to enhance the educational experience. Students were greeted warmly and offered fresh bagels, fruit and complimentary coffee and soft drinks. The highest quality of training and learning materials were extended. Every detail of the student experience from the parking lot into the classroom had been adequately analyzed and addressed.

5. Stand behind your product even when it hurts.

In the training industry, empty classrooms can lead to financial disaster. Each quarter, our franchise offered hundreds of applications and technical training classes. So did our competitors. One dramatic differentiator from our competitors was we never canceled a class on our schedule. Our students knew if we listed a class in our catalog, we would run the course. Our students and the businesses we served could plan their schedules with confidence.

In many cases, our owner lost thousands of dollars because a class was not full. But he stood behind his product. This inspired confidence in his sales team and the type of trust from his customers that led to additional sales. 

To him, it wasn't about classrooms or curriculum. It wasn't about technical training or teaching techniques. It was about keeping it simple. "Start with a sale." Success will come one sale at a time. 

Article as seen on Forbes

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Dan Whitfield

Written by Dan Whitfield

Dan is dedicated to "coaching up" leaders of growth-oriented non-profits and cause-driven organizations. His goal is to help you gain and retain new donors.