7 Ways To Get Smarter On Any Subject

“This product sucks and you made me lose a ton of money!” A client screamed at Alvaro for his stupidity while Alvaro listened. Then, he asked his client to come into his office so they could resolve the issue. Within ten minutes the matter was fixed. Who knows what was said? But I knew Alvaro could bewitch his clients. He knew a lot about finance…but he knew even more about influence.

Influence and sales are subjects that fascinate me. I got my start in sales, specifically financial sales. I’ ve worked in finance in various forms over the last twenty years and have read hundreds of books on the subject, gotten a masters degree,  and  read countless journals and research papers on investment opportunities. So, over the years I have developed a real expertise on the subject.

When I got into finance, I noticed many of the experts had a hard time communicating their message. Many of my analysts had all of the knowledge yet could not effectively get their message across to their clients. Since I worked in emerging markets, I worked with many analysts whose primary language was Spanish. The majority of them had a very hard time selling.

Since much of my business was dependent on the opinions of my analyst, I had to figure out ways to whittle down their verbiage to help them make their points clearer and more concise.  I would arrive at work and started reading tons of books on sales, marketing and influence. My peers would laugh at me when they saw the books that I was reading because they thought they were stupid and trite. But the techniques worked. My sales took off.

Many of the analysts used too many words when they spoke. This excess language would just make peoples’ eyes glaze over and the sale would evaporate. I noticed, sometimes a simple story or analogy was enough to bypass the sellers objection and get them to see your idea and the advantages of your offer.

Interestingly enough, there is a science fiction book called Lexicon that specifically deals with this issue. In the book by Max Barry, the protagonist Emily Ruff is trained in linguistics and uses the power of language to influence people. One of the main ideas of the book is that certain words said in a certain order have the ability to influence and manipulate people in profound ways.

I found this to be remarkably true.

Even though I became an expert in finance, I needed ways to convey my knowledge and ideas to clients. So I became a serious student of sales and here are the steps I took:

  1. Study trade magazines. I started looking at how financial advisors sell to their clients and I studied the magazine articles on closing and finding new clients. This helped me a lot because there were many articles on what was working.
  2. Answer ads. I started responding to the ads for financial seminars and conferences to better understand the products, services and sales techniques that companies used to close the sale.
  3. Find the top experts. Since I worked at a financial firm, it was not hard for me to find these people and get their insights and tips on ways to sell. Many times I would listen to their calls to see the best ways to close a sale.
  4. Read books. I read all the current books on selling; but, I also picked up books written by the old legends. For many years in the U.S., door-to-door sales was the primary means by which products were sold and the information that can be learned from direct sales experts was, and is, invaluable.
  5. Join clubs. I joined a finance club and went to different meet-ups to see what people were talking about and what they were buying. This helped me a lot because I could see what trends were developing in the market.
  6. Take classes. I took classes on finance at N.Y.U. and sales classes at the Learning Annex to learn more about my field. I noticed that many of the classes would give me new insights into the financial markets.
  7. Do your homework. I would also read the analyst reports, listen to all of the conference calls and to as many earnings reports that I could.

All of these steps combines greatly helped my bottom line. More importantly, the effort I put in has been applicable and helped me in other areas of my life. It remains the same formula I use today when I need to get better on any subject.

I hope it helps you a lot as well.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com