School of Sales. Part 2: Karren Brady

Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge CBE is recognised as one of the most inspirational business leaders in the world. Her advisory work spans over 30 countries and she’s currently a business ambassador for the UK Government. Underpinning this success is a steely determination and a passion for negotiating. Traits which have been exemplified throughout her career. […]

Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge CBE is recognised as one of the most inspirational business leaders in the world. Her advisory work spans over 30 countries and she’s currently a business ambassador for the UK Government. Underpinning this success is a steely determination and a passion for negotiating. Traits which have been exemplified throughout her career.

At 19, following a stint at Saatchi & Saatchi, Karren Brady was selling advertising for LBC radio. Tasked with filling a tricky 4am slot in the schedule, she tracked down publisher David Sullivan and convinced him to part with £2million a year. A deal which resulted in Brady gaining more commission than the rest of the sales team put together.

From there, at just 23, she entered a male-dominated footballing world by becoming the Managing Director of Birmingham City Football Club. At 27, she became the youngest Managing Director of a UK plc, when she floated the club on the London Stock Exchange.

At the heart of her approach to sales is the belief that people buy into people and she cites personality as one of the most important aspects of a negotiation.

Work harder than your peers

Her ability to keep going until a task is complete may seem like a basic skill, but it’s surprisingly uncommon.

“I work relentlessly to achieve a business goal. I believe that is the single most important reason for my success. It may be 2am, I may be exhausted, but I keep working until the job is finished. It takes self-discipline and energy, but you won’t meet anyone successful who doesn’t have them both. The good news is that it’s like a muscle; you can train your ability to work hard.”

“Remember: to be able to work hard and persistently is a quality that not a lot of people have. You stand out if you’re prepared to do the stuff that’s not much fun.”

Have courage

The old adage of “fortune favours the brave” rings true here. Shying away from an awkward conversation, or lacking the confidence to close a deal, can be the difference between continual success and abject failure. Often, the best salespeople are the most valiant.

“I like people who walk up to me at networking events and say: ‘I came along because I really wanted to meet you’. So I think the best advice if you feel you don’t have the confidence to do something is to ask yourself, what have I got to lose?”

Be yourself

Sales is ultimately a conversation between two people and individual personalities play a significant part in how successful that conversation is. For example, the tone we adopt on a call is more than four times as important as the actual words we use.

“I meet a lot of well-educated professionals who don’t have any personality and therein lies a problem.”

“People do deals with people, not with brains. When you’re choosing between two people with the same skills and qualifications, you pick the one with the personality you want to work with.”

Do what you love

The Harvard Business Review discovered that a happy team produces 37% more sales than their disgruntled peers. If you don’t enjoy what you do, change careers and find something that you look forward to on a Monday morning.

“I love doing deals. I’m resilient, relentless and persistent. Negotiating is not about being tricky. The way I see it, when you’re doing a deal you go in, you do the best you can to represent your company or yourself, have a clean fight, and at the end of it be able to shake hands and walk away.”

“But in order to push yourself, you have to really want it. If you don’t, you’ll never summon up the energy when you need to. So pick a career where you won’t want to do anything else. Very often it’s that ‘care about’ factor that underpins everything in your life, be it your business, your friends or your family.”

Be prepared to walk away

In part one of this series, we highlighted that Elon Musk doesn’t believe in discounting. In contrast, Brady seems open to a negotiation, yet only to a predetermined point.

“The first rule of negotiation is to work out what you’re prepared to accept in advance and stick to it. No one ever starts where they want to finish. You’ll do your best deals when you have that mindset, because the other person will recognise it, and put more on the table. I’m much more likely to walk away from a deal than many of my other colleagues, because I don’t mind saying no, and I don’t mind a tough negotiation.”

Take risks

Brady feels that confidence is a must-have attribute for anyone involved in sales. Much of her success is based on her fearless attitude to failure, which is a common thread among top business leaders.

“A lot of people fear failure so much that they can’t achieve anything.”

“Calculate the worst thing that can happen and be comfortable with it.”

Keep going

Only 56% of sales professionals make more than one call before giving up, despite the fact that 80% of prospects need at least five calls before committing. Perseverance can make the difference between a good and bad quarter.

“True success is hanging on when everyone else has let go.”

This post is part of a series in which we explore the headline traits of the most accomplished salespeople.

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