As I reflect on what inspired me to pursue a career in sales, I’m reminded of some timeless Igbo proverbs I heard growing up in the bustling streets of Owerri in Imo State, Nigeria (#IgboKwenu). Fascinating tales of gutsy protagonists, crafty villains, and crazy plot twists helped contextualize these proverbs. I remember my siblings and I listening as my late grandma swirled our imaginations and skillfully imparted wisdom in our minds. Thanks, grandma!
Below I share seven Igbo proverbs that have continued to be a source of inspiration through my sales journey. I’m still learning about each skill and improving my mastery every single day.
1. O Re-Ere Bụ Eze; O Zu-Azụ Bụ Eze – The seller is King; the buyer is King. This proverb reminds us that we earn mutual respect. As a salesperson, the best way to earn respect is to prioritize understanding your customer. When a client believes you understand them, they reciprocate with respect and trust. If a sale goes as it should, no party should feel disrespected or misunderstood, simple as that. Plus, we are both Kings, let’s act as Royals since we have empires to govern.
2. Ejighi Ụtụtụ Ama Njo Ahịa – You shouldn’t measure the success of a day by what happens in the morning alone. In essence, you have to wait until the end of an allotted timeline to evaluate your performance. Often, we may have a rough start but finish with a positive result because of our perseverance. As my father always says, you can’t be triumphant without trying. On the other hand, celebrating too early may result in disappointing defeats in the end. Nonetheless, in every defeat, there is an opportunity to learn. And for every victory, there is a strategy that works; enhance and repeat it.
3. Ahịa Ukwu Armagh Na Otu Onye Abiagh – A big market does not miss someone that is absent. Essentially, if you don’t show up, your competitor will. If you fail to delight your customer, your competitor is around the corner ready to charm and convince your clients to forget you. So, show up. Be present. And do your best.
4. Izu Ahịa Wu Ezhi Ihe Ma Ewere Egwu Chineke – There should be a higher purpose to whatever you do. #Enoughsaid.
5. Erefu Otu, Erema Ọzọ – You sell your products (or do things), one after the other. This proverb goes at the heart of effective time management. Research cautions us that multitasking doesn’t work. When someone tells you they can multitask, they are just deluding themselves. The key is to prioritize not multitask for effective time management. Luckily, here are 15 apps and tools from Lifehack to help.
6. Ahịa Oma Na-Ere Onwe Ya – A great product sells itself. You have a great product when your customers purchase without any complicated sales pitch, and then proceed to promote your goods or services without you asking. Ultimately, these clients become some of your top salespeople and rarely ask for a raise or more commission. 🙂 The reality is not many want to be sold to, but everyone loves to buy.
7. Onye Nwere Mmadụ Ka Onye Nwere Ego – A person with a robust network of people is stronger than an individual with only money. This proverb encourages us to focus on building and fostering the right relationships. As a salesperson, a robust network leads to more customers, more referrals, more luck, more happiness, more mentors, and more attractive job opportunities. Plus, money can be finite, while healthy relationships last a lifetime. Here are five ways to start building valuable relationships now.
Thanks for reading. I hope one of the above proverbs serve as a boost or refresher to your sales acumen.
A very special thanks to my father, Chief Dan Obiyo, for his contribution to this article.