Having been in sales and marketing for over 30 years, I have experienced a profound evolution in what it means to “sell” or to be a good salesperson. When I began my sales career, selling was about techniques, scripts and varying methods of manipulation to get the prospect to sign on the dotted line. One sales training method taught by a major sales training organization, prescribed a method of persuasion, through which, the prospect was cornered into a logical argument to sign an agreement. This was done by backing the prospect into an inescapable corner built by prospect “agreements” solicited by the salesperson. Methods like this were very effective in securing a sale but rarely resulted in repeat business or referrals. I remember buying my first car and it was a 5-hour ordeal that left me exhausted. We haggled to the last $100 difference. Not Fun!
The sales process then evolved into “Need Satisfaction Selling”. It was more client-oriented and focused on probing questions to ascertain needs to sell to. It was still manipulative in that the salesperson still controlled the direction of the sales process by the type of open and closed questions asked. Once the logical hook was baited and accepted, it was set and the closing process ensued. I taught this process years ago and it was very effective. Yet, the client always walked away feeling “sold” and quite frankly, I felt a bit “slimy” afterwards. Why? The focus of the sales process was on what I wanted… the sale. Did I really care about what my prospect wanted? Well… yes I did. But the drive to make quotas and to be among the top performers in the organization was typically my main driver. Consequently, I always was among the top 5-10%.
Today, things are very different. People are more aware of “old school” sales strategies and resist them. Technology has enabled people to be much more informed, and in many cases, the prospect knows more about our product or service than we do (if that is the case, shame on us). Simply making contact with a prospective client is a challenge. Most communication is highly filtered and if an attempt to connect smells of a sales call, it is dropped or deleted. Why? People don’t want to be sold. They want to buy. More specifically, they want to purchase what solves their problems, assuages their fears or helps them to be better at what they do.
The key to selling today is to redefine what selling is. Selling is about being authentic, open, with the mindset of a problem solver. It’s understanding the customer or prospective customer in such a way, you can anticipate their needs and wants. It’s not about pushing products and services indiscriminately. It’s about solving a need or fulfilling a want with the products you are promoting. If it does not benefit your client, don’t sell it, plain and simple. If you don’t believe your products or services offer high value to your customers, it’s probably best to upgrade what you are promoting. This new paradigm of selling is supported by 4 cornerstones, which are outlined briefly below:
Service & Support: We need to earn the right to do business with our clients and earn the right to keep it.
Exploring optimum solutions: What we really sell as professionals, are solutions to problems.
Listen to understand: Listen with empathy and heart, learning how to truly improve your client’s position.
Love!: Love yourself, love your product and most importantly, love your customer.