DON'T SELL, LISTEN
Buyers are too smart to be 'sold' or even pressured and are turned off by the slick tactics and techniques that most salespeople are taught to use. Being sold makes us all uncomfortable; pressure is pressure no matter how slickly it's applied.
The book High Probability Selling (Abba Publishing Company), by Ruben & Werth, proposes that the salesperson's objective is 'not to get the prospect to buy, rather to find out if there is a mutually acceptable basis to do business'. Open, honest communication that focuses on the buyer and what he/she really wants is obviously preferable to being 'attacked by a need manipulating product flogger'.
A thought... How many training companies do you know that offer standard packaged course that supposedly fits all problems/needs and/or wants. What does this mean for standard e-learning 'solutions' (perhaps they should be called e-teaching systems) and of course... "nothing is taught, everything is learnt". Why do companies still send participants to public courses?
Back to sales philosophy... Sales success comes from being an expert in human relations; it's about building respect through communication and listening. It's also about building relations through becoming a potential resource for your potential customer.
'The book also dispels the myth that "it ain't a NO, till its NO ten times, even then it's still a maybe yes". (Argggh - I still remember being told that in my first sales job). If the prospective customer says "No," that's the end of it. Obviously not everybody is a prospect for what you are selling as businesses (and people) have to make decisions on how to best utilise their finances.' If to use a real example from my past, you where selling a Mercedes Benz against a Volvo plus a swimming pool (the family's preference) all the benefits of your product verses the Volvo will still not change NO to YES in 99.99% of cases. If you are the Mercedes salesperson then best get off and spend your time more profitably looking for more willing buyers.
LISTENING to what you are being told during a sales appointment is still the best way to find a sale. By listening rather than talking you can uncover what the prospect is looking for and then you can provide the 'fix'.
A personal example: I sat outside a financial controllers office once while an opposition finance company representative presented a discounted cash flow analysis (DCF) (all about the time value of money) in an attempt to sell the prospect on the proposition that HIS lease deal was the best. The guy spent thirty-five minutes trying to overcome the controller's objections to the DCF analysis being used as a legitimate way to make a 'borrowing' decision. By the time it was my turn with the controller he said 'I hope you don't have another dam DCF like the last idiot'. Actually I do, I honestly replied however lets not talk about it. Do you mind if I ask you a question I said, 'OK OK what', he said. If you lease your fleet of cars what is going to be you're biggest problem? If, (he said) I must lease the cars, the board's decided, my problem is getting the damn documents signed and the directors are never here. I won a $3.5 million fleet finance deal with a master lease (sign once only), an authorised signature card and a big rubber stamp allowing the payment schedule to be put on the back of each invoice. Did I sell a fleet lease deal, NO I sold a solution to a busy financial controllers perceived difficulty. By the way the other reps company had a similar solution available, "BUT", he was to busy selling to assist the buyer!
Did you ever notice how hard it is to listen, think and talk all at the same time?!
Communicating well and particularly listening is the 'modern' to approach sales and to way we need to train sales staff. Instead of presenting as many still do, they need to learn to talk to prospects and customers on an equal basis. Customer or prospects realize that they the right to eject boring presenter from their office at any time however, out of politeness they usually suffer in silence (particularly in Asia where I mostly work). Prospects know they don't have to do business with people who waste their time, who are rude, impossibly demanding, devious or difficult to pin down. However successful/professional sales people have learnt to ask questions, to listen more than talk and by doing so effectively put the whole responsibility of deciding to make a purchase squarely on the buyer.
It seems hard, from many of the salespeople I have trained, for them to understand and believe that it's good to ask... "Are you sure you want to buy this?" instead of setting up a list pushy and manipulative questions designed to elicit a series of "yeses." I agree with the High Probability Selling statement that... "It's difficult for them (salespeople) to believe that it's perfectly all right to ask personal questions and really try to get to know the customer rather than babbling about the weather or the score of last week's game. It seems tough for them to accept the idea that they can be perfectly straightforward about not being able to meet all the customer's demands, not being free to call next Tuesday, not being willing to prepare a detailed proposal without a strong commitment, and not being able to install the product in two weeks."
But when they start operating this way, salespeople discover that honesty really is a better policy, Ruben (High Probability Selling) says. 'It's disarming to prospective buyers, who can ask for the information they need and think about what they want to do instead of putting their energy into resisting glib pitches and pressure tactics.'
Another expert who believes that selling is superfluous is John R. Graham, founder and president of Graham Communications who in the article this post is partly based on (see ref below) says that... "The person who spends time with me, who educates me, who shares his[/her] insight and becomes a resource for me is the person I'm going to do business with"
"Like Ruben, Graham thinks it's a waste of time to try to get people to want to buy things. People know when they want and need and [when they] can afford something. It's just a question of who they're going to buy it from, and that decision will be based on established trust and respect."
A final thought... "Selling causes resistance," Ruben says succinctly. "When there's no selling, there's no resistance. You make more sales when you eliminate selling."
Reference: http://www.highprobsell.com/html/painless_sales.html - Great site worth a visit!
Partly based on an original article by: Janet Fox, a free-lance writer based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Orglearn - Richard Townsend 2008