My friend, Dick Proudfoot, called me one day. What, Dick wanted to know, was the most important lesson that I had learned about selling. After a few minutes of back and forth banter we agreed: Stop selling! Now lest you think that I’ve lost my marbles, let me qualify that statement. I’m not talking about getting out of sales … merely suggesting that you change the way you sell.
Traditional sales training often suggests that salespeople educate their prospects. The salesperson makes a presentation. He knows his product and the industry. He can rattle off the features and benefits like machine gun fire. He can answer every question the customer throws at him and he does his best to persuade his customer to buy. The theory is that if he shows the customer how great his product is, he will be successful.
Sometimes he will and sometimes he won’t. Most often the customer plays his cards real close to the vest, turns the salesperson into an unpaid consultant, and uses the information to get a better deal from someone else.
This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the salesperson. If the customer doesn’t buy, the salesperson feels like a failure. “Why didn’t you get the order?” “How come you lost that business?” The fact of the matter is that nobody can close every order. Expecting to do so puts unrealistic pressure on you. There is more to life than sweaty palms, dry mouth and palpitations. No salesperson should have to make a call wondering what kind of stalls and objections will come up, wondering if they can keep from stammering or wishing that the call were over before it even begins.
So, how do you eliminate the pressure? What exactly did Dick mean when he said, stop selling? First of all understand that you will not sell everybody no matter how good you are or how great your product is. That’s not defeatist. That’s real. Instead focus your energy on qualifying or disqualifying your suspect. Do they have a need that you can help them with? Do they have the money to pay for what you have to offer and are they willing to spend it? Are you talking with the real decision maker … the person who can say yes?
Is this going to be a win-win situation? How is it in the customer’s best interest? How is it in the best interest of your company? How is it in your best interest? You’re not going to find the answers to any of those questions by pushing features and benefits.
The focus of the sales call needs to be on the customer. The call is not about you. It’s about them, so act like it. Get their needs on the table as quickly as possible. Yes, you do have to sell. You do have to generate business. But, and this is very important, you don’t have to sell everyone and not everyone you talk with is qualified to buy from you. So lighten up, stop trying so hard and become even more successful.
Oliver Connolly coaches and mentors sales managers and vice presidents of sales. For more information please go to http://www.clevelstrategic.com