In a meeting last week with a group of business executives, we discussed the definition of sales.

 It was very interesting to hear their perspectives and to help them realize the true meaning of selling.  I later shared this definition of selling with a new student of mine who is committed to learning the principles and skills of salesmanship.  Simply stated, “Selling is helping the prospect understand their true needs and then helping them achieve those needs.”  The actual process is more complicated and detailed, but the meaning is basic and simple.  Selling is not about what the salesperson wants for him/her self.  It is not about what your company wants.  It is one hundred percent about discovering what is best for the prospect and then working to help them achieve it.

Along the way, you want to make a profit for your employer.  After all, the only reason a company is in business is to generate a profit; without it, companies cease to exist.  It is the process of creating profitable sales that allows companies to provide a wide variety of employment opportunities.  Production, distribution, finance, management, marketing, legal, human resources, customer service, sales, and many other positions exist because companies generate a profit from the sale of their products and services.  The responsibilities of selling do not fall only on the shoulders of salespeople.  Every employee within a company should consider themselves a salesperson because every word, act and deed becomes part of the process of persuading the prospective customer to engage your company to discern and satisfy their needs.

In order to be successful at selling, you must focus on what the customer needs and not what you want, even though helping the customer will allow you to achieve what you want.  The focus of selling must be on the customer.  The customer doesn’t care what you want.  The customer is not concerned in the least about your company.  They are only interested in one thing: satisfying their needs.  

Let me tell you about a sales experience I had the other day.  This experience reconfirmed the need for sales training and the commitment I made nineteen years ago to improve the financial performance of my client companies, one salesperson at a time.

After several phone contacts from a salesperson representing a company that I was familiar with, I finally conceded to meet with him.  The salesperson was enthusiastic and persistent, so I decided to spend a few minutes with him.  Because of my busy schedule, we established a broad time frame in which I would stop by his office.  When I arrived, I was greeted by staff members and then introduced to the salesperson.  I received a welcoming handshake, but was not called by name.  As we sat down at the conference table, the salesperson immediately pulled out a product-pricing sheet, handed it to me and began talking about the services his company had to offer.  He went into great detail describing exactly what was offered in each package and made a recommendation as to which package he thought would be best for me.  I could tell he was very focused on selling me one of his service packages and he wasn’t going to let the pressure off until I committed to his desires.

Let’s step back for a minute and evaluate this situation.  He didn’t call me by name, or spend one second to build even the slightest amount of rapport with me.  I asked him a few questions but he never showed any personal interest in me.  Further, the only question he asked about my company was the number of employees I had.  That was it!  It was very obvious from his presentation that he knew nothing about my business, my needs, customers, or objectives.  He was only focused on telling me about his product and why I should buy it.  I felt like I was in a doctor’s office being told to take a prescription and to report to the hospital for surgery without once being examined to determine my illness.  There was no introduction to company or self.  There was no building of rapport or common interests.  There was no diagnosis of my needs.  There was no understanding of my business and customers.  There was no resolution of concerns or objections.  There was, however, disappointment that I didn’t buy after several attempts of telling me why I needed his product.  He gave me his card, accompanied with the promise that he would be in touch.

Selling is a process focused on the needs of the prospective customer.  In a very simple and abbreviated fashion this is what should have happened:

  1. Greet the prospect with a warm smile a firm handshake and call him by name.
  2. Spend a few minutes to build rapport and demonstrate genuine interest in the prospect.
  3. Ask questions that will allow you to diagnose the needs, wants and desires of the prospect.  Focus on what is important to them.
  4. Present your product or service as a solution to their specific needs.  If your product is not the right solution, make a recommendation for a better solution and then pack up and leave.
  5. If your product or service meets their need, resolve any concerns they may have.
  6. If the prospect has not already asked you, then ask them for the business.
  7. If the prospect is not ready to purchase, set the agenda and discuss the next steps.
  8. Romance the sale and help the prospect feel comfortable with the solution you have mutually discussed.  Build value and close the sale when appropriate.

Remember, people buy from people they believe, like and trust.  One of the best ways of building that type of relationship is to understand their needs and to help them meet those needs.  And finally, telling isn’t selling.  People don’t want to be sold, they want to buy and they will buy from you when you discover their needs and provide a solution to those needs.  You won’t make every sale, no one does, but you will make far more sales by following the steps of this sales process than by any other way.