I have been a professional salesperson for forty-four years. That fact alone entitles me to speak candidly about salespeople and selling.
To set the stage, let me reveal several sales truths and observations I have made. First, most salespeople are just average in their skills and subsequent success. Second, about ten percent of salespeople should do themselves a favor and leave the profession. Third, ten percent of salespeople are really good at making sales, but only half of those are honest and ethical. Finally, my wife doesn’t’t like salespeople due to her frequent contact with those who should have never entered the profession, the eighty percent who are average and finally, her unintended contact with those few who are unethical.
Here is my list of basic truths regarding buyers. First, most buyers are average in their skills and are focused on lowest price, disregarding value. Second, similar to salespeople, ten percent of buyers should find another profession. Third, ten percent of buyers are really good at their job, but only half of those do so with honesty and integrity. Finally, professional buyers are similar to both you and me – they don’t want to be sold, but they do want to buy. One final thought about buyers. The reason they buy is to solve a problem, meet a need, or eliminate pain. If at least one of those three reasons doesn’t exist, buyer’s don’t need salespeople.
I’ve shared my perspectives regarding salespeople and buyers. Now I’m going to convey a few time-tested and proven methods of selling outside of the traditional “sales box”. I’m referring to those sales activities implemented by the eighty percent of average salespeople. I’ll list each method and refer to its principle base for application.
- Don’t begin a sales interaction by telling. Telling isn’t selling. When salespeople begin with telling, they lose all credibility with the prospective buyer. Remember, the only reason salespeople exist is to solve a problem, meet a need, or eliminate pain. If you start telling before you have discovered the buyer’s situation, you’re a fraud. That is a harsh term, but it is true. The buyer may be expecting you to tell them all about your products or services and if you do, you’ll be just like every other average salesperson. You are selling outside the box when you diagnose the need and then present a solution. Become a doctor of sales: diagnose, prescribe, treat.
- Don’t sell anything. Remember, buyers don’t want to be sold, they want to buy. Yet, average salespeople are totally focused on selling; buyers are going to naturally resist that approach. Why do you think salespeople hear the word “no” so often? When a salesperson begins by selling, the buyer begins by tuning the salesperson out. He may act polite, but he is not truly listening. Give the buyer the opportunity to choose your product as the best solution to their problem. If you want to sell outside the box, don’t sell, but rather, present solutions to problems and let the prospect choose to buy your solution.
- Build relationships for the long-term. The most effective and profitable sales have a long-term focus. Develop the relationship at the beginning by focusing on the individual and by discovering their needs. Don’t wait until they have committed to buy before you gain their trust; by then it’s too late. Don’t forget, people buy from people they believe, like, and trust. They naturally resist being sold, so allow them to buy from someone they believe in and trust.
- Learn their business from the inside out. Seek to know as much about what they do and how they make a profit as they know. Learn all you can in order to gain their trust and confidence. Your perspective in analyzing their needs, wants and desires will provide a fresh and unique approach. Your point of view will have credibility with them and may be just what they are looking for. The ultimate objective for those salespeople who want to sell outside the box should be to become a partner with the buyer, a trusted advisor and confidant.
- The salesperson, their products and company are not the focus of sales. The focus must be totally on the buyer, their needs, situation and company. Buyers don’t really care about salespeople. They care about solutions. Never take your focus off of the prospect. If you become the focal point, forget the sale. The very best salespeople understand selling is, and always will be, all about the buyer. As you focus on the person, the needs and their company, it will be as though you are courting them. Selling is very similar to the world of romance. Let your actions demonstrate how much you care about them and solving their problems. A buyer focused sales approach is one more method of selling outside the box.