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If You Are in Sales, Stop Selling!

July 29, 2010 / Comments (0)

And before you commit me to the happy home, I am not saying that sales is not about results and ideally overachieving them. So bear with me while I share a few concepts with you.

Many years ago while I was a sales manager (in nappies) one of my team of great sales staff said to me, “Aldo, have you ever wondered why we humans have two ears and one mouth?” Well, you get the message; in one word “Listen”! That set me on another excellent path of discovery landing me in a place that is all about listening and feeling, or putting myself in the customers’ shoes. I am so privileged to have worked and continue to engage with so many great people whose pearls of wisdom have triggered the ongoing awakening of my being.

We have so many times heard this cliche, “put yourself in your customers shoes”. But do we actually believe it? Do we actually truly listen to what the customer has to say? Or are we driven by the latest product launch and cannot wait to vomit this new found knowledge all over our prospect, totally losing them along the way. And I am not saying product knowledge is not important, it is vital.

I’ll tell you another thing that I have learnt along the way. Sales people who talk too much go through a process of unselling. In this mode, we impart so much information onto the poor unsuspecting prospect that they feel bewildered, inept and rather threatened by their lack of knowledge, preferring instead to politely exit the scene with a few brochures and “let me think about that”, undoubtedly never to be seen again.

A simple example is the person that walks into a car showroom and says to the sales person, “every day, I have been admiring that car, while on the bus to work, as we passed this showroom. I am here to work-out a deal”. Now, the sales person, sensing blood gets excited and start “up selling” (another very dangerous sales process if done recklessly). He takes the brochure and starts optioning-up, talking about V6, direct rail injection, turbo charged, after sales package, tinted windows, etc….. The excited customer is now totally overwhelmed at the complexity of buying a car and walks home needing a rest! Rather, all the sales person had to do is “work-out a deal” as the customer indicated.

Obviously, there was another option if one wanted to upsell, and that is to “step into the customer’s shoes” asking the right questions so that the customer gets engaged, starts talking and (as customers always do) tell the sales person those things that are truly relevant to him, for the sales person to upsell towards. So I agree with upselling but this needs to be done from an empathetic space and not a “let’s see how much I can get him to spend” space.

So stop selling and start listening.

Usually customers meet you or come to you because they are in the buying process and they are looking for the best value for their money. They might not always articulate it in this way and there are some that, try as you will, will never be your customers, as their value needs do not fit your business value-add. This heightens further the importance for good dialogue with your customer. If it is the case, be prepared to admit upfront that you are probably not able to meet their value requirement. Trying to deliver what your business is not structured for is a receipt for disaster, because even if you win the sale, you probably end-up with an unhappy customer.

On the other hand, once you have given the customer the opportunity to openly share his needs and let’s say, you cannot meet their value equation, and you are prepared to say so, amazing things happen. The pressure of the sale is gone and then usually the customer is perplexed that you are walking away from a sale and will ask why. This is the best opening for you now to talk and truly explain the intrinsic value-add of your business/product.

In some circles they call it “solution sales” which I find exceedingly humorous. As, are we saying that in the car case above, we were not selling a solution? Whether it is a car, a home, an iPad, or a corporate purchase, the customer has a problem or at least a need. If we are prepared to truly listen, we are able to hear from the customer what his needs and priorities are and this is where the product knowledge comes in (as well as the organizational and industrial). This is where, once we have listened and listened and listened, we are able to then articulate the vision of a solution as sometimes the solution and the value-add is beyond the product itself. Maybe it is financing, maybe it is the finish, maybe it is the customer service, maybe it is something that is so easy for you to supply that you would never have thought of promoting and is so critical to the customer that you have an easy sale on your hands.

Maybe you do not have the answer and are comfortable enough to tell your customer that you would get back to them once you have thought through their needs and have a tailored offer for them. Maybe it simply is that car in the showroom.

I cannot give you the answer and neither are you able to come-up with it. But if you truly listen the customer will certainly tell you, and you will easily over-achieve your target and end up with a trail of happy customers.

Happy Listening (selling).

Last modified: March 27, 2018

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