Without Being Evil
Conway Daily Sun, April 28, 2010
By Michael Kline, the Entreprenologist
All sales people are evil, selling skills are the devils work, and there awaits, a special place in hell for people who recruit sales people and teach sales skills to others. Ironically, the people who are closest to agreeing with this view point often work in sales and don’t know it. Oh, you know who you are – you work in a business office, medical or legal office, retail store, food service, hotel, attraction, or you work in customer service and you don’t like sales and don’t want to be called a salesperson. First, let’s clear the air before we argue semantics because we have differing views on what it means to be “selling” something. A properly trained, professional sales person establishes what their customer needs, then uses their products or services to see if they can find a solution to the customer’s problem. Sounds like a doctor, therapist or consultant to me! That’s why we sometimes call it “consultative selling”. The successful salesperson knows they must always provide more in value than they take in money from their customer. That’s a difficult principle for some to grasp, but it is the shortest path to happiness and riches. A salesperson should never be a pushy, aggressive, manipulative con-artist trying to make people buy something the neither want nor need; rather quite the opposite.
Let’s dispel some more negative perceptions about sales. We all have wildly different personality types, communication styles and strong biases toward our way of thinking. A passive communicator, who just wants to make everyone happy, may dislike or even fear an aggressive salesperson. The aggressive (as opposed to the appropriately assertive) salesperson is not evil, but they may be misguided and do a disservice to their company whether they succeed in selling something or not.
However, a customer with a strong personality, wanting bottom-line answers to make a buying decision is just as underserved by the merchant so afraid to be pushy, they won’t help him buy.
You can’t help a customer who won’t tell you what they want. They won’t tell you what they really want until you engage them and establish some trust. This is fair and reasonable in our cynical world, but it is difficult to intelligently engage if you don’t speak the same language. You will not recognize even major points of the customer needs, much less small clues that hint at what the customer is really looking for. When we have different personality and communication styles, we are speaking different “languages”. Fortunately, unlike my CD-Rom French lessons, these languages are easily learned (Hint: and taught in my seminars). We need to learn our own communication styles and learn to recognize our customer’s styles to speak their language to be of the highest possible service to them.
No one loves to be sold, but everyone loves to buy. A professional salesperson will help, counsel and guide but never push; they are honest, trustworthy and deserving of the customer’s business. Yes, it may feel like walking a tight rope since it is technically your job to convince a customer to buy. Sales training is about learning the process of Service-First selling; the art of intelligent engagement, trust building and providing more value than you take in payment. If this is done properly, the prospect should come to the same conclusion you do and not need cajoling. In truth, “the close” is a step in the process you don’t need if the earlier part of the process is well executed.
Because selling is a process, to increase sales, we need only to identify which step(s) of the sales process need improvement. Fortunately, we have a management system to help us pinpoint the opportunity for increase, whether you are targeting the wrong prospects or too few prospects, or if it is the product, its price, or a lack of follow-up, etc. Many sales people think they closed a sale, but then it falls apart; this is almost totally avoidable with the proper sales system in place. Just about anyone can learn this process and provide the Service-First sales experience for their customers and create more success for themselves.
According to the IBM Institute, companies who win have “simple goals repeatedly revisited, together with clear target and strong follow-through, including the measurement of results”. Large organizations provide this support and structure. If you don’t have the luxury of educational and motivational sales meetings, or frequent sales training and re-training, constant improvement is a lonely and difficult mission.
To help fill this void for the independent local business, I have created two resources – seminars and Mastermind groups. For seminars, I recommend Service-First Sales Remedies and Advanced Sales and Management. Then, consider joining one of our Mastermind Groups forming this summer for a weekly meeting with peers from non-competing businesses to keep your continuing education and motivation going. The next seminar is scheduled in N. Conway on June 22nd. Reserve a seat online at www.klineseminars.com.
With the possible exception of the woman who attacked me with cologne at the mall last week, sales people are no more or less likely to be evil than anyone else. Help abolish the too passive or too aggressive sales problems by getting yourself and your staff trained in Service-First Selling.