Can You Hear Me Now: Are You Irrelevant?
Sales people are faced with an identity crisis in the information economy. It reminds me of what Bette Midler was famous for saying, "Enough about me. What would you like to know about me?" Easy access to information has brought into question sales people's raison d'être (reason for being). A seller's nformation is no longer the gold standard. It no longer carries the day like it did in the Selectric typewriter era and word processing era. Information selling so often acts as a break, instead of an accelerator.
Sales people have to subject themselves to the equivalent of fiscal responsibility. They need to go on an information diet, and subject themselves to the tiresome task of information shedding. Brevity and economy are a virtue in the information economy.
What you have to say is not nearly as compelling as to what you have to hear from your customer. The shorter your information pitch, the more discriminating and selective you are in making your most relevant points, the bigger the emotional impact you will make because not a single word is wasted. "The secret to being a bore is to tell everything," said Dylan Thomas.
Information overload allows sales people to proudly take center stage, and enthusiastically and eagerly promote their products, and just as quickly buy them back because they could not keep their mouth shut. Being a "salesaholic" is a tough road with severe limitations. "Whenever you want to go home early from a sales call start talking about your business instead of your customers," says Mack Hanan.
Position, posture, make opening statements, say all you want, nothing really meaningfully happens until the customer is willing to trust you and discuss challenges and problems. Traditional information selling falsely pre-assumes that the customer has the ability to pre-diagnose, self-diagnose, self-discover and self-prescribe. Even if you can do the aforementioned, usually customers need someone to help them with context, actionability, timing and consequences.
Their willingness to let you in and help facilitate that process will be a telltale sign as to how much they value your advice. "Traditional sales people educate their buyers about their product assuming that the buyer can figure out for themselves how they would use the product. People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover," says Mike Bosworth.
Sales people talk about value, but rarely demonstrate it. And if they do demonstrate it they prematurely demonstrate it before the customer has a chance to demonstrate what problems they are having. Your customers are often better equipped to demonstrate your value than you are if you simply just let them. The problem becomes when the situation is not conducive for the customer to change and they give you answers that you do not want to hear.
The best ideas and selling points are ones that are strengthened by intelligent opposition and open discussion. Information sellers do not let this happen. Customers give us so many clear unobstructed signals, cues, and clues (verbally and nonverbally) as to what they are really feeling and thinking and we ignore them because we are great influencers, convincers and sellers.
One of the fatal flaws of information selling is it is not interactive. It relies on output, but very little input. It is a one-way street. You forfeit a connection with your customer. You might convincingly believe you are proving your point, but without first establishing trust and credibility, you will find that you are simply selling to yourself.
So often information selling appeals to only the intellect, instead of emotion. When the customer is not emotionally engaged you do not get to the real reasons for change. You usually only have superficial conversations that are devoid of depth and insight.
Conventional sales people approach most sales calls with prefabricated ideas that they try to hammer home, instead of a more fluid and flexible approach of bouncing ideas off their customer. By doing this they sign their own death warrant (sales mediocrity). Let the customer play their hand. They will not if they believe you are being heavy-handed. Usually their hand is more telling than yours.
I have a customer of mine who will bring on a new sales person and train them for three days on product knowledge and warn them if he hears any regurgitation of product information on future sales calls he will shoot them. He also uses a stop watch application on his iPhone and times how much time is spent on listening. Each new sales person is also given a stethoscope and told to use this as a metaphor and guiding light for their true role in a sales call.