Common Problems, Miscues, Foibles, Deceptions & Illusions
Sales people face a host of problems every day when out in the field. Each year the problems become more severe as sales people are being rendered less relevant by savvy customers and technology. In the information economy the customer is king. Most sales organizations have not retooled their sales message and value to accommodate this stark reality.
Today, customers obviously have more choices to get needed information and have access to more information than ever before. Simply showcasing one's offering is no longer cutting it for customers. To get the attention of customers sales people have to transition from an idea driven process to a discovery driven process. They need to be more customer- centric and problem-centric, and less solution and company-centric.
The following highlights some of the fallacies of traditional selling and the dynamic truths of a more progressive and modern sales approach that customer-centric sales people should embrace:
- Customers want to be understood, yet so do sales people. The sales person's behavior demonstrates that it is more important for the customer to understand the sales person than vice versa. A clash of egos ensues. We know who usually wins out here.
- Traditional sales people use information as a blunt tool for selling, instead of a tool for inquiry. One should use their information primarily as a tool to get more information. You are paid and rewarded for your questions not your answers. If customers do not value your questions they usually will not value your answers.
- Sales people are too focused on selling the strengths of their offering, instead of focusing their time and their effort on the weaknesses their customers are experiencing with their most pressing business challenges and issues. They reverse the natural order of how clients make decisions.
- The unique selling propositions (USP) of all companies and sales people are essentially the same, or at least perceived to be the same by customers. They might as well call it their unique commoditization proposition (UCP). They are all unique just like everyone else. They are all selling the exact same differences.
- If the customer has no problems, then for all intents and purposes the sales person has very little to sell. Too often sales people are not probing deeply for problems and consequences. Remember, if the customer has no problems you have a big problem.
- Inherently they believe they can help everyone, and they believe that their conviction and enthusiasm carries a lot of weight. The fatal flaw with this reasoning is it discourages sales people from getting the unique perspective of their customers. This results in poor insight and total lack of understanding the customer's most pressing priorities. Sales people who can help customers are a dime a dozen. Sales people who truly understand their customer's operations and their problems are priceless.
- Sales people do not realize that their solution is only as good as the other options available to their customers. What they bring to the table has no inherent worth or value by itself. Their value proposition is valueless until the customer defines the value of their problems.
- They position their offering for gain, advantage, success, progress, benefit and their customers change and buy to alleviate problems, insecurity, failure, loss, risks, liabilities and fear. Too often they are selling the exact opposite way that their customers are buying.
- They position their offering logically, intellectually, rationally and their customers change and buy intuitively, instinctively and emotionally. Again, too often they are selling the exact opposite way that their customers are buying.
- They do not realize that at its core, selling is a quest for the truth and reality. Unfortunately, they too often only care about their truth. The customer's truth is the only truth that matters. Sales people do not find the truth because they truly believe they can create the truth. Hogwash! Only 2% of the selling population can achieve that consistently.
- Too many conventionally trained sales people are emotionally invested in the outcome of the sale which clouds their objectivity and damages their credibility. The sales person with the least emotional investment in the outcome of the sale will sell circles around the most pumped up, externally optimistic and excited sales person.
- Sales people put way too much emphasis on their power of persuasion, their ability to convince and their mastery of selling. Whereas, selling in many cases is more about being very discerning and discriminating in selecting, sifting, sorting and disqualifying. The more emphasis you put on your power of persuasion, the less information you will get from your customer. So if you are going to rely on the power of persuasion you better be awfully damn good!
- Too many conventional sales people are oblivious to the fact that the information economy (Google) has essentially neutralized and marginalized their traditional value proposition of bringing information to the table, and being a virtual monopoly on information customers need to make buying decisions. Sales people's only remaining and sustainable value is their ability to build a business case for change, not a product case. Customers do not need more content (product information), they need more context (insight and unbiased expert advice). That often has very little to do with a seller's solution.
- They do not realize that the profession of sales is more about who you are and how you conduct yourself, than by what you say and the ideas you espouse.
- Most sales people do not realize that customers do not care about them. The only person customers care about is themselves; rightfully so. The only person that cares about the sales person is their mother; rightfully so.
- They are by nature forward thinking and optimistic and want to immediately take the customer to the future where they can envision them using their product. However, all the real action in sales is found in the past and sales people do not like to get their hands messy and delve into the uncomfortable past of their customer's problems where all the answers and truths lie.
- Traditional sales people do not realize that the best sales person at the selling event is the customer. They have the inside track, they have the most access to the critical information. Let them sell you on whether it is in their best interest to change or take action.
- Too often they sell with naïve optimism, enthusiasm and unbridled excitement, instead of being an attractor, they become a detractor. It is difficult for congenitally upbeat sales people to be viewed as anything else. How can you be that way and be viewed at the same time as a trusted business advisor? It is very difficult to be upbeat and at the same time be talking about your customer's "downbeat" problems. It is also very difficult to be a personality seller and at the same time a business relationship seller.
- They do not realize that selling in its purest form is effortless and less about the "push" and more about the "pull."
- They do not realize that all information in the sales call is hypothetical. They have very little awareness of the fallibility of perception. They do not employ any checks and balances, and strict tools of validation of the customer's information and feedback. Too often they are left with their tails between their legs due to a lack of proper disqualification.
- Mainstream sales people too often are engaged in endless, frenetic activity and pin most their hope and survival on nonstop chatter and persistence. They will do anything to fill any possibility of silence or self-reflection. Their approach is self-referential and supercharged by enthusiastic product pitching.
- They often do not know that the "eureka" or "aha" moment in sales for the customer is the moment when the obstructions to the realization of the truth have been made. Selling is not about so much as providing new information, as it is about removing the barriers to understanding, reality and the truth.
- They do not realize that their only sustainable value and competitive edge is with customers who truly value their unbiased insight and their comprehensive business acumen around their business and their problems. If they are not willing to invest their valuable time to meet or have a personal conversation with the sales person, then the sales person's position has been severely marginalized and neutralized.
- Too often they believe customers owe them something. Whether it is a returned call, promptness, respect, careful consideration or loyalty. We live in a world where social mores are changing rapidly and instant communication is breaking many traditional norms of civility. Sales people who operate under the tenet that they are owed nothing and they have the attitude "it is business not personal," tend to keep their wits about themselves, while so many others are calling foul and being demoralized.
- They do not realize that in order to gain control you must give up control. Customers are always feeling as if they are being controlled so they turn the table on sales people and return the favor.
- They consistently fall into the trap where they are far more enthusiastic in their selling than their customers are enthusiastic in their buying. There must be balance in sales to have business equality.
- They do not realize that in order to show a customer what is right for them, it helps greatly to first show them what is wrong, because customers in general hate to lose more than they love to win.
- They believe their job is to sell. Their job is first and foremost to understand. Customers rarely trust sales people who they do not believe they understand them.
- They believe in the archaic, old school way of selling that people buy from people they like. No need for any further discussion! This is just pure hogwash! The new tenet is people buy from people who they trust and respect, and who take the time, have the inclination and care enough to really understand their issues in a unique way, allow them a different perspective and let them come to their own answers independent of the seller's agenda.
- They are not aware that first and foremost they should be a business person who sells, not a sales person who sells.
- They do not realize that in order to establish and define their value in the eye's of their customers, they first must establish the cost, consequences and ramifications of the absence of value in the customer's business. The absence of value is directly related to the size and pressing nature of their problems.
||Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.