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Death of a Salesman

Traditional selling is built firmly on the foundation of confidence, boundless positive thinking, enthusiasm, unflagging persistence and always putting your best foot forward. This posture was effective in a bygone era where information was a powerful asset that salespeople brought to the table. In this marketplace, selling was predominantly a one-way street with information flowing from salesperson to prospect. Because information was relatively scarce and not always easily accessible, the salesperson’s role revolved mostly around being a trumpet of product and service information. Their mandate was to get people to like them and then to persuade them of the superiority of their offering. This model became less relevant with the advent of the information age.

Now salespeople are faced with steep competition, rapid commoditization, less loyalty, customers who have global choices and who are more accountable to the bottom line, have less time for salespeople, and have quicker and greater access to information. Salespeople no longer have the luxury of establishing their worth by bringing valuable information to the marketplace.

Now their value is measured in their ability to bring creative problem-solving strategies to the table. Therefore, all the aforementioned traditional sales characteristics of enthusiasm, influence, persistence and boundless energy have been negated or neutralized.

In the information era, the selling skill sets and strategies that generate performance and create value are very different. Because of globalization and many other trends, the marketplace demands that salespeople be creative problem identifiers, business strategists and innovative problem-solvers. The sales skills necessary to execute this new strategy are: questioning and listening, patience, the power of suggestion, building strong business cases, being a change agent and advising and counseling as a business strategist. Diminished in value are product knowledge, proof of concept, educating customers and aggressive dogged determination in the face of insurmountable odds.

To facilitate this new selling strategy you need to take a non-selling posture. A non-selling posture projects a neutral objective position that allows your prospect to have the freedom to self-discover their own problems independent of your own agenda. The days of hard-charging salespeople with guns blazing, cajoling and persuading their customers to jump ship are obsolete and archaic.

Because your job is to educate your prospects on their problems and help them define their own options and solutions, you’ll now have to rely heavily on questioning and listening skill sets to make you more productive and valuable.

To achieve understanding of your prospects' problems you’ll also have to be very sensitive in providing a non-threatening environment where they feel they can share emotionally charged issues that are possibly latent and sensitive in nature. This is how you build strong business relationships that are created by care and understanding.

We have learned from NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) that matching your prospect’s posture is critical in trying to create an environment that is favorable to change. According to the latest research in NLP, if your prospect is negative, you must also be a bit negative. If they are angry about a service issue, you must certainly not initially appear rosy and optimistic even if you can resolve their complaint easily. This definitely goes back to my original premise that so often what prospects really want is to be heard, understood and listened to. The best resolution of a complaint or the best solution, if delivered too quickly without the prospect having the chance to vent or be heard, will consistently prove to be nonproductive and ineffective.

We all see this in our personal relationships every day. In relation to personal communication, what is the #1 complaint women have with men? You got it… they don’t listen. But being an average guy I believe we do listen, we just don’t give the impression that we took the time to really listen to what was said before we tried to give a quick suggestion or a fix. Women, like prospects, aren’t looking for an answer as much as they are looking for someone who honors them by patiently listening and cares enough to allow them to get whatever they need off their chest. The “fixer” mentality doesn’t work in personal relationships and its lack of success is even more amplified in sales.

Too often prospects would rather forfeit the assistance they need from salespeople than to do it on our terms. A good strategy to combat this hurdle is to extend a gesture of good faith by being the first to cede control. In doing so, one hopes to empower the prospect to follow suit.

The non-selling posture is the art of not knowing what anything means. This non-intuitive strategy is very disarming, impartial and lets the prospect always save face and maintain their dignity. It helps you to minimize the fear of the unknown for your prospect and gives them the permission and the space to say “no” and to hear and follow their own guidance.

You need to demonstrate faith and confidence in your prospect’s ability to make decisions independent of your own agenda. The way you’ll do this is by being detached from a positive outcome. The more needy and attached we are to a sale, the more blinded we are to the reality of our prospect’s unique situation and needs. Prospects can sense this and this is why they can be very guarded with salespeople. So don’t trespass upon the prospect’s boundaries. Respect their boundaries and if they feel comfortable they may feel inclined to open up to you about their most pressing issues.

The non-selling posture will ultimately backfire and cause more harm than good if you use it as a slick selling technique without the authentic belief that you aren’t here to sell and you are here to learn and understand. You ultimately will be perceived as manipulative and self-centered. If you adopt a non-selling posture and you truly believe in your heart that you aren’t right for everyone, your price isn’t worth it for everyone and your quality product is suitable only in certain circumstances, then you’ll be perceived and trusted as an objective advisor and a nonbiased counselor working on behalf of your prospect’s needs and not your own best interests.

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.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com