It's to Your Advantage Not to Appear to have One
I had a seminar participant tell me that she embraced her version of the non-selling posture a few years ago on her own when she came to the honest and humbling realization that she wasn't a naturally gifted sales person (glib and charming). Once she came to that realization she then relied on her own organic sales strategy of really taking the time to understand the customer from their unique vantage point.
She went from being selling-centric to customer-centric. She now feels she can compete directly with the best of the naturals with having limited persuasion skill sets in the classic sense. Her approach embodies the non-selling posture of creating an environment where customers are more comfortable sharing sensitive information, where they want to be understood and not be sold.
Orthodox sales people are constitutionally incapable of making a sales call be exclusively about their customer. Because of their desire to play the role of Chief Influencer Officer and because of their monetary aspirations they lack an essential "critical eye." They don't best represent their customer's needs. In a court of law they'd be charged with prosecutorial misconduct.
When sales people adopt a pragmatic mindset of nothing to lose, nothing to gain, they free themselves up to see and hear a lot more than they normally would, and to dramatically increase the flow of information from customers. Like any good outside advisor they present their customers with every side of an argument that is for or against changing. This takes a lot of confidence, self-discipline and a scarcity-free mindset.
It takes a certain amount of something like moral courage to guide a customer in a different direction that doesn't support your selling agenda, or to tell them that the reasons for wanting to buy or change with your company may not be the best thing for them based on their stated objectives. It's amazing how a sense of increasing normalcy of conversation with customers can be achieved when you have a simple objective process of approach and retreat.
Traditional sales people generally are very stingy in granting any kind of concessions to customers about their product, their capacity to fix their exact problem, their competitor's competencies, etc. Unfortunately, they miss out on the reciprocal concessions that can granted to them from customers; reality, truth and trust. Being candid, transparent and forthcoming is woefully absent in most sales calls.
"People say stuff to him that you can't imagine them saying to anyone else," said Ira Glass of comedian and talkshow host Mark Marmon. He goes on to say, "They freely offer what's on their mind, they want to give it to him because he's so bare, he wills it forward. This type of vulnerability and transparency is what customers respond well to when being asked thought-provoking questions. This is the signature piece of the non-selling posture.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, "It takes two to speak the truth." One to talk and one to listen. The greatest enemy of selling is the illusion of it. Sales people go through one-way conversations thinking they know the truth of the customer's situation without any confirmation. They don't feel they need to listen or ask questions because they already believe they can safely guess what the customer's problems are.
Expectation free selling eliminates this false assumption because sales people aren't hamstrung by the burden that they know without a shadow of doubt that they have the best solution available. It's very liberating to transfer the burden of proof to the customer to validate the value of their problems. Let them do the validating, not you. They will go through the validating process only if they trust you and believe that they will get value from it.
It's to one's advantage not to appear to have an advantage. This is pure nonsense for traditional sellers. Old-school sellers sell with absolute authority and certainty, and customers feel left out in the process because they weren't co-creators of the discovery and solution phases. These sellers are totally uncomfortable with the unknown. They sell in a very limiting world of the known where there is no gray areas and their solution reigns (rocks).
Selling is more about being a fair and unbiased critic, than being a godsend or a savior. Customers need more critical thinking from the sales person before they'll accept them as their savior. "When you're operating with high intent, which is only to help (not sell stuff), the truth is only thing you have to work with. You need to create a space where your customer feels safe to tell you the truth. Most customers are afraid to tell you the truth because they feel you'll turn into a whimpering pool of goo or a crazy stalker," says Bill Caskey.