The Better You Get at Selling the Less You Appear Doing It
So much of what we call selling consists of making it hard for customers to buy. Not only is selling logically faulty, but worse it predisposes sales people to believe customers make decisions rationally. Customers do things they cannot explain as easily as they do things they do not understand.
"Selling as the art of persuasion is a concept whose time has come and gone. It is no longer profitable to persuade and convince customers to buy what they don't already want. Convincing is no longer a viable selling strategy," says Jacques Werth. Selling by its very nature so often produces the exact opposite effect. The harder you sell the harder it is to sell. Therefore, to effectively sell, resist the temptation to sell.
I once had a participant in one of my seminars have an epiphany about the archaic traditional sales strategies that far too many companies fruitlessly cling to. He said, "Selling is a great strategy to employ when someone does not want to buy, or cannot buy." In other words, most sales people are wasting a lot of effort in persuading prospective customers Moses could not sell. They are trying to sell someone they do not understand, may have little or no trust with, does not have problems, does not have a reason to change, and they are in no position to take action due to lack of authority or means.
Most traditional sales people are very good at a game no longer being played. They have perfected the ability to hit the target, but it is the wrong target. The way people buy, the way they make decisions, the way they select suppliers has dramatically changed. Yet, sales people continue to sell as if they were in a quaint Norman Rockwell painting; a glimmer in the eye, lots of personality and charm, a Colgate smile, plenty of information, lots of persistence and unending enthusiasm. This just does not work as well as it did in the past because of technology; Google and the Internet.
Most mainstream sales people are too good for their own good. They are persuasive and convincing without really knowing who to sell and who not to sell. They spend too much time and resources with the wrong opportunities and not enough with the right opportunities. They appeal to everyone and therefore appeal to no one. Average sales people use the aforementioned skill sets with average results and way above average levels of frustration. Their skills are outdated and cause a high level of feeling disenfranchised and isolated. Their strategies look like strengths, but in reality are weaknesses in today's information economy.
The better you get at selling the less you appear doing it. This is very difficult for traditional sales people to grasp. "My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions," says Peter Drucker.
Have you ever noticed that those who do not know cannot stop talking and selling. You actually gain leverage, control and influence by subordinating yourself so customers may talk more. However, if you think giving up an addiction like crack is difficult, try giving up your ego, or subordinating yourself to your customer's needs and priorities. "Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it," said Henry David Thoreau. The same can be said about selling when you sell from a customer-centric position, or a position without self-interest; you are looking out more for your customer than yourself.
The problem with traditional sales people is they are so intent on overselling their product information and so quick on solving problems that are not the real problems. When you have a strong need to get your sales points across, when you feel a close emotional bond to your offering, when you need recognition, affirmation and legitimacy, you demonstrate your own insecurities, and you go against the tenets of a customer-centric sales person.
Newsflash! The only person at the selling event who is being hypnotized and mesmerized by your information is yourself. It is like TV viewing. Once you get hooked, the more trivial, the more meaningless it is, the more addictive it becomes. If your information were truly interesting, valuable and thought-provoking, it would stimulate your customer to engage, interact and ask lots of meaningful questions. Alas, all it does is numb them and dumbfound them.
The alternative to the traditional company and product-centric approach is the non-selling posture. The non-selling posture does not rely on the traditional natural skill sets of charm, magnetic personality and abounding enthusiasm, that actually does not come naturally to a lot of sales people anyway. The non-selling posture is a learned and obtainable skill set. It is more introverted than the traditional extroverted skill sets of bygone years. It requires sales people to be prepared to be unprepared, because one approaches a customer with a blank agenda of nothing to prove or disprove, and an open mind to learn more about their customer's business, operation and pressing challenges. Traditional sales people's call objective is the exact opposite; they are at the selling event to have the customer have an open mind to learn more about their product, their solution and to be wowed by their expertise.