The Heavier You Sell the Less Weight Your Words will Hold
So much can go awry by being an information pusher in the Digital Age. Orthodox sales people perceive selling with thought-provoking questions to be too risky. They thrive on being in control and centerstage. The lure and the pull of ego satisfaction is so strong that anything counter to product selling is considered too daunting and risky. In the Digital Age if sales people are to remain relevant they will need to practice more self-censorship and suspend over-indulged, rhetorical skills that had once flourished in the Post-Industrial Era, but are no longer. Being full of bellow and buster is so yesteryear.
The fact that customers have access to unlimited information before they have met you changes the whole dynamics of a sales call. The odds are that customers know a lot more about you than you know about them. Sales people no longer bring exclusive fresh information to the table. The age of the consumer essentially changes the value sales people used to wield when they had a virtual monopoly on information that customers wanted and could not get easily.
Because of all this, the old tricks of the trade of high pressure, obnoxious persistence, annoying enthusiasm, alternative closes, assumptive selling and personal charm have all been tossed out the window. They no longer work as well when sales people are not in control of critical information needed to transfer knowledge. They also do not work well when customers now control if and when you ever get hold of them.
More often than not, sales people's information contaminates rather than enlightens. As long as you impose your ideas on another you reduce your ability to communicate your value. "A fool tells you his reasons. A wise man persuades you with your reasons," -Anonymous. Conventional selling is based on the absolute premise of telling customers what to think, instead of how to think. Your job is not to transfer value or information, but to create and translate value as to how problems impact or do not impact your customer's business. Anything else other than unbiased context, counsel and perspective will often be viewed by customers as a shallow attempt to influence their buying decisions.
Information selling (product pitching) is using the wrong means for the right end, thereby the right ceases to be. The means is destroying the end. Your ability to influence with information has diminished currency in the Digital Age. "It's not what you don't know that can get you into trouble, it's what you know for sure that ain't so," said Mark Twain.
Unbeknownst to mainstream sales people is the idea that their product offering is not a motivator or satisfier by itself. When one sells with an over-reliance on information, one reduces their offering to just "product placement" or "vending" which so often results in pure commoditizatation.
Too often sales people have a psychological dependence on their product information. They are shameless, information, carpet bombers. These hard-line feature and benefit sellers are attached to their products like white on bread. They lose their authority and independent position when they recklessly spray and pray.
So be a minimalist, not a maximalist. Besides heroin, sex and food addiction are the toughest addictions to crack because you can never fully go cold turkey. Information addiction is the same thing. It is counterproductive and foolhardy to fully give it up, yet very difficult to bring it into balance.
The key is not to give customers more information. The key is to get them to look at things differently, creatively, with new filters and to find the truth of their situation, not the truth of your product's superiority. So do not talk about new truths and new information. Just have customers communicate the frustrations that they are having with their challenges and their misgivings about changing. Again, show them how to think, instead of what to think. Customers do not like to be swayed by unreliable sources who are inducible, interested parties.
The customer truly has all the answers. The cards they hold are so much more revealing and more important than the cards sales people hold. When the customer is overburdened with information and knowledge they become less capable of true discovery.
"In computer jargon, when your hard drive becomes overwhelmed with too much information it is said to be fragmented or fragged. Today the rapid and unsettling pace of change has left us more fragged," says Tom Hayes. Sales people are fragging their customers to death. "Talking about solutions minimizes customer's problems – it makes them hurt less; and you demonstrate that urgency isn't important because you don't demonstrate a sense of urgency," says Chris Mott.
The less effort in selling the better. Give your customers the autonomy, through guided self-knowledge, the ability to find their own answers. The answers they can find themselves thru the quality of your facilitation (questions) can be limitless and unimpeachable. The direct answers you can provide them are restricted and potentially suspicious.
The more knowledge customers get from a self-serving seller, the more ignorant they become in making informed choices, and the more likely they will be armed to the teeth to object. "When you tell customers about your value it's definitely seen as selling and therefore whatever value you suggest it is, the customer is likely to reduce its value because they will assume it is likely exaggerated to make the sale. The second problem is it leaves it up to the customer to translate that value into elements relevant to their business and their job responsibilities," says Jeff Thull. Let the customer define the value of their problem through the quality of your questions, not through you defining the value of your solution.