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The Sins of Our Fathers

If you look up the word "sell" in Webster's dictionary the definition starts off with a pedestrian description (to transfer to sender) and gets more descriptive by the fourth and fifth definition (to promote, to persuade), and by number nine through thirteen it gets downright nasty (to cheat,dishonorable,improper,to betray, hoax). Wow!

This is not any revelation or startling discovery for anyone in sales. We all know we are on notice as a profession. So often we are perceived guilty unless proven otherwise.

If you were to play a word game with the general public where you were to describe the profession of sales, the descriptions you would get back would be more appalling than the descriptions from Webster's dictionary.

Yet most sales people and sales organizations operate and position their offering as if they were in a vacuum. They sell their wares as if there is not massive distrust in the marketplace. They position their products as if there is not this heavy burden of proof that they have to carry around. They are in incredible denial.

You can call me dense, you can call me iconoclastic, but I see very little constructive in the way most conventional sales organization position their offerings.

To my way of thinking a one-sided approach, a company-centric and product-centric approach in the information economy just does not carry the day anymore like it used to.

The act of selling and the role of the sales person has gotten so far away from its original intent, not that the original intent was so noble in the first place. Selling in its simplest form is an exchange of ideas. However, somewhere along the line it got corrupted into this giddy, grandiose, one directional pollution of useless information. Mainstream sales people pollute and customers return the favor with equally useless polluted information. It is one big cluster fest.

Sales organizations are responsible for launching preemptive strikes by going on a self-appointed mission and crusade to change the "hearts and minds" of the buying universe. Selling is not about spreading the good word or evangelizing. That domain is covered sufficiently by the politicians; the ultimate offenders. And let us not forget Google.

To exacerbate the problem sales people try to build credibility by getting customers to like them so that they can more easily disseminate their information with authenticity and authority. Do not get me wrong this still works to some degree. If it didn't, I would be out of a job.

However, this information assault makes for an unremarkable and unmemorable experience for customers. It also lacks a human face.

The idea of getting people to like you consistently, who are from all different walks of life, interest, personalities, and levels of status is an unrealistic and inefficient way to sell.

The next idea of getting people who like you to believe all your stuff, and act on it is even more absurd. And the idea that all the stars are properly aligned that they have the authority, the influence, the proper timing, and the dough to execute it is really the ultimate in Disneyland thinking. Only 2 to 2.98 percentage of sales people have the natural charisma, charm, and leadership skills to sell to break through all the variables that determine whether a sale will be made or not.

We are asking traditional sales people to do the impossible. That is why this profession has extraordinary turnover. That is why this profession has a huge gap between those who have and those who do not have. That is why there is so much frustration with business owners who do not get why their stuff is not flying out of the door.

If you sell this way, and roughly 98% of all sales people use information and likability as their main weapons, you better be a truly gifted individual.

This style of selling requires the greatest amount of intuition and untrainable tactics. Either you have it or you do not. Keep in mind most of us "ain't got it," including myself.

The simplest way to sell is to cease selling. Create trust, motive to change, credibility, and authenticity by letting the customer find their own answers by the quality of your questions and intent to understand, instead of being understood. Be problem oriented first, then solution oriented. Don't put the cart before the horse.

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