Why what you think works does not… and what to do instead
Practical sales advice based on conversations between experienced training consultants Fred Copestake and Clare O’Shea
Fred – So here we are again, discussing ‘Don’ts’ . And this is one that you brought to the table, Clare, which ‘Don’t Sell’. I am looking forward to discussing this…
Clare – I spend a lot of my time encouraging persuading salespeople to just stop selling or at least to stop what they think is selling.
Many think that as they are a salesperson, their job is to sell, and therefore, the selling mindset is that you must be really good at persuading the customer to buy your products or services. They think it is a good idea because they know all about products and services and have got to tell the customer all about them as well.
They also think being focused on selling and the sales process means the are going to have to be much more focused on getting to the close. It is like getting to the close quicker means you are more effective as a salesperson. But in reality all you are likely to do is uses ‘closes ‘ quicker.
I think all of that I am thinking is flawed.
Fred – Just so I am understanding you’re defining ‘selling’ in that way like the old-fashioned ‘gift of the gab’ salesperson. Trying to talk customers round and using persuasion as a way of getting somebody to do something they might not even want to do. That is how you are using the word sell in this instance.
Clare – Yes. Even consultative salespeople, sometimes they fall into this selling trap. And managers do this a lot.
They will say, ‘Okay, this month we need to sell X, Y, Z’. And everyone goes into that selling mode, which is really kind of almost where you are trying to force the customer to buy something. They may or may not want it. It is an old fashioned way of selling that is a sort of a one hit wonder approach.
It is a bit of the ABC mentality. ‘Always Be Closing’. Good old Glengarry Glenross mindset. But sometimes, because of how we set target for salespeople, it is hard not to have that as a sales mindset. Even if you are trying to be consultative.
So again, with the mindset stuff, which I love, I believe it is trying to get people to think. Rather than being sales lead, think about being more client led. It is not about the sales process. It is about thinking about the customer’s process because they have got their own buying process and depending on where they are in that, a good salesperson can then adjust what they do. They should be focusing on aligning sales process, appropriate activity, to where the customer is at the buying processes.
If a salesperson has got the mindset of, ‘I am in selling mode, I moved them through the sales process. I do not need to develop a rapport, ask them questions, do some discovery, pitch a solution, handle objections, and close’ they will not be so effective.
If they adopt a mindset around what the customer trying to do, which is understanding if they have got a problem and searching for solutions, they will work much better. So just by help them with each of those stages it becomes more interactive rather trying to persuade or force to buy. It is about helping to make the best decision for the customer. Helping them to buy. And with that mindset, everything calms down a little bit. Arguably we do not get through the sales process as fast, but our bid to win ratio improves because we have a better understanding, and the customer is not so angry because we have just been talking at them and trying to force them to buy something.
Fred – The customers have their own process. And I guess in what we are seeing now is that customers are a lot more informed anyway. There’s huge amounts of information out there and they are using that and then moving themselves through a process because, you know, they are sentient, human beings can work a lot of stuff out themselves. And when they are involving a salesperson, because they are perhaps looking for options and looking for help with a specific thing, trying to drag them back in this process is just going to frustrate them. It is going to annoy them. They are effectively saying ‘Yes I know this anyway. You are just telling me stuff I already know. And actually I know more’.
Clare – Yes, recent research has shown that the customer may well be as much as 60% through their buying process before they even talk to a salesperson. So, they may well have got all a lot of information and they do not want to go back through the whole basics of it.
So see where they are and what help they want. Sometimes they just want options. Now, of course you can position your products and services within that. Truthfully and transparently because often what we are trying to do is position for the long-term sale. It is about helping the customer to buy one of the best solutions for them. And if you can justify that you are the right solution for them that is great. If you cannot justify why your product or service is right or indeed why it is a bit more money then actually it is probably not the right one. You should be able to justify it as a professional salesperson working with a customer in their best interests.
Fred – You just made me think of something else. Let’s say you are successful in what you are trying to which is move customers through your sales process as quickly as possible just to get them to the end point faster. You are then into conducting an exercise of objection handling because you have not done some of the other elements correctly.
Clare – You are right. If you push them through your process too quickly, all they end up doing is saying ‘Yes but it is too much money’. Whereas if, instead you follow where they are through their buying process and make sure you have demonstrated your understanding of what it is they want, you are in a better position.
Fred – Exactly.
Clare – And challenge them as well around the understanding. That is okay. For instance:
With those are some of the issues you have got, then here are some ideas, which one do you think fits better?
What are the pros and cons?
How could that impact you and so forth?
Here are some options and here is the pros and cons.
As a salesperson, you do not have to say you have got better product than you have. Obviously you are only selling you own products and services. But you can position your offer. You should understand from what the customer has said what you would recommend. It needs to be right for the job. All anybody wants is the right solution for them, that is relatively simple. The complexity is of course we need to understand exactly that is.
So, in summary, selling is not telling but being interactive. It is being focused on helping the buyer to buy. We can do this as salespeople by aligning with what the customer is doing in their buying process.
Fred – That is what we would understand as modern selling. Alignment with buyers to understand them better. Tell when you need to tell, ask when you need to ask. Share stuff, help them. If we do that, ironically, we are selling.
Clare O’Shea is Founder of Marlow Sales Academy
She was instrumental in the design of the first ever Qualifications in Sales back in 1998 with the first Institute of Professional Sales and continues that interest as Course Director for the CIM Certificate, Advanced Certificate and Programme Director for the Post Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Sales Practice
Clare specialises in helping salespeople to be more consultative and consultants to be more commercial, by developing the right mindset, process, tools and skills.
Fred Copestake is founder of Brindis, a sales training consultancy.
Over the last 22 years he has travelled round the world 14 times visiting 36 countries to work with over 10,000 salespeople.
His book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ looks at the evolving world of sales and sets out what salespeople need to do to refine their approach. It explores how to take things to the next level through understanding partnering intelligence and using the innovative VALUE Framework.