An important revelation: I’m not particularly fond of salespeople.
Perhaps this sounds odd considering I’ve spent years in a selling role and leading sales teams, but being sold to isn’t appealing to me. I much prefer receiving specific, compelling information that will help drive me toward an informed decision.
Sales organizations where salespeople are expected to sell all parts of their product and/or offering without listening to what the prospect or customer really requires is, frankly, just poor selling.
As a customer, I do understand that I’m expected to hear why your company is different and why you believe in your product and/or service; however, I shouldn’t be expected to listen to anything that doesn’t address the problem I’m attempting to resolve. And, more importantly, I don’t require your entire sales organization coming to me in person selling me what I don’t want — also known as the dog-and-pony show.
In my experience, the characteristics of a less-than-successful salesperson include poor listening skills; not understanding the problem at hand; and focusing on winning the deal, not the longer-term relationship. Alternatively, the characteristics of a successful salesperson include listening to the problem; understanding the impact not only to the individual, but the overall organization; and the commitment toward a long-term partnership that will help to address the short-term problem and the longer term goals.
Here’s a real-world example of a good sales experience. I recently purchased a car and will admit that my experience was positive. I made a point to conduct research about the car I wanted. Upon my arrival at the dealership, I knew enough at this point that I was prepared to walk away if my expectations were not met.
The salesman who assisted me started the conversation by asking me what I hoped to achieve by the time I walked out of the dealership. I responded by telling him the car I was shopping for, the research I’d done and the dollars and deal I was attempting to close.
At this point, when many salespeople might attempt to upsell or start providing financial advice, my salesman suggested we test drive the car, see how I liked it, and if at that point I remained interested, we’d then sit down and discuss options.
As I was test driving the car, in addition to discussing features, he asked me why I’d chosen the car I did, what about it addressed my requirements and what specific questions about the car he could answer to ensure I felt good about my decision.
After the test drive, I knew I wanted the car, so we moved on to the deal. This is never the fun part of car buying; however, throughout the process this salesman offered a couple of options and after my second rejection, he finally asked, “What do you want in order to walk away with a new car?” He actually stated that he wasn’t going to waste my time haggling and he’d prefer I give him a number and terms and he’d try to make it happen.
Low and behold, within 15 minutes, he came back ready to close the deal — without any other managers trying to pressure me to accept something else.
The moral of this story is that he listened and repeated what he thought he heard (and he was correct). He cared about what I wanted. He didn’t marvel in the chase and cared about the win-win for both parties. Finally, he didn’t feel the need to bring his sales management skills to impress me with any “here’s what we can do for you” tactics.
I understand there are moments when salespeople are energized by the sound of our voices and our passion for the win. However, we can also get in our own way if we fail to keep the fundamentals of selling at the forefront.
Remember, it’s not about just winning the deal; it’s about earning the respect of your client, which will drive future opportunities and further wins.