When you think of “sales” or “selling,” what’s the first word that comes to mind?
When I was asked to lecture on sales at a prominent Australian educational institution I posed this question as part of my workshop.
“Pushy” was the most popular adjective, followed by other charming descriptors like “yuck,” “annoying,” “slimy,” “manipulative” and “sleazy.”
Out of the 25 most common words, I found that only five had positive connotations.
So, what sparked me to ask such a question? It was 8:30 am and I had completed my set up and pre-course checks to deliver my “Importance of sales in education” workshop. I was sitting mid way up the auditorium checking emails on my phone when delegates began to arrive. Before I could greet them a lady sat beside me and said “so, you were made to come on this sales training thing also! my boss thinks its a waist of time, really, what has sales got to do with education!!”. At this point a gentleman behind said “yeah, lets see what kind of guy comes through that door!!!”
I waited where I was until all my delegate were seated around me joining in on the “bashing sales people” conversations. When it was 9 am I stood up, took out my clicker from my pocket, clicked on the introduction slide and said “right, shall we get started?” Oh my god!!! In unison I had 20 people all trying to back peddle with excuses as to how they didn’t mean it….
Every profession has rotten apples, so why do people harbor a special hatred for sales?
I believe the answer lies in the “olden days” (as my daughter calls the time when I grew up) – you know, when people didn’t bury their heads into their smartphones.
Before mobile phones, search engines and social media became the source of all truth, sales people were the owners of product information. Several smarmy salespeople took advantage of this lopsided situation by conning customers in order to maximise their commissions.
But times have changed.
Today, the customer dictates the selling process, often having more information about a product than the seller. If not empathetic toward customer desires, you are mercilessly culled.
Successful sellers respect this shift in power by working hard to indulge their customers.
Clearly, sales has morphed from being a purely transactional process to becoming a customer-centric journey.
Therefore, it’s time to retire the notion that sales – when done right – is a dirty word. Here are five reasons why:
1. Sales is Connection
“Best way to sell something – don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.”
My first stint in sales was a disaster but very eye opening. It was in a recession in Ireland when I had returned from the UK as a hotel manager and could not find a job. So, like many people do, I decided to get a job in sales until I could land a “proper job”….. I sold life assurance, door to door on commission only. My mentor was among the highest-ranking salespeople of that company.
I now realise why he had such drastically different results to the less successful sales guys: he treated customers like humans; they treated them like dollar signs.
They were primarily concerned about getting the commission, but he was focused on fostering trust. I have seen him spend an extra 20 minutes to really investigate what was right by the customer and sell a less profitable policy as a result.
Is it any surprise that customers loved him?
When you are a caring confidant – and not a cagey seller – buyers will reward you with their time, attention and money.
2. Sales is Service
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway”
“Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. – Chip Bell”
From simple things like remembering the name of a customer’s dog to more involved gestures like working all weekend on an urgent request, the good business’s ensure that their customers feel heeded, honored and looked after.
You don’t have to own a million dollar brand to show a similar interest toward your customers. When you sell from a place of knowledge and kindness, your customers will respond favorably.
In sales, thoughtful expertise will consistently win customers over!
3. Sales is Universal
“The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is, you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.” – Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
Have you convinced an employer to hire you?
Have you cajoled your child into taking a bath?
Have you trained your dog to pee outside?
Congratulations – you are a salesperson!
Sales, at its core, is persuasion: utilising an enticing combination of emotion and logic to negotiate a win-win situation for both the parties. Unknowingly, we engage in such give and take all the time.
If you an entrepreneur, you are a salesperson.
If you are a parent, you are a salesperson
If you are a spouse, you are a salesperson.
If you are a child, you are the BEST salesperson.
To sell Is to be human.
4. Sales is T-A-L-K-I-N-G
“He that is of the opinion that money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.” – Benjamin Franklin
Most of you know Benjamin Franklin as a printer, a writer, a philosopher, a diplomat and a statesman. But this popular American Founding Father was also a salesman.
In his book, The Ben Franklin Factor: Selling One to One, author James C. Humes outlines Franklin’s seven secrets of selling, which are even more relevant in today’s age of relationship marketing:
Timing – Appreciating – Listening – Knowledge – Integrity – Need – Giving
Do any of these secrets sound slimy or selfish to you?
Benjamin Franklin intuitively realised that in order to leave a rich legacy as a salesperson, you have to make the customer the hero of your story.
5. Sales Is Passion
“Sales has really influenced everything I do. It has instilled in me the important traits of operating with a sense of urgency and listening to people.” – Jeffrey R. Immelt
Larry Page. Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates.
Care to guess what these three movers and shakers of the business world have in common?
Answer: They are all introverts who became renowned for selling their vision to a global audience.
Salespeople are stereotyped as gregarious smooth-talkers who can charm you into donating a kidney for fun.
Truth is, salespeople come in all personality types.
The common thread that binds successful salespeople is their wholehearted belief in the value of their offerings. Their unwavering passion and undying persistence are contagious and will be rewarded.
The prevalence of social media, the predominance of technology and the prominence of search have drastically altered the sales landscape.
Successful salespeople no longer sell. They connect, they collaborate, they communicate, they CARE.
When you place customers before commissions, sales is no longer “sleazy,” but instead becomes the foundation of an economically healthy society.
So, tell us: How do YOU perceive sales?
To find out how you can Sell More Contact:
Healthy Business Builder
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