By Robert Clay, Founder and President, Marketing Wizdom
People sometimes say “There’s a born salesman!” But I’ve never yet read or heard in the news of someone who gave birth to a sales person.
Nor have ever I heard of someone who gave birth to a lawyer, or a doctor, or for that matter a criminal. Birth is given to boys and girls; everything after that is down to choices that are made and skills that are learned. And sales skills are life skills.
Many people would never view themselves as a sales person. Yet any time you’re in a conversation in which you try to express an opinion or influence an event, you’re actually selling.
In reality everyone is constantly trying to sell an idea, a belief, a proposition, an opinion or a goal. We all use sales skills throughout the day, every day. You use it on your spouse or partner, your kids, your colleagues, your neighbors, your friends, your parents, people you meet, when you buy different products or services, or when you go out for a meal.
There isn’t a single area of your life where you cannot benefit from sales skills. Teachers use sales skills every day. Preachers use sales skills. Police officers use sales skills. Mother Teresa used sales skills. And sales people use sales skills. Regardless of what you do, sales skills will increase your probability of success and your ability to motivate, instruct, encourage, coach, communicate and reach people.
Increasing your skill and awareness, and doing the same for everyone in your team can therefore boost your business to new heights of success. It is relatively easy to do this and it can produce an instantaneous improvement.
The amazing thing is that hardly anyone in business has ever had formal training in selling technique or strategy. Most people don’t understand the psychology of how people make decisions. Nor do they understand the dynamics of persuasion and influence. Yet they’re invariably in a business where persuasion, influence and selling are critical factors for the success of that business.
It’s as if they think that by divine guidance everything will be OK for them, and they’ll suddenly wake up one morning with these supremely competent selling skills. Of course, it doesn’t happen that way, does it?
Don’t blindly do what’s always been done. It starts with sales training. But that’s where things often start to go wrong. Most businesses are guilty of using a “tribal” method of training, i.e. passing information from person to person in the company, which leaves you at the mercy of knowledge and expertise that becomes weaker, more watered down and less relevant each time one person passes it to another.
Granted, experience can be an excellent teacher. But doing what has always been done is often not the answer, especially in today’s fast-changing world.
To make the point, I love a story related by Chet Holmes about a woman whose husband was watching her prepare a roast. At one point, she took a large knife and sliced off the two ends of the cut of meat. He asked her, “Why do you cut the ends off the roast?” She replied, “My mother always did it this way.”
But the question stuck in his mind. He really couldn’t see any reason why cutting off the ends would make a better-tasting roast, and it certainly wasted plenty of perfectly good meat.
That night it so happened that his wife’s mother was joining the couple for dinner. As they sat down and his wife brought out the roast, the husband asked, “Why did you teach your daughter to slice both ends off of the roast?” The mother, a lovely lady over 90 years old, replied, “Well, when we were young we could only afford a tiny little apartment and a tiny little oven. We could never fit the whole roast in that tiny oven, so we just lopped off the ends.”
By learning how to sell from your predecessor you may be just blindly doing what’s always been done and throwing out a large percentage of your prospects or business.
Yet developing your selling skills and those of everyone in your team can be one of the easiest, most powerful and most significant instant transformations your business will ever embark on. It all starts with an understanding of what constitutes effective selling.
What is effective selling? Effective selling is NOT just a matter of learning a sales spiel, having the gift of the gab or using clichéd or manipulative techniques.
Instead it is the process of leading, guiding, educating and directing your buyers more than anyone else might do to help them solve a problem or achieve a desired outcome.
The finest sales people in the world are helpful, not pushy. Some of the highest performing sales people are introverts, not the stereotypical extroverts. The most important attribute of any sales person is their attitude. The best sales people believe in the value of what they do and in their product or service … and their most important skill is to ask the right questions and listen to their buyer’s responses.
The right questions will vary depending on the product or service, but in general terms they will work with their buyers, nurturing and learning about them to identify exactly what those buyers are looking for, what problems or concerns they want to solve and what outcomes they’re seeking.
Then, and only then, a good salesperson will provide meaningful recommendations, suggestions, counsel, direction and advice on the buyer’s buying decisions and the products and services they should choose and the strategies they should use based on their personal experience of what actually works.
This allows their buyers to make an informed decision based on what is in their best interest. And of course a good salesperson also needs to know how and when to ask for the order!
None of this is particularly mysterious or difficult … and anyone can be trained to sell effectively in this manner.
Learning to sell this way is probably the easiest, most powerful and most significant instant transformation your business will ever embark on because the moment your staff are better trained in selling principles, methods and understandings, they’ll handle every prospect, lead or inquiry they ever deal with more effectively.
By Robert Clay, Founder and President of Marketing Wizdom, Milton Keynes, U.K.