If This Is Your Mantra, Your Customers Will Vanish
It was an early morning meeting, and the atmosphere was relaxed. A sales manager was the last to arrive, whispering to the person next to him as he sat down, “All I want to do is sell.”
The meaning was clear: He viewed meetings and all other “non-selling” tasks as unnecessary interruptions keeping him away from the job of selling. His intolerance was palpable, as he announced at the start that he would be leaving early for an appointment.
Taking a strong stand against all the stuff that interferes with making sales may seem long overdue to many in the business. But, the “all I want to do is sell” message cuts another way. Often, the greater the emphasis on “making the sale,” whether of a product or an idea, the more customers pull back mentally, physically or both.
It doesn’t need to be this way. By following four actions, salespeople can position themselves where they belong – high on the trust scale.
Manage the selling process instead of trying to control it. What drives customers crazy – and away – is a feeling of impotence when faced with someone who is skilled at taking control. However, savvy salespeople have a unique opportunity to manage, rather than control, the sales process and win customers by:
- Asking questions to engage the customer.
- Listening intently and reflecting back to clearly understand customer issues.
- Encouraging feedback.
- Clarifying objections for gaining insight into what a customer is thinking.
Talk about what your company can do for customers. Articulating what your company does should be second nature. But, if you rely on a “sales pitch” or “elevator speech,” it’s time to get rid of it. The ability to express clearly and with enthusiasm what your company can do for customers holds far more interest and value.
Cultivate self-doubt to enhance your self-confidence. No one questions the immense role of self-confidence in sales. However, when self-confidence morphs into overconfidence, customers back off.
Self-confidence needs to be balanced with a healthy amount of self-doubt, as too much self-confidence makes it easy to dismiss criticism, ignore the need for improvement and disregard suggestions from others. Most importantly, it keeps us from asking the important sales questions:
- Do I understand what the customer is looking for?
- Am I sufficiently prepared for this presentation?
- What have I missed? What don’t I know that I should know?
- Do I have a clear understanding of the competition’s solution?
- What could go wrong, and am I ready to handle it?
- Do I have the answers to the questions the customer is likely to ask?
Cultivate the response you want. Bill Pineo at The Tile City in Avon, Mass., is not an average salesperson. He came up to a couple looking at bathroom tile and gently entered the conversation. He asked a few questions and listened intently to what they said. He then guided them to several displays, where he asked more questions and pointed out certain tile characteristics while encouraging them to take pictures of their choices.
When finishing up, Bill asked for the order, and the couple let him know where they were with their project. “Would you mind if I stayed in touch with you?” he asked. And he followed through, checking in with them regularly for several months. A few days after they hired a contractor, Bill called again, and the couple placed the order.
Bill Pineo did two important things right. First, by positioning himself as a facilitator or helper, someone who knew the tile business and wanted to assist his customer, Bill managed the sale. Second, by staying in touch, he let his customers know he was going to be there when they were ready. The process convinced the couple that Bill was serious and wanted the sale.
This story is an example of what persuasion expert Dr. Robert B. Cialdini calls “The Principle of Reciprocation.” It’s what occurs when the salesperson helps customers and manages the sales process so they want to respond positively by placing the order or making referrals.