Is your first thought of the person who makes the sale – the “salesman”? 

And what image then comes into your mind?  Is it the “used car salesman”, or the “real estate salesman”?  Consider this public comment by the head of the newly independent East Timor on a former Australian Prime Minister:

His (Paul Keating) manners and discourse reminded me of a second-hand car salesman in downtown Los Angeles.  Jose Ramos Horta October, 1999

Why is it that salesmen, and excuse the gender specific in this day and age, but it is always “salesmen”, that generate this response?

Does this kind of thinking cause you not to enjoy selling – that in order to sell you need to act in a way that is not in alignment with your own values.

Consider this reality - Everybody lives by selling something - business begins with a sale.  Without a sale, you don’t have a business.  But as copywriting pioneer Claude Hopkins says, “any…attempt to sell, if apparent, creates sales resistance.”  

Sue Barrett, chief executive of forward thinking sales advisory Barrett and online sales education and resource platform puts the real situation well:

“Whether we call ourselves a salesperson or not, if we have an idea, product, service, skill, talent, or opportunity that we can offer to another and they can benefit from, then we need to be able to sell.

Most people, whether they are a partner in professional services, the MD of a business, a tradesperson, customer service, sales, baker, not-for-profit or administration, need the ongoing custom of members, patients, supporters, sponsors or clients to make a living.

Yet many people are still confused by 'sales'. In fact, often when sales is mentioned you see people visibly recoil at the concept and some even go so far as to object to you using the term sales.

Why is this?

Because many so called 'legitimate' sales practices we experience are nothing more than manipulation and deceit, aggression and intimidation, or hard sell, pressure tactics. Whether we are conscious of it or not, most of us don't like how selling is being sold to us. And we don't blame you.

Despite the prevailing paradigms of the 20th century 'old school selling' tactics, highly successful sales people have always known the best way to sell. They know how to explore clients' needs and help them get what they want. They know that trust supersedes like. They practice a range of life skills which are present intrinsically, whether we know it or not. They are applying skills which proactively forge honest and open relationships based on trust, transparency, respect, and doing what we said we would do. This is their competitive edge.”

There’s a key clue in Sue’s last paragraph above; “highly successful sales people have always known the best way to sell.  They know how to explore clients' needs and help them get what they want” – the best way to sell is to find out the client’s real needs.  You’ll do that by listening, not talking.  You should ask the right questions, but then listen to the answers.

The ancient Greeks had it right, "We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less."  The salesmen who try and talk through you are the ones that give the profession a bad name, and create “sales resistance”.

Mark Ford advises there are essentially three fundamental skills needed to acquire wealth.

And the first of these is selling – the skill of creating a sales message that works.

Another is marketing – the skill of finding the place to sell your message profitably.

The third is managing profits – the skill of managing business protocols and managing people

As I wrote in “You can lead a Horse to water, but…” marketing can’t fix a sales problem.  Salesmanship is a fundamental skill for your business.

There’s another issue you need to address.  These days it is almost impossible to meet a product salesman in the business-to-business sector.  They all sell ‘solutions’ in the hope this magic word will automatically lead to the sale.  And they hope that just promising a “solution” will instantly differentiate them from their competitors.

It’s an overly (and wrongly) used marketing word. You see businesses use the term “solutions” all the time.  They tell you they offer a “solution”.  Some businesses even use the term as part of their name.  Do a quick Google check – you’ll be amazed.

Now there is nothing wrong with providing solutions.  In fact, you wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t have a product or service that someone wanted.  As part of your sales conversation you must demonstrate that the features and benefits of your product will solve their problem, and that they can believe your claims.

That is where the art of listening comes in; you must understand the nature of the client’s problem, the depth of concern it causes them, and the value to them of removing the problem.   Ask the right questio, .... and listn.  Businesses, and people, buy on perceived value, their perception of value.

As Sue Barrett puts it, “Simply giving salespeople some training and telling them to talk about solutions, rather than products won’t make the difference.”

Good salesmanship is all about finding that one spark that leaps the gap between a prospect client’s most deeply held desires, the value they place on them, and what your product can do.

Andrew Griffiths suggests there are ten common ways to ruin a sale:

1. Salespeople who are unprepared when making a sales presentation.

2. Poorly presented salespeople (dirty or wrinkled clothes, poor personal grooming, body odour, etc).

3. Poor or non-existent product knowledge

4. Salespeople with a bad attitude - everything is a hassle.

5. Salespeople who don’t listen to what the customer wants.

6. Making a promise to follow up with a customer and then not doing it.

7. Not having clear sales goals.

8. Not being “present” with the customer - the sales person’s mind is elsewhere.

9. Not being compelling and definite when it comes to making a recommendation to a customer.

10. Poor communication skills - no eye contact, mumbling, and one-word answers.

No doubt we have all been guilty of a few of the above, but now is a good time to stop and evaluate whether you or any of your staff are guilty of any of these ten things.

Knowing where you are going wrong is a great place to start to get it right.

Have you asked the Million Dollar Question?

When clients approach me for coaching, so often, they are not getting the clients they need, the right clients.  Eight times out of ten this comes down to not knowing what is working, and what is not working, and why it is not working.

For more than 28 years I’ve been helping small business owners plug the profit leaks in their business and restoring their cash flows by assisting them understand where there profits really come from, where they’re leaving money on the table, and where their sales are costing them profits.

If you would like to discuss with me how you might do that, book a Strategy Consult here

© Copyright 2017 Adam Gordon, The Profits Leak Detective 


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