Here’s a definition of sales we really like:
” Helping others to be better off in terms of their wants, needs and objectives whether known or unknown, than where they are currently.”
Like so many definitions, it’s nice enough, but closer inspection shows that there is a depth to this which can really help you understand your role as a salesperson and the value you can bring.
We all get this. It’s not about just getting what we want. Of course we want a sale and we want the revenue, but just getting a signature on a piece of paper isn’t the end game for great salespeople. The end game is … well never. It never ends because helping people is a permanent state of affairs. If you focus on what makes them happy, what makes them successful and ways in which they win, you have the basis for a long-term relationship. It may mean thanking them and declining the opportunity to pitch further because you can’t do all that they want. It may even mean recommending they go elsewhere for a certain part of the solution they seek. If you think about helping first, you’re on the right track for the long-term.
- To be better off:
The chances are almost certain that your customer or prospect already has a solution from a competitor if you’re not already doing business with them. The only question therefore is can you help them be better off? If you can’t, there’s no point in continuing. You may be able to present a better price, but that’s seriously not the game you want to be in. If your customer can’t give you a single reason why they may be unhappy or a single thing they’d like to do better, then you’ll battle to find anything to hinge a sale on and your time will be better spent elsewhere. There’s always someone who is pulling their hair out about slow service delivery or the unreliability of their supplier.
- Wants, needs and objectives:
You have to identify these and that means less speaking and more listening. Learn to ask great questions and to listen to the answers. Then ask some more and keep listening. Everyone wants something. Your job isn’t to morph, chameleon-style and try to provide it, but to honestly assess whether you’re best positioned to do so in a way that the customer will find helpful and which you will find profitable. These wants, needs and objectives are not all created equal however. Ask implication questions to find out how strong they are. You may want an ice cream right now, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to die if you don’t have one, so you’re unlikely to reach out for the first one you get regardless of style, flavour or value-for-money.
Known wants, needs and objectives are relatively easy to assess, albeit a little flimsy. Everyone needs insurance for instance and every business needs office automation, and everyone knows they need those things. That says little about whether they want it urgently or indeed whether they want it from you or even if they’re in a position to buy at all. Known wants aren’t difficult and they give you a basis to create a simple justification for a visit but they’re rarely the most dramatic hook for a sale. You can get in the door often on the basis of the known want, need or objective because customers sometimes feel compelled to find out what is out there. You can really get into a price situation quickly if you’re just selling to solve what customers already know about however.
This can be the strongest hook for a sale. In having an open and honest conversation with your prospect or customer, there’s a good chance you’ll uncover something they simply haven’t thought about. Remember you’re the subject matter expert who thinks about solving problems with your products all day whereas your customers have spent maybe five minutes in the last year thinking about it. It’s often amazing to discover the sorts of problems people have simply elected to live with because they don’t realise there is a solution.
By working to this definition of sales and considering all these points the way they’re spelled out here, you’re on the road to a highly professional career in sales. Good luck!