Forget sales technique!
Certain attitudes, that is.
During the first five years of my sales career I spent a lot of time learning sales technique, and I swore by it! I was well-trained, ambitious, hardworking and successful. I knew seven ways to get the prospect's attention and nine trial closes. I was a classroom expert in handling objections, having mastered techniques for flushing out the real objection, burying false objections, and I had memorized key responses to the 75 most common objections prospects had to our product. I knew the difference between the Presumptive close and the Puppy Dog close, and I knew the five great rules of selling.
I was ready!
Since those early days I have been to dozens of sales seminars, each encouraging me to learn "Six ways to do this" and "Ten ways to do that." I had a rule for how long to wait in the lobby for a customer, rules for writing follow-up letters and even a rule for how many times to take "no" for an answer before giving up. A real pro!
I knew lots of ways to handle objections. I used "feel/felt/found" every time I could ("Mr. Big, I know how you feel. So and so felt the same way until he finally used our product. He found that it worked perfectly"). I knew my product well, and objections were my friend. When one was raised, I would wade in and prove that we were right and the client had it wrong. And I sold a lot of product.
But over the years I kept running into people who were doing better than I was. What was worse, they didn't know all that stuff that I knew about the right way to sell. I wanted to know what they were doing that I wasn't.
What I found was that the people who were doing better were doing it with a better attitude rather than with irresistible technique. What made this attitude so powerful was that it was customer-centered rather than sales-centered. Dr. Benjamin Spock, who wrote the immensely popular "Baby and Child Care" many years ago, put it best when he said, "It is often better to put down the book and pick up the baby!"
Given a competitive product, what is stronger than superb sales technique is true and genuine concern for the customer and his/her problems. If I honestly believe that you are truly trying to help me solve my problems and not just trying to sell me your product, I will listen to what you have to say and give you an honest shot at the business I place.
The problem for most of us salespeople is that we sound like all we care about is our sale. We seem to always lead with ourselves and always talk about ourselves. "I'd like some of your time to tell you how you can save money using our product." Or, "I'd like to come by, give you my card and ask a few questions about your business."
Here are some things to try to develop an attitude that comes across better than technique:
* Learn about your client. If you are calling on me and you don't know beans about me or my company, I'll know for sure that all you care about is your sale. Use the Internet, your contacts and knowledge of the industry to find out more than any competitive salesperson could possibly know about your customer.
* Bring more to the first (and every) meeting than your product. If all you do is talk about your product, you sound like all the other weak salespeople. I have problems. Come with an idea for me and we'll talk about your products later.
* Be curious. Good salespeople don't have to make much of a presentation or worry how to handle objections if they ask lots of questions aimed at learning enough to solve customer problems.
Really get into your customer, and technique will take care of itself.
PAT WIESNER IS THE RETIRED CEO OF WIESNER PUBLISHING, PUBLISHER OF COLORADOBIZ. HE STILL LEADS SALES TRAINING FOR THE COMPANY.
READ THIS AND WIESNER'S PAST COLUMNS ON THE WEB AT COBIZMAG.COM OR E-MAIL HIM AT PWIESNER@COBIZMAG.COM
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|Title Annotation:||On Management|
|Date:||May 1, 2005|
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