Sell by not selling!
Oh my, what a different world it is today. And what a different sales culture it is, too. Normally, when one thinks of a salesperson stereotype, a used car salesman comes to mind. Does the character portrayed by William H. Macy in the film, “Fargo” resonate?
However vivid these archetypes are and whatever images they project, it is no longer the world of David Mamet’s “Glengarry, Glen Ross” where desperate real estate salesmen vied for leads and a Cadillac Eldorado or “Tin Men”, Barry Levinson’s indelible portrait of aluminum siding salesmen. In fact, it is rare now that even the staunchest mattress “professionals” or car dealers will echo the refrain, “Nobody walks!”
The ABC’s of closing (Always Be Closing) have been replaced by more elevated aphorisms like Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity. Have aggressive sales tactics been jettisoned? Is there any place for the Fuller Brush salesman of a bygone era?
I must disclose that one of the more benevolent sales experiences I ever had as a customer was due to the grace, charm, and thorough product knowledge of one of the aforementioned Fuller Brush company’s polished sales representatives. And it wasn’t that I felt sympathy for his climbing five flights in my walk-up apartment either; he was the embodiment of customer service: asking pertinent questions, and listening to their answers.
The good news is those skills still apply in this new world of non-sales (persuading your daughter to do her homework) as well as retail sales. Expert personal interaction and communication will always attract and engage.
But it is no longer “buyer beware” – it may now be “seller beware” – due to the level playing field that now exists. Formerly, the seller held all the cards, and had all the power in the negotiation. But fortunately, due to information parity, no longer does information asymmetry rule. The customer in many instances knows more about the product or service when he walks in the door than even some salespersons. Let’s hear it for the Internet!
It’s a more sophisticated and educated consumer today – and that means the sales approach must adapt in order to be successful. Sales has always been in the best sense about moving people from one point of view to another, changing a perspective, opening up an idea, or stimulating the imagination. And it doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert in order to do this. You don’t have to be an MC or entertainer to create rapport and build trust – the beginnings of a mutually beneficial relationship.
Product knowledge is still king – but communicating it, and demonstrating exemplary customer service skills will greatly enhance what you know. The old maxim still applies: a customer doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care.
The best formula – ask open-ended questions and let the customer tell you what you need to know, and then listen. Empower the customer to make a decision. Play the role of a facilitator, and sell without overtly “selling” – benefits rule, features drool. Oh, and enjoy the ride. And never take rejection personally – remember, it’s their decision.