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Monday, August 10, 2020

Executive Insider

Leading Sales? Then stop selling!

How to get your customers to buy from you consistently.

Whatever our role, CEO’s and senior leaders are all consumers of a variety of products and services, in fact many of us will also be responsible for designing, distributing and selling them to others too. We can all however associate the energy zapping rush of adrenaline when the salesperson/ cold caller rings with the opening gambit of , “It’s ok – I’m not going to sell you anything!”

What do we hear? Something like,  “I am going to sell you something but as long as I say I’m not, you might just be dumb enough to stay on the line long enough and I could accidentally find something you want to buy”. We’ve all been there right?

So what’s the reason that 95% of the population hate to be sold to, and the other 5% just want to treat the process as a bit of sport? Having been involved in sales and selling for almost 30 years successfully, It’s that curiosity that’s set me off on this journey of communication, psychology and neuroscience to answer this question and help all those who are in sales – help facilitate their client’s to buy from them – in the right way.

Wherever you live on our connected planet almost every jurisdiction has been victim of mis-selling of some kind; where firms have oversold unnecessary product, rectifications are required to put right financial and emotional loss, all caused by sales people. Now if you have the image of a bunch of commission crazed hungry “Wolf of Wall Street” style sellers? Your thinking is misplaced. A large proportion of the sales approaches – even where mis-selling took place happened culturally at a time where that replicated behaviour was acceptable and that was “normal.”

Sales culture and sales driven behaviours really took off in the US and Europe during the late 1970’s and early 80’s, where the climate was all about closing the deal, making a fast buck and getting new product in the hands of consumers – whatever the cost. The sales training that accompanied this uprising over the next twenty years was also aligned to tactics, tools and closing techniques with most courses, journals and sales book lacking little strategic value and an agenda firmly fixed with the sales person.

Selling has been with us for thousands of years, market places in rural communities provided the ignition of entrepreneurialism while long-range trade routes across seas first appeared in the 3rd Millennium BCE, how can it be that in the last 40 to 50 years we created a profession and now without some serious cultural change could be also assigned to the history books?

Obviously there’s one big sales elephant in the room – the introduction and evolution of e-commerce and most recently more digitalisation, machine learning and robotics have changed the way in which we as consumers buy and therefor how we sell for sure, although that shift has been driven largely by consumer driven buying patterns. What has failed to keep pace is individual “sales” behaviours that support current trends and awareness. After all, consumers still need to buy products and organizations still need to make sales (that’s unlikely to change). The whole notion of using sales tac tics that may have worked for many of the last three or four decades will continue to drive the right behaviours and ensure our customers are satisfied is plainly unthinkable.

Here are my top three tips to help your customers to buy from you

  1. Labels. Does your sales team call themselves a “sales team”? Ditch the label and ditch it quick. For many of your sales consultants – they may well be unconsciously behaving like sales people did back in the 80’s and 90’s and having learned from others, maybe using learning and insights that were right for them then, because of the label. Most customers have access to so much research and data that they are likely to be as clued up about your product as you and your teams if it’s a substantial purchase. Try reframing their role title with something like, “buying agent” or “fulfilment consultant” or something else that doesn’t say sales.
  2. Consult – don’t insult. Your customers will be all over their anticipated purchase – and if they want to converse with you or your “sales team”, it generally because they have unanswered questions or they need validation of if it’s right for them, otherwise they will have already made the purchase on line. This doesn’t need a sales person – it needs a good exploratory consultation – finding out and matching to the right solution.
  3. Get on their agenda or else. Certainly over the last twenty years we have developed a deep routed neurological map including language and behaviours that while we may only be able to experience that moment we are in or recent interactions, our brain is scanning thousands of moments where you have interacted with others – including sales people. If you are truly on your customers agenda, and I mean truly on their agenda – and not pretending to be, you only need to ask the right questions to find out what they need and if that can be fulfilled by your products and services. Sure that takes skill and it takes practice to be awesome at it. If however you are on your agenda, such as I need to sell X – my boss will be happy if I make Y or if I hit my target today I’ll make Z in compensation – that highly tuned transmitter in your brain starts ringing SALESPERSON – by which point, unless your customer is in desperate need of your product and can’t get it elsewhere – you will not make X, Y or Z.

So in conclusion, unlearn old style sales techniques that elevate your agenda and instead get on your customers’ agenda and help, assist and facilitate the buying process.


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Steve Rush
Steve Rush is the CEO of Improov Consulting, a boutique consultancy in transforming people, process and performance. He wrote the book, Leadership Cake along with dozens of articles. He’s also the host of the leading leadership podcast - The Leadership Hacker Podcast. Steve Rush is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.