When it comes to the word ‘sales’ everyone’s got their thoughts around it. Most commonly the initial thought reflex when someone here’s the word is a negative one. Most people have had that experience with the pushy sales person whether it was the classic used car scenario, or the door to door energy broker or even the fundraiser who’s working hard to hit target. And of course when we have a negative experience with anything, we tend to guide our behaviour to not be like that. So we tend to hear people say things like “I don’t have what it takes to be good at sales. I’m too nice” or “I just couldn’t sleep at night if I was in sales knowing I’ve manipulated someone”.
Any kind of thinking or believe that is along these lines, to put it bluntly, is misinformed. The truth is if you’ve ever worked to influence someone in anyway (ask someone out on a date, ask someone to be on your team, convince friends to go restaurant A vs B etc, bring a new idea into your workplace) you are in sales. Sales is the transference of an idea.
The trick is that bad sales is pushy transference of an idea and those who do it are simply untrained. End of story. Perhaps their ethics are questionable … maybe. I’m not saying those people aren’t out there but the vast majority of bad sales experiences simply come from a lack of training.
In this realisation there could be massive opportunity for you and your business. Here are a couple of things to think about
- What are your beliefs around sales (positive or negative) and how does that affect your performance and ability to grow your business?
- What are your teams beliefs around sales? Where could they be more assertive in spotting opportunities to help your customers?
- What would the affect be on your business if everyone on your team had a healthy and positive view of sales AND had the skills to spot and nurture opportunities?
Assuming there is some opportunity there for you and your team, here are five tips you can use to change the way you and your team think about sales
- Be a proactive helper – move from selling to helping. Think about it this way, what problem does your company solve? And if you were to come across a person or company with that problem, would you let them suffer or would you want to help? People who care about others always want to help. When you are feeling salesy it is most often because you are thinking about yourself and your commission, not how you can help someone. And remember, helping someone does not always mean you have to sell something. What do they truely need?
- Become great at asking questions – when you can ask thought provoking questions, it is easier to engage people and find out what they need. Asking great questions also communicates that you are interested in them and you care. Great questions get to the emotion behind the problem or need. When you can help people achieve the feeling they are after, you make their life better.
- Become an expert – to be able to help at the highest level, you need to be as good as you can be at what you do. When you are great at your craft, you have more ability to help others, ask better questions and you will naturally instil confidence in the person you are seeking to help. Deep knowledge builds confidence and confidence is crucial when it comes to influencing others.
- Have a network – your customers have more problems than you have the ability to solve. To improve the value you can bring to others, have people in your network that can solve some of the other common problems your customers have. This puts you in a different league to your competitors, and ensure you are truely focused on helping vs making a sale. When people know your true intention, they feel good about you. When people feel good about you, trust goes up. When trust and likability go up, you make sales. And even if that person doesn’t buy from you (because they don’t have a true need), they may refer someone who will.
- Play the long game – there are times when you should make a sale right here and now. There are other times when the timing is just not right. Have enough experience and objectivity to know the difference. The sales not made today can often become a much bigger sale down the track. My only caveat to this is don’t allow this to become an excuse for letting someone not make a decision when they really should. Influencing people in way that will benefit them can mean helping them to make a decision. Deference of decisions rarely helps.