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LAST UPDATE: 6/17/2014

The Advisor
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RE-THINK YOUR SALES APPROACH
by Gary Lockwood, Business Coach

Demanding customers - fierce competition - breathtaking technological innovation...

These are the realities of today's global marketplace... realities that have changed forever the way we do business, especially the way we sell. Gone are the days when salespeople could rely on charming small-talk and aggressive closing techniques alone to generate business.

Many traditional selling approaches regard selling as something the seller does to the buyer. They sell them something. The result of this attitude to sales is that many salespeople adapt a manipulative, almost coercive style of selling. Some salespeople think of selling as pushing a customer into buying, and success as a victory. Often, people fear salespeople and distrust them. They think of salespeople as fast talking and slick. They are wary of being sold something they really don't need or want.

Have you ever been sold something, then regretted it later? How did you feel about the salesperson?

The more modern and enlightened view of selling is that the role of the sales person is to help the customer make good buying decisions. Someone seen as an ally and advisor. A business partner who can be relied upon to provide valuable help and advice as well as supply vital goods and services.

The outcome of a sale is not that one person gains at the expense of the other, but that a win-win outcome is forged by the two parties who both leave feeling good about the transaction and with a positive commitment to each other.

The role of the professional salesperson is largely a product of this century. Before the industrial revolution, the people who made things were also responsible for selling their goods. As the availability of consumer goods expanded, the need arose for people who specialized in guiding consumer decisions. The role of salesperson has changed dramatically over the years, largely as a result of the changing relationship between availability of products and services being sold and the demand of the consumer for those products and services.

Since World War II, with the increasing growth of enabling technology, and the explosion of competition, we have seen availability outstrip demand. In those situations, we started to see sellers pushing their goods and services at consumers. We began to experience the manipulative salesperson. This is the perception that many people have today of salespeople. The smooth-talking con man so well depicted in movies such as "Used Cars", "Tin Man", and "GlenGarry Glen Ross".

How do we reestablish a more positive relationship between product/service availability and consumer demand? Three strategies:

1. Clearly identify each customer's unique needs and requirements.

2. Tailor your goods and services to meet those needs at a fair price.

3. Ensure a long term relationship by attaining customer satisfaction.

Clearly identify each customer's unique needs and requirements. Manipulative salespeople focus on trying to manufacture a need in a customer where none exists. We may, however, be able to bring existing needs to the surface simply by clarifying the customers understanding of the symptoms they are experiencing. Many people make a very good living out of helping people identify which particular need may be causing a symptom, then advising them on how to alleviate it. This includes not only medical doctors but also good salespeople.

The most skilled salesperson will guide a customer through a discovery process designed to uncover and articulate the customers needs and wants. In addition, the effective salesperson will help the customer reach an understanding of the consequences of inaction plus the value in making a change. The more clearly your customer sees the depth of the ramifications of inaction, plus the range of positive benefits of taking action, the more likely they are to want to do something about it. This is called "tension for change". The customer who has decided that they have a need and that they really wish to do something about it, will then be in a position to seek solutions.

Tailor your goods and services to meet those needs at a fair price For most businesses, offering generic products and services is a recipe for disaster. With the vast array of choices available, customers want a solution that is right for them in their own special situation. Frequently, this can be accomplished by listening carefully to the needs and wants of your customers, then packaging a combination of your products and services that specifically addresses those customer's needs.

To do this requires these skills:

* the ability to understand what the customer wants, and recognize the core issues and peripheral issues that are important to them;
* the ability to identify the relevant features of your products and services that are appropriate for this customer;
* ability to communicate the specific benefits, gained by using your products and services, that are meaningful to this customer;
* willingness to deliver the package of products and services with emphasis on the desired results expected by this customer.
Develop a long term relationship by attaining customer satisfaction Truly effective salespeople succeed because they are genuinely curious and concerned about people in general - and customers in particular. Their desire to understand the customer takes priority over their desire to sell their products and services. The delightful irony, of course, is that the very reason they are successful at selling is because they have made their desire to sell a secondary issue. The primary issue is the relationship they have with their customer.

The surest way to cement a long term business relationship with your customer is to remember that no sale is completed until the customers expectations have been met or, preferably, exceeded. There are many salespeople who take customers for granted. The excitement of new sales often leads to ignoring existing customers. The result is constant pressure to create new business from scratch. Meanwhile, some of your best prospects are right there under your nose, in your own customer base.

The "traditional", fast-talking slick sales person is no longer effective in today's global marketplace. Dynamic and highly competitive, our market consists of well educated, savvy consumers looking to the modern salesperson for guidance in making well-informed buying decisions. Those unwilling or unable to adapt not only experience declining sales, but also risk severing long-term customer relationships. The challenge is enormous and the stakes are high.

Remember, customers buy for their reasons, not ours. When we strive to form a partnership with our customers, providing them with valuable help and advice as well as supplying vital products and services, we virtually ensure sales success.

Good selling!

Gary Lockwood is a Business Coach, Speaker and Publisher of the BizSuccess Coaching Program. He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-272-1575 or email For details from our autoresponder, email BizCoach@infoback.net

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