“What is the biggest secret in Sales? Historically, “selling” has been used as a tool to make a lot of quick and fast money resulting in short term growth bubbles and catastrophic results. We have seen a lot happen in the recent past: Ponzi schemes, economic boom and bust cycles, systemic failure of organizations and structures that we trusted in, and human avarice at its worst. Maybe the need is to tap the simplicity to which the art of selling owes its foundations. This post is a list of sales lessons from a shoe salesperson, with over twenty years of selling experience under his belt, selling the best shoe brands in the nation to one of the toughest markets.”
An article, “Make the most of your sales call”, inspired me to take a dig at the basics of what selling stands for and derive some key lessons for entrepreneurs. To the key points of the conversation with the shoe salesperson, I associated results from a research study done at Darden. The outcome was some great insights. Researcher Saras Sarasvathy of Darden School, in a Bigthink video (Society of Effectual Action, a community researching various aspects of entrepreneurship) says “Entrepreneurs do the doable and then push it”. This article aims to addresses the “push it” part of this statement. The conversation helped answer the question, should you “listen” to your customer.
Listen more to improve your selling pitch: Listening is crucial to learn contexts and stories. To understand your market, customer, partner, and the team, listen. Develop the patience to listen.
Harvest silence so you can better observe the surroundings. The more you listen the more you become better at understanding the meaning behind words and situations.
Build a Wall: Do not let people and situations get to you. Entrepreneurs go through a lot. Many times good and bad come rolled all at once. Many times the bad overwhelm the good. Whatever happens, have that mental wall that separates you from your surroundings and what happens to you.
This will help you become more empathetic and keep you stable. Learn to better adapt to their state-of-mind and have a clear understanding of their stories.
Treat everyone equally: Equality builds trust and trust shortens the buying cycle like no other. Sell with an unbiased mindset, attitude and behavior. Treat all customers or prospects the same because they all have a need that you can fulfill. Only your bias will make them indifferent to your pitch and unresponsive to your efforts.
Buy if you need: The best compliment a salesperson can earn is “you come on my side and then find me the best fit. I’ll definitely come back”. The strongest statement a salesperson can make is by telling the customer or prospect “buy if you need”. This helps the customer or prospect loosen-up and down-the-guard. That finally develops into trust and is the key to success in sales. Now, this is not a simple and hypothetical linear progression of events for theoretical analysis and arguments.
This approach is based on basic human behavior, and is most effective because trust is built when there is no ulterior motive or cosmetic ambulation. Sell to fulfill a need not reach a quota.
Know your Product: Have a grip on the knowledge of your product. This is the big key to gaining confidence of the customer or prospect. Know your market, product, direct and indirect value generated, and relevant features and benefits. Confidence in the product/service enables customers’ confidence in your ability to understand and address their need.
Fit-to-sell not sell-to-fit: “If someone wants a size 8, sell a size 8, not a size 9. Honest selling is best selling”. Present the knowledge in a contextual framework that suits the customer or prospect. Measure the need first. Then identify a fit, but not just to know the need and then sell regardless of the need. Instead, to sell what is actually beneficial and removes some pain point.
Learn to understand: Together, the two, product knowledge and empathy are most important in sales. Seek to understand the pain and constraints. Seek to find where they are struggling and how they can become better at what they do. This will make customers and prospects comfortable. They already know you are going to pitch something to them and have their guards up. When you understand them, you automatically eye at building a relationship based on trust and honesty.
Constantly hone your craft: Selling is an honest craft. It is one of the best professions. Everyone sells to everyone else. How we sell reflects where human race is and where it is going.
It is a known fact that every entrepreneur is a salesperson; first selling the dream to herself, then rallying people behind a vision, creating a team based on some values, building and servicing a customer base, and cultivating a community around this ecosystem. Doing all this requires self-belief and key selling skills.
Color your selling skills with these insights and you will begin and sustain honest interactions by creating memorable experiences. You will become a part of stories and that is what sales and business are all about.