In the 20 years since I was in college I have read a lot of books and articles on how to sell and I’ve attended a lot of sales classes and seminars. I’ve even taught a few classes and I’ve written a few articles about it. In this time I have seen a lot of different theories on how to sell.
One theory of how to sell has never worked for me. I call it the “Needle Nose Ned” school of selling. It’s named for the pesky insurance salesman named Ned from the movie “Groundhog Day”. If you’ve seen the movie, you no doubt remember Ned. No matter what your situation is Ned will try to sell you insurance. And if you already have insurance, he’ll try to sell you more.
In Ned’s world, everyone needs what he’s selling, whether they need it or not.
It seems there are fewer of these salespeople around these days (thank goodness) but they do still exist. They are only concerned with selling you what they have available. Somewhere, sometime, someone told them the way to sell is to ask everyone they see if they want to buy what they have. They don’t worry if that person would never, ever have a need for what they’re selling. They just ask, ask, ask. as if the act of asking will somehow make people want what they are selling.
I know in the past I have said you need to ask for the order. And you do. But, the “Neds” of the world take it too far because they ask everyone regardless of their interest or need.
The key in selling anything is to spend your time with people who have an interest in what you can do for them. Notice I didn’t say need. A need that is ignored might as well not even exist. For someone to buy from you they first must be interested in what you have to offer.
There are two easy ways to know if someone is really interested in your product or service.
First, if they ask you questions, then they’re interested. It doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy but it does show interest. Usually, the more specific the questions become, the more interested they are.
Second, if they are willing to commit to something, they are interested. If they will commit to meeting with you, it’s a good sign they are interested in learning more. If they commit to giving you information about themselves or their business, then they probably have some interest. Or, if they are willing to do some work, such as putting together some information and bringing it to your meeting. That’s a very good sign they’re interested in what you might be able to do for them.
Once someone is interested in your product or service then you need to determine if it’s right for them. You ask questions and get to know them. When you determine your product or service can do what they want done, then you ask for the order.
Asking for the order any sooner than that tells people you either don’t understand your role in the sales process or you don’t care enough to help them accomplish their goals.
Either way you’re sending the wrong message.
The world has changed. People are more informed and more assertive. They want help in accomplishing their objectives. They want help making better decisions. They want you to earn their business by bringing real value to the table.
So, if you’re involved in selling (and most of us who own or manage businesses sell something), don’t be like Needle Nose Ned.