By Keith Rosen, MCC
The Executive Sales Coach™
I was almost at the end of the keynote I was delivering to an audience of Internet service providers in Tampa, Florida. As I brought the program to its natural conclusion, I let the audience know that I would open the floor to answer any questions that they may have.
Several hands went up. The third person I called on made a statement, not a question.
“Keith, that sounds too sales-y. I could never do that with a prospect.” He was referring to the four qualifying questions that I claimed are guaranteed to bring in more sales when meeting with a prospect.
“Sounds too sales-y?” I wanted to confirm I heard him correctly. I responded to this gentleman with a question. “To whom?” I wondered.
“To me!” the gentleman replied. “Those questions that you suggest we ask every prospect sound way too sales-y to me. There’s no way that would work with my prospects.” (Said a different way: “There’s no way I could ask those questions. I’m scared!”)
“Well, I can certainly appreciate the fact that these questions may sound a bit different or as you say, ‘sales-y,’ to you, especially if you don’t ask the prospect any questions. But what about your prospects? How do they sound to them?”
“When you ask these questions to your prospect, do they tell you that it sounds ‘sales-y’ to them?” I clarified.
“Really? Is that what they told you?”
“Not exactly,” the person said and then continued with, “I really don’t know. I’ve never used these questions before.”
“So if you did use these questions, you’re assuming that they will come across as sales-y or unfavorable to your prospects, is that what you’re saying?”
I thanked this person for their comments and clarification and then asked the entire audience how many people felt similarly. That is, I asked if those of them who had never taken the time to ask the questions felt that it wouldn’t be something that worked for them. A majority of hands went up.
I then asked a question to the audience. “How many people have heard of the Sahara Desert?” Most of the hands in the audience went up. I then asked, “How many people here have actually had the firsthand experience of visiting the Sahara Desert?” No one’s hand went up.
“So, then, how do you know it even exists?”
Silence. I then continued, “If you’ve never experienced it, then how do you know it’s real? Just like the questions I suggest: If you’ve never used these questions, then you really have no idea whether or not they will work or how they will be received by your prospects.”
I was building my case. I then turned to the audience and said, “Do not sell the way you buy.”
Now, you may feel at this point that I’m contradicting some universal selling principles. After all, conventional sales wisdom suggests how important it is to empathize and sympathize with your prospects and clients.
However, there’s a very fine line between understanding and respecting someone’s decision-making process and assuming that everyone makes a purchasing decision in the same manner, using the same criteria that you do. Moreover, it is a faulty assumption that your prospects respond similarly to the type of sales approach and the type of salesperson to whom you would respond and from whom you would buy.
I then shared a personal example of the dangers of selling like you buy. “Folks, if I sold in the same manner in which I make a purchase, and if I in turn transferred those values and beliefs onto each prospect that I speak with, then I could tell you with great certainty that I would not be up here talking with you today.
“Reason being, when I make a purchase of any substantial amount, I take the time to research my options and to learn about the different products or services available. By the time I’m ready to actually make the purchase — whether it’s something for my home, a television, a car, or a computer — more often than not, I will know more about the product, the competition, and the marketplace than the person who is attempting to sell it to me.
“My point is, if I started selling the way in which I make a purchasing decision, I am now putting my values, thought processes, and beliefs on the customer; I’m assuming that they purchase the same or in a similar way that I do. The result? More objections, less sales.
“Besides, what if I was talking with an impulsive or assertive prospect who was ready to buy immediately? I would be talking myself right out of the sale!”
“Let’s defuse a costly myth. The old adage of putting yourself in their shoes is really a costly assumption that destroys many a selling opportunity. Why? Because when you ‘look through their eyes’ or attempt to see things how you assume they see them, it is still really what you see, not what they see.
“The result? You develop a sales process based on how you think they buy rather than how they actually make a decision. Why? Because how you think they buy is really how you buy.
“If you truly want to wear their shoes, then you need to know how they think and what is important to them. Therefore, the only way to uncover how the prospect processes information, how he or she makes a purchasing decision, and what criteria he or she uses to do so is to ask better questions.
“Now, let’s take this same ineffective model of ‘sell like you buy’ and turn it around for a moment. If this belief in selling like you buy gets in the way of taking certain actions or of asking certain questions when on a sales call, then you must ask yourself what else you do or say, which you think safe, that is inappropriate or discomforting to your prospects.
The lesson: Don’t believe everything you sell or tell yourself.
Salespeople who sell in the same manner in which they buy are sure to have a lower number of satisfied clients. Take a look at some different scenarios where using your own beliefs, assumptions, and value system can have a detrimental effect on your performance and income:
- Since Carol usually shops around before choosing which company to buy from or which product to buy, she accepted the prospect’s reason of doing the same. Like herself, she couldn’t expect people to make a decision during the initial consultation.
- When Mike makes a purchasing decision, he usually purchases the least expensive item available. He believes that you can get the same top value at a lowest price. Although he represents one of the highest quality products in his industry, the amount of money he sold it for was always at the lowest profit margin. Mike had a hard time asking for more money, even though he offered the consumer the highest value.
- Robert hated hearing sales presentations. When he went out on his appointments, he was always done within thirty minutes. However, in order to effectively cover all of the necessary information and to provide the right solutions for the prospect, the average time a representative should invest during an appointment was between two to three hours.
- Dana was very indecisive when it came to making a purchasing decision. Because this was inherent in her personality, she offered her customers many different alternatives. The end result was confusion on the consumer’s end, on Dana’s end, and no work order. Note: There are salespeople out there who are even more indecisive than their prospects. This can clearly put a damper on your performance as well as your mental health.
- There was never a “right time” for Bob to purchase a new car. When a prospect explained to Bob that they had other commitments, he totally understood and told them that he would call them back when the time was right.
- Rhonda always bought from salespeople that were overzealous and aggressive. She tried to emulate that same disposition on every sales call she went out on.
Sell in the manner in which you were trained to sell and stick with the proven selling sequence that works for you and within your industry or profession. You cannot expect prospects to purchase in the same manner as you do.
If you sell in the same manner as you buy, you are instilling your beliefs onto other people. Since every person’s beliefs and buying habits are different, every prospect processes information differently. What is important to one person may not be important to another. Therefore, two presentations should never be exactly the same.
While one prospect might weigh company stability and the quality or value of the product as the most important aspect in making their decision, another prospect might weigh price as the most important factor.
Learn to adapt your presentation around the values of each specific prospect. In the end, people make purchasing decisions based on their style of buying, not yours.
About Keith Rosen, MCC — The Executive Sales Coach
Keith Rosen is the executive sales coach that top corporations, executives, and sales professionals call first. As an engaging speaker, Master Coach, and well-known author of many books and articles, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on coaching people to achieve positive change in their attitude, behavior, and results. For his work as a pioneer and leader in the coaching profession, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country.
If you’re ready for better results quickly, contact Keith about personal or team coaching and training at 1-888-262-2450 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Keith Rosen online at Profit Builders and be sure to sign up for his free newsletter The Winners Path.