How some salespeople give sales a bad name. And 3 pointers that will stop you making the same mistake.
I remember writing a piece for Management Today, many years ago, when I was Sales and Marketing Manager for a large dot com. It was about my career, how I'd got to where I was at the time, and the pitfalls that I'd faced along the way. I remember saying that the minute you mentioned you worked in sales, people instantly brought their dislike of double glazing salespeople to mind, and almost crossed their index fingers in front of you - warding off bad karma. It was a Bad Thing to be in sales.
Fast forward 20 years and not much has changed.
Sales is still seen as the business province of the devil, something that most people wouldn't want to do (and couldn't do) and those who could would only do if they really had to. Which is a shame, as I know lots of people who make a very good living out of it and I had some of the best times of my business life working in ad sales and the like.
So, what is it about some sales people that can make people feel that way. And how can you avoid making the same mistakes?
1. Whenever you sell, you should sell from the heart. It seems logical doesn't it? After all, why would you sell something that you don't believe in? Well, you'd be surprised - a lot of people do. They're good at selling, have been highly successful at it, so they head to the industries where they can make great money and sell what they're given; not necessarily having any particular interest or belief in it. For me, I need to love what I sell. And customers can see that, and it makes a difference - particularly when you're working with small businesses where every penny is carefully spent. If you are passionate about something, it comes across in the way you sell. Get into your products or services; identify their benefits, describe them in evocative language (without being too cheesy) and believe that they really make a difference. It'll definitely make a difference to your sales technique.
2. Be honest and open. I realised very early on that being honest was the best policy when it came to sales. Not that I ever lied, I couldn't have lived with myself, but it's easy (and tempting) to slightly bend the truth when you're on a tight target and need to hit it. Thing is, if you want to develop a reputation of integrity and quality within your business, lying helps no-one. Clients won't come back once they realise, and they definitely won't recommend you on. So. Honesty is, by far, the only way to go. If your product or service can't do something, don't say it can. If you can't supply something in a certain timescale, don't say you can. If you're asked for an opinion, be honest. It absolutely, one hundred per cent, pays off.
3. Know when your product or service can't help a client. And walk away. Sometimes, no matter how great your business offering is, it won't fit a client's needs. Perhaps the components don't mirror what they want, or perhaps the price isn't right. Whatever the issue, it's just the way of the world. It's not a problem, and it doesn't mean you have a bad business. Trying to make it fit is a waste of your time, and reminiscent of point 2. It's not honest, and it won't pay off. You will bank much more kudos and respect if you know when to walk away. I've had this happen to me in the past, walked away, and often received a recommendation on the back of it. Clients aren't stupid. They know when you're honest and trustworthy, and when you're not. They know when you have a great product or service, and when it doesn't fit their needs, but that won't necessarily stop them from telling someone else about it. And what a great recommendation that is.
Some salespeople, irrespective of these pointers, will keep banging away at what they see as a potential sale long after they should have given up. It's often because they have a large target to hit and don't feel they can give up quite yet, because they aren't confident enough to stand up and admit that these sales conversations aren't going anywhere, or they just don't listen to what the client says - verbally and non-verbally.
Don't be one of them. Listen, learn, reflect and move on to the next potential client. It always pays off.
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