In the 1960’s the selling-for-success mantra was: “Find out what they want… then… Sell it to Them!”
Today’s more contemporary methodologies recognize that finding out what they want or can afford is not as easy as once thought. Nevertheless, most current success formulas, still concentrate almost exclusively on uncovering customer needs, problems and wants such that it leads to sales/success. What clearly is lost in this outdated narrow approach is the equally important step in uncovering and solving the needs of the sellers – arguably a more important ingredient for success.
At the risk of dating myself, “Get Out! and Stay Out!” was at one time, the first two orders a salesrep could expect on any given day. Other equally outdated strategies were evidenced in things like half-baked Corporate Mission Statements hung in company foyers that read: “The Customer is always right” and “Customers are #1”. The tacit implication from these statements? The needs of the seller will always take a back seat.
There is no argument that without customers [sales] there is no company; that’s a no-brainer. On the other hand, what so many companies and management strategists fail to address is that if there are no Sellers… there are no customers or sales.
I’ve written many times before that statistics demonstrate it takes 5-10 times more time, effort and money to get a new customer than it does to keep one. The fact is, these statistics are inextricably the same for salespeople. Without a doubt, it takes 5-10 times more time, effort and money to get and train new salesperson than it does to keep one.
Why then, are we so fanatically focused on the value of customers, while at the same time, so blinded to the indisputable value of our corporate lifeblood – Sales People?
Going back a bit, if we recognize that customers have needs, goals, and challenges that are important to uncover, validate and act upon, to help to garner sales, would the same logic not make sense regarding the value-of-the-salesperson; that demands a similar approach in keeping with the seller’s integral importance to corporate success?
At times my passion and real-life experience boils to the surface compelling me to tell it like it is: “If you want the company to be more successful…and if you want your salespeople to make more sales … “STOP TREATING THEM LIKE CRAP!”
Salespeople, like customers, are people too. They have needs, wants and challenges that often get in the way of sales. Take the time to uncover some of their challenges and you may be amazed. You may hear things like: [Seller] “Getting the order is only the first sale! Selling our corporate financing department on accepting it is an even bigger sale. Selling the administration department to process the order so I can get paid is often so demoralizing! Selling the service department on the unavoidable fact that, in order to get ‘this’ sale, they would have to share – fairly and equally – in the modification-of-price”.
Note: I do not now, nor have I ever promoted discount-selling. That is for the weak. On the other hand, there are competitive times like these – where products and services are more the same than they are different – when price-ameliorations are the difference between some profit and No Profit! Good sellers know the difference.
The message not to be lost here is this, Sellers, like Customers, need help and expertise in identifying, then, overcoming challenges that make the opportunity for sales to happen. It is the elemental Yin/Yang of ‘The Art of the Sale’.
The best sales manager I ever worked for started each meeting with, 1) What are you working on? 2) What are the challenges to bringing in the order? and 3) What can I or the company do to help you get the order?
Is that any different to asking a Customer, “What are your needs and challenges?”, and “What if I can help you satisfy them at a competitive price that suits your budget?”
The better question might be, “What if we neglected to take these steps? … How would it affect our success?” DRAMATICALLY!
Having now spent the better part of 30+ successful years in the selling business, I can point out without equivocation that sales people – for the most part – do not receive the recognition or respect they deserve. Too often the drunk, plaid-panted, white-belted, loudmouth with the lampshade on his head at a party is what people conjure in their mind whenever they think about a salesman. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
It’s time the selling profession is recognized again as the honorable discipline that it most surely is; one where success walks in lockstep with honesty and integrity. One where the professional seller is a professional helper, a problem solver, a solutionist – not what the ignorant so erroneously believe.
It’s time again for senior executives and company owners to re-embrace their roots, the stuff that separated them from the others, that got them to where they are today, and reinvest in what few could argue is the most precious asset that walks out their door each day, whether it’s to go home or to a potential customer.
The Bottom Line:
In wars, we give medals to our brave men and women on the front lines, the ones with everything at stake and everything to lose. The ones, without which, we can ever be successful. In business and especially in competitive times, we have courageous men and women on the front lines doing a job that makes most all others cringe at even the thought of meeting the challenges they face on a daily basis. And the fact is, we better respect, honour and support these people because without them, there would be No customers, No service department, No marketing department, No administration, No Company, No recovery, No economy… No Damn Anything!
Paul Shearstone MACP, CCP, is a recognized expert on Sales and Persuasion. An International Keynote Speaker, Author of several books including, “Up Your Income! Solution Selling for Profitability”. A Certified Coaching Practitioner and Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Paul enlightens and challenges audiences as he informs, motivates and entertains. To comment on this article or to invite him to speak at your next successful event, we invite you to contact him directly: www.paulshearstone.com firstname.lastname@example.org 416-728-5556.