In our conversations with selling organizations, we believe that most of them would benefit from reframing the concept of selling.
Why? Because by changing the way people think about the sales function, the idea of selling becomes palatable to people who otherwise would never view themselves as salespeople. Over the years, we have helped large numbers of engineers, scientists, accountants, and consultants become successful salespeople by allowing them to do what they like to do naturally—that is, help their clients achieve goals and solve problems.
Is this sales? Sure. But it’s not traditional selling, which is viewed as distasteful to many people who would otherwise make excellent salespeople.
A client who sells enterprise information technology recently asked us to help them fine-tune their hiring model. We studied the backgrounds of their top salespeople going back 10 years, and discovered that seven of the top ten salespeople came out of some form of customer support. This was a validation of something we had long believed: that people who enjoy helping their customers use their offering to achieve goals and solve problems make excellent salespeople.
Many clients ask us, “Which is better: hiring an experienced salesperson and teaching him or her our product or teaching an employee who already knows our product how to sell?” Good question. We believe the answer lies in the individual. If the experienced salesperson believes that selling means persuading, convincing, closing, and so on, then he or she is very likely to create more of the bad experiences that buyers disdain—this time in your company’s name. If the existing employee likes to help people, has the confidence to approach strangers, and knows how to use the product offering, then we vote for teaching that person how to sell.
Think of the frame of mind of the traditional persuading/convincing salesperson in the minutes just before an initial meeting with a prospect. What is he or she thinking? Most likely, “What can I sell this person?” Or maybe, even worse, “What do I need this person to buy?” And how long do you think it takes the prospect to sense this and to start to feel uncomfortable?
But what if the seller’s primary agenda is finding out whether the prospect has a goal, problem, or need that the seller might be able to help with? And what if the seller is actually willing to leave if he or she doesn’t have anything to offer in this particular context? Again, we believe that reframing the concept of selling will cause the sales call—and the entire relationship—to be far more productive and rewarding for all parties.
In this chapter, we present thirteen core concepts that collectively begin to reframe the concept of selling. They are the following:
You get delegated to the people you sound like.
Take the time to diagnose before you offer a prescription.
People buy from people who are sincere and competent, and who empower them.
Don’t give without getting.
You can’t sell to someone who can’t buy.
Bad news early is good news.
No goal means no prospect.
People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover.
When selling, your expertise can become your enemy.
The only person who can call it a solution is the buyer.
Make yourself equal, then make yourself different—or you’ll just be different.
Emotional decisions are justified by value and logic.
Don’t close before the buyer is ready to buy.