The truly professional salesperson has made a commitment to a calling and has the education, training and expertise an amateur doesn't have.
Selling, like any other profession, must be learned and the salesperson must serve the apprenticeship. The commitment to a calling means the salesperson buys into the professional philosophy of selling that the professional salesperson makes a sales call for only one reason and that reason is to be of service to the customer.
When a professional salesperson sits across the desk from an executive and believes the best thing for that executive is to buy his or her product or service, that is a far more convincing sales strategy than all the gimmicks and high-pressure selling tactics many salespeople use.
I've said many times that I believe any company's future will depend more on its sales and marketing expertise than any other aspect of its business.
It is my belief that a company's greatest asset is not its people; it is the undeveloped potential of its people. Companies must invest in their greatest asset in training, developing and managing their sales organizations.
Even a small increase in sales can result in a major increase in profitability.
"You've got to be very realistic about where you are but very optimistic about where you can be," Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corp., said in a recent interview with The New York Times. "You have to believe; you have to believe; you have to believe."
To be realistic about where they are, companies are beginning to recognize that the hit-and-miss approach to selling that goes on in so many organizations not only poorly represents the quality of the company's goods or services but fails to produce increased profits. Companies are seeing that their sales process should be one that is uniform and should be adopted companywide.
As they look for ways to improve top-line revenue and profitability, companies are starting to look more to their salespeople as well as to other companies for best practices to help them achieve greater success. One of the best sales differentials is that a company's sales force can simply outsell its competition.
However, if those companies are not exposed to other types of innovation as well as techniques they can use to make improvements, it's difficult for them to know what's really a best practice. In choosing a best practice, companies should not commit solely to one inflexible way of doing things. Examining and adopting a best practice implies a method and approach based on continuous learning, constant evaluation and a commitment to continual growth and improvement.
To develop a best practice for selling, it is important to understand the fundamental difference between sales education and sales training.
Education does not emphasize the transfer of skills crucial to putting any sales methodology into practice. Only sales skills training will provide the method by which sales education can be utilized. In education, there is not an emphasis on transfer of skills, but in training, there has to be.
Role playing should also factor into a selling best practice. Understanding a skill, writing it down and performing it repetitively helps to assimilate that skill into a salesperson's behavior so that it will eventually become second nature.
The sales methodology used must be consistent with the science of selling.
One of the mistakes companies and salespeople make is that they are product-centered, not people-oriented, not understanding that the sale of that product can be made only when the customer's buying decisions have been satisfied. Using a sales methodology that does not take into consideration this science of selling is practicing at doing things wrong and getting better at getting worse.
Prospects have a hidden agenda of five unconscious buying decisions that will be made in a precise psychological order.
This agenda is hidden because most prospects are unaware that they're going through this process.
The five buying decisions are:
- 1. About you, the salesperson.
In a business-to-business sale, the goal of the initial meeting generally is not to sell a product or service. The first meeting is to create interest, determine if there is a need and if you have a genuine prospect. It is most important to build rapport and develop trust. Research has shown that trust develops (or doesn't) in the first few seconds of the initial meeting. It doesn't matter how much you know about your product or service: If the person sitting across the desk doesn't like you or trust you, you're not going to make the sale.
2. About your company.
Will it back its commitments? Does it have a good reputation? Will it perform as promised?
3. About your product or service.
Does it fill a genuine need? Does it solve a problem? Is it the best choice?
4. About the price of the product or service.
People don't buy price - they buy value - and they want the best value for their investment. One of the worst things a salesperson can do, then, is compromise on price. Not only does this decrease the value of the product or service in the prospect's eyes but if you're dealing with a competent buyer, they're likely to try to persuade you to lower your price now that they see it's worth less than previously thought.
5. About the time to buy.
If the other four decisions have been made satisfactorily, this is the point at which the salesperson will ask for the order. However, how many times have you heard someone say, "It sounded good but I just didn't feel right about it"? That's a strong indicator that one of the five buying decisions was not made in a positive manner. If at this point the salesperson is able to make the sale, though, that is an indicator that the buying decisions have been made positively and that the needs of the customer have been met.
As Ballmer advised, companies and individuals should be optimistic about where they are going.
Attitude is a crucial factor in success, but equally important is how you achieve that success.
If you believe in yourself, adopting a proven sales methodology based on the science of selling and continuing your efforts to improve will almost guarantee your success.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.