I started selling while still in college over 40 years ago. I was fortunate to be trained by some of the best in the business.
In the intervening years, I’ve noticed lots of changes, some subtle and some significant. Here are three that you need to understand if you want to succeed in selling today.
First, it used to be enough to promise value to make the sale. If a client believed you could deliver, they gave you a chance. Today, you need to prove value to make the sale. Demonstrate what you can do to help the client be more successful. Don’t tell prospects how good the candy tastes. Let them taste the candy knowing they’ll want to buy more once they do.
Providing something of value invokes the law of social reciprocity: people are likely to return the positive gesture you initiated. At the very least, they will pause before passing on what you are offering once they’ve experienced the value you can create.
Second, it has become cliché that “customers don’t want to be sold, they want to buy.” That’s changed. Today customers want to be sold—to have a professional get to know them, understand their needs and suggest the best possible product or service to meet them. They don’t have the time nor desire to develop the expertise you do about your product or service. It is up to you to understand the potential buyer’s needs and best match your product or service to meet them.
Customers are better informed, but that doesn’t eliminate the work of the sales professional. Customers want to be sold so they can make a good buying decision. (What they don’t want is to be pressured or manipulated.)
Sometimes the customer thinks he or she is more informed than they actually are. That means your job becomes to not just educate, but re-educate what the customer believes to be true that isn’t.
Finally, a sale doesn’t create a customer. A sale creates a transaction. How the sale is made and what happens after creates a customer, or sends a potential long-term customer packing. A sales pro aims for an ongoing relationship, not a single transaction.
On a client call today I asked about the role of the sale professionals in that organization after the sale is made. “Oh, we want them to stay involved throughout the process to track progress, create accountability and continue to develop the relationship with the buyer,” was the response. This company understands that selling opens the door but an ongoing relationship keeps the door open.
Think about your job, prospect and customers. Find an example for each of the three changes above. Focus on how you handled the challenge, and the outcome. What can you do better next time to deal with three of the biggest changes in selling?
Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com.