Big Problem: A Custom Solution Before a Custom Problem Analysis
Selling for most mainstream sales people has the same disastrous results as trying too hard. When you try too hard to impress someone, or get them to feel positively towards you, you so often produce the exact opposite effect. Remember dating!
Mainstream sales people use selling skills to sell. Strategic sales people use selling skills to determine if a prospect is "sellable." "You sell yourself best by not talking about yourself, but by talking about the client," says Charles Green. When both you and the customer are talking about their problems to the exclusion of just about everything else, then you are not selling. You are doing something much better, you are determining "sellability."
Sales people's information is riddled with perceived material misstatements. They do not give customers the privilege and independence to form their own ideas and opinions. Viewed as a campaign of disinformation too often by customers, sales people lose a lot of credibility and relevance when they are an information evangelist. Their sales approach is so deliberate, predictable and steeped in self-interest.
So instead, sales people should strive to be the voice of reason, instead of being like all the other me too, cookie cutter sales people who are often viewed as nothing more than foolhardy, product mercenaries.
There is something hypocritical about sales people who think customers do not appreciate their product expertise or value-add. The reason sales people find themselves in this quandary is because they incorrectly position and project it. Their value-add, unbeknownst to them is not the added advantages of their rich offering, but the added value of their creative brainstorming, neutral counsel, problem identifying skills and their ability to help customers gain a different perspective about their business issues.
Customers are not buying value frequently because sales people do not know how to deliver it in a way that is perceived as valuable. "A common mistake made by sales people is to continue behaving as if they are in the screening process when it comes time to work the selection process. They keep marketing the firm when they should be selling the salesperson," says Charles Green.
Sales people too often behave like they are product marketers, not sales people. Strategic sales people focus all their attention, not on their capabilities and their deliverables, but on the lack of capabilities of their customer to assess their problems and achieve the deliverables they need. Your capabilities are not your deliverables, but your ability to locate, isolate and define problems and their costs are.
Strategic sellers do not tout their expertise, they demonstrate it. Big difference! "Not surprisingly, buyers prefer to screen on acceptable levels of expertise, then base their final decision on trust. They prefer to assess trust not by qualifications, but by sampling; selling by doing," says Charles Green. So in other words, it is not what you sell that is important, it is how you sell it.
Customers will act and behave as if all they care about is cutting to the chase to get your product information or solution. However, in many cases, if they really do have meaningful issues and interest, it is simply a defense mechanism. What they really are saying, is I do not trust you enough to help me investigate the complexities of my problems. I only trust you enough to allow you to give me generic random information that I will try my darnedest to interpret and prioritize. To distinguish yourself from the competition you need to deliver first a custom problem analysis before you even determine if it makes sense to deliver a solution.
It is very telling when a customer trusts you enough to allow you to take them through the very personal process of helping them find and define their issues, redefine their priorities and locate their own answers. If customers want your solution before your counsel and advice, their intent and interest is very suspect. If they want your information before you diagnose their problems, it is very suspect. If they want your content without context, or without your perspective and interpretation, you are heading down the wrong path. If they want your context without an in-depth and meaningful dialogue, you are probably barking up the wrong tree.
Information selling is perpetuated because it reinforces the false ego of both parties that they are in control. It gives sales people a total false sense of security because it gives them the illusion of selling, and gives customers the illusion of being educated and informed. In a nutshell, both parties lose because sales people pretend to sell and customers pretend to buy, and neither are the wiser.