Only Present to Customers Whose Criteria is Known to You
For traditional salespeople (content dispensers), selling is fundamentally an optimistic activity. When delivered with enthusiasm, firm control and high-energy, selling is fun, self-affirming and an escape from stressful quotas and boring paper work back at the office.
Too bad it is not nearly as effective and productive anymore in the information economy. But make no mistake it still works at a low level. I call this negative, positive reinforcement theory. I am not sure if I made up the theory or not. Google it. Here is the gist: It works just enough to get you acceptable, substandard results (bear minimum), but never enough to get you what you really want (goal achievement, self-actualization, freedom to pick and choose customers).
Product salespeople love to pitch because they love to add excitement and sizzle to their approach. It makes them feel soundly in control. They want to get emotionally charged from the sales call so that when they get awarded the deal they can feel they made a personal contribution and a difference. It also helps that when they are not awarded the deal they can point the finger at the customer for their short-sightedness and for just not "getting it."
This is the downfall of conventional salespeople. It is their strongly perceived convictions of how they can help customers that drives this dysfunctional sale strategy. I too often see firsthand successful sales calls that result in business failure because salespeople leave too much money on the table, they sell transactionally, and the weak relationship that they created is built on a poor foundation that is vulnerable to future competition.
Mainstream salespeople who have big personalities and lots of positive energy need to learn to tone it down and re-channel it elsewhere. Salespeople need to be sounding boards, not pitching machines. Too many salespeople would make better professional public speakers than sales consultants. They would have full reign to command an audience, give one-way presentations, and optimize on their positive energy and enthusiasm.
"Consultative salespeople often work unheralded, and usually anonymously. They must have an unusually large amount of self-actualization in their need set. They must have, and be driven by, a need to realize their own growth and development. They must want to utilize all of themselves on behalf of their customers. For the consultant, self-actualization must always take precedence over the rewards of power, prestige and self-promotion," says Mack Hanan. As we all know, traditional salespeople have a high need for approval, and love to be center stage where they can demonstrate their high level of influence. They feel compelled to leave an indelible imprint of their personality, likability and charm.
"Here's my definition of selling; Planting an idea into a customer's head and making them believe they thought of it," says Rob Jolles. This is a far cry from how most information salespeople sell when they are shoving ideas down customer's throats, because they do not trust the customer to have the ability to draw their own conclusions. Traditional salespeople feel too out of control when they apply subtlety, and customer self-empowerment. Also, it just does not seem like selling.
When salespeople take a position that they are the arbiters of what is best for the customer they lose a tremendous amount of credibility. Content, rich salespeople are always fighting and posturing to position their product offering as credible by leading with information. However, your mission is to create credibility and trust by first understanding your customer's business, not by having your customer understand and trust your product information. You cannot serve two masters at the same time. Are you in it for yourself, or are you in it for your customer?
Mainstream salespeople are fixated with selling with information because it represents forward movement towards the ultimate goal of the benefits the customer will enjoy when they are proud owners of their solution. Yet they miss the boat. They need to do regression analysis to understand the historical perspective of the customer's business, operation, priorities and challenges. This is what a business advisor, strategist or consultant would do. Yet backward movement represents stalling of momentum towards the race to the finish line (the close) for most conventional salespeople.
The downside risks about talking about threats, failures and lost opportunities seem so dour and gloomy compared to the excitement and vigor of describing positive, future outcomes. Salespeople need to balance hope and optimism with reality. Remember, you cannot effectively show someone consistently what is right for them, before you thoroughly have a discussion of what they might be experiencing that is wrong for them.