The More You Sell the Less You Know
Traditional sales people use information solely as a tool to influence. Strategic sales people use information primarily as a tool for access to more information. Traditional sales people always have the end in mind; their solution. Strategic sales people always go back to the beginning and try to access information to see if there is an end, or a future positive outcome based on the customer's unique situation and challenges (negatives).
When your solution is the foundation of your sales strategy your position is a house of cards. Do not look at your solution/product as sacred. It is nothing more than a tool to ask questions, uncover motive, build trust and respect.
Product information in the past could always be relied on as a leveler with customers. Now it is just a great leveler with the competition, with sales people being on the losing end. Sales people who have always been able to measure their utility in the most tangible terms (information or solution) are finding their customers want different tangibles.
"It does not matter whether one talks wisdom or nonsense, the case is the same. The balk of the enjoyment lies in the wagging of the gladsome and the flapping of the sympathie's ears," said Mark Twain. Information selling in the hands of most convention sales people is the love of hearing themselves talk, ego gratification and the desire to control. Unfortunately, they are also providing the majority of the listening. "For most people, the opposite of talking is waiting to talk," says Rick Page.
Knowledge and information has overtaken wisdom in today's information economy. A funny thing happened on the way to the information revolution; while customers had access to more information they received less understanding. Sales people are a co–conspirators because they have overwhelmed customers with information and have underwhelmed them with context, perspective and insight.
Prior to the digital era, sales people were a necessary evil because they controlled what customers needed. Their primary weapon was information and their delivery mechanism was passion, enthusiasm, spin and excitement to stir and sway emotions. Not so anymore, because when people have easy access to information they tolerate less others imposing it on them.
"Sales people are no longer keepers of product information. In the past sales people created credibility because they were product experts," says Dan Kreutze. They took great pride in positioning themselves as expert witnesses. However, the only expert witness of note is the customer. They are an expert on their circumstances and have the inside track on their priorities. Instead of educating them on your solution, let them educate you on whether they have a compelling reason to do something different, buy or take a different direction.
Today, customers are becoming information resistant. Simply stated, sales people's rhetoric is falling on deaf ears, assuming they ever really had a captive audience to begin with. CSO Insights states, "There is a new trend of buy cycles starting before sell cycles that's creating a challenge for product-centric sales people. With prospects already informed about the product, sales reps are unable to demonstrate their value-add.
Customers experience most sales calls as self-indulgence exercises on the part of the sales person. Sales people love their biased propaganda. They are true information activists at the expense of not being true customer activists. More common sense needs to be applied to mainstream sales strategies.
Sales people do not question their overbearing sales tactics which contain very little incentives for restraint and prudence. Selling with a preponderance of information has taken on a life of its own for sellers where customers cannot make sensible choices because they lack context. Sales people need to rein in their polished pitches and PowerPoints that offer very little substance to their customers. In other words, no more binge selling.
Traditional sales people "so do not" communicate, they dictate. Communication is a two-way street of exchanging information. Both parties are open to opposing views, disparate opinions and they seek a common ground. Stereotypical information sellers are output driven, drive for foregone conclusions and try to capitalize on all their advantages prematurely.
Traditional sales people unconsciously and unwittingly treat their customers as inherently weak by force-feeding them information, instead of empowering them to find their own answers. Their sales strategy is built on the shaky foundation of compare, contrast, defend and attack. Where is the customer in this equation?