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The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

Information self-indulgent sellers have been hearing for years the ramblings of the merits of customer-centered selling, but like Mark Twain said about the weather, "Everybody is talking about it and nobody is doing anything about it." Today information selling (product selling) is like a boomerang—it is fun to throw out, it is a pain when it comes back to mess with you; unengaged and bored customers, commoditization, price pressures, blank stares, objections and little to show for all your efforts. Information selling is a case study in unintended negative consequences.

Information sellers, in effect, are selling to an empty room. Sales people are frustrated because they believe their customers have a compulsive hand-washing disorder that manifests itself by them constantly washing off their great ideas. All their information is wastefully swirling down the drain. Information sellers do not realize that they have to earn their way into a sales call; they have to earn their customer's attention. They should not think that their information is a calling card.

It is not the message, it is the messenger that is important. The most important message, is the message coming from the customer. And the best way to access the customer's message is through the quality of your thought-provoking questions. Too sellers do not realize that their questions are their true calling card.

Make no mistake, information sellers continue to be blessed by good luck. Through hook or crook, information selling still succeeds in spite of itself. That is one of its greatest problems. I call it negative/positive reinforcement theory. It works beautifully to give the bare minimum in results, yet it never works well enough to give sales people what they really need to help them accomplish their goals. Even though they often have no idea what the customer's problems are, their solutions do occasionally hit the mark. This hit and miss sales strategy is no easy way to make a living.

Information sellers are smothering customer's independence and creativity to think for themselves. They stymie self-expression. They have a pathological need for selling the sizzle, with little concern of the imbalance of power they are creating. This has led to pervasive anxiety with both parties, resulting in a loss of trust.

Hyper active selling fails like hyper active parenting. No helicopter sales people! They are trying to exercise control in a world that does not recognize their dominion. Information selling is an avoidance strategy that does not work very well in the Internet economy. Customers do not need sales people for information like they used to. The Internet allows them to self-educate in the quiet comfort of anonymity, without pressure or undue influence.

Most conventional sellers when outsold will point to their inability to communicate their message and story persuasively and clearly. The real failure is the inability of allowing the customer to communicate properly their story. The customer is in the ideal position to do the balk of the communication. The failure of information selling is not due to being outsold or other lapses, it is due to systemic problems with the process itself. Selling with information falsely promises one to look exceptional. Letting customers find their own answer seems less exceptional to most conventional sales peoples ego.

Most information selling is a futile exercise in ego fulfillment and gratification, instead of customer gratification. "The extent of ego's inability to recognize itself and see what it is doing is staggering and unbelievable. It will do exactly what it condemns others for doing and not see it," says Eckhart Tolle. Sales people will complain about customers not respecting their time and expertise, and will turn around and waste customers time with information that is not relevant to their specific needs. The reality is sales people's information is not as galvanizing as they think.

Customers see arrogance and abuse of power when sales people have their 60 seconds of fame presenting all their information. They are out of touch with their customer's needs, because their actions suggest someone who refuses to listen and let another take center stage. They might as well be saying my point of view is more important than yours. Information sellers are not noted for going into sales calls with their eyes wide open and with a totally flexible open mind. Rather, they are on a mission to push their agenda. They approach sales with a total chip on their shoulder, always having to prove the value of their offering. Instead, they should have a goal of proving the value of the customer's problem.

Information sellers are self-declared saviors who unrealistically assist customers to make fundamental changes prematurely. They try to help, but they end up hindering. Information sellers are trying to save customers from themselves. They know best. However, no one likes unsolicited saving. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Information sellers are selling and advising without probable cause and selling with extreme prejudice. They unfortunately provide a linear, stagnant, non-immersive experience for their customers.

"Living with generosity creates a swelling tide that raises all ships. Not just yours; not just the other person's; everyone. It is just not fun to be the one controlling," says Bob Burg. Information selling is popular because it seems like you are giving so much, but you really are taking everything for yourself.

Information sellers have what they believe as maximum potential clout, or leverage at the beginning of a sales call. They typically overplay their hands to their detriment. With the flair of theatrics, they try too hard for maximum impact hoping it will lead to a quick conversion and a new believer. They do not realize going fast is so slow. Their information is penny-ante compared to the customer's wealth of information about their unique situation and problems. The ugly side of getting your customer all excited and jazzed up, is their excitement is usually premature, spontaneous and with no solid foundation based on reality.

Progressive sales people are thrifty with their information and are solution agnostic. They know talk is cheap. They are painfully aware that customers believe there is very little truth in advertising, especially when it is delivered by a sales person. Progressive sales people view their product information as a necessary evil to be disposed of very sparingly, and predominately as talking points for the customer to self-reveal true intentions, challenges and goals. Remember, the best presentation is the customer presenting their problems and challenges to the sales person. So use your product information primarily as a tool to get more sensitive and valuable information.

Information selling is a value myth and mirage. Sales people think they are creating added-value, but all they are creating is sameness and overkill. Their comparative advantage is never established because of their melodramatic presentations do more harm than good. And in the mind of the customer, there is very little comparative advantage, because what comes out of a sales person's mouth usually is suspect, artificial and too constructed.

It is a sad reality that most conventional sellers are selling the exact same differences as everyone else. Everyone ends up being unique and different just like everyone else.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com