A recent article I wrote titled “The Death of Traditional Salespeople” received more response than any article I have ever written. Judging from the massive response, I struck a nerve with salespeople, managers, business owners and just about everyone who read the article. Based upon the overwhelming response and the huge amount of requests for more information on this theme, I am providing the following article.
For as long as I can remember, traditional sales training has focused highly on certain sales skills such as cold calling, presentation-demonstration, objection handling and closing. This model is outdated and out of touch. The traditional model that is taught to salespeople has an adversarial and combative tone that goes against the grain of basic human communication.
Selling is not something you do to someone. By my definition, selling is assisting people in finding and understanding a solution to their problem(s). Every buyer has a problem — whether it is a want or need problem — and it’s the job of the salesperson to guide the buyer to the solution instead of force feeding him product or services. It’s much easier to practice what I call the “slippery-slide method of selling.”
If you were at a pool and it had one of those slippery-slides, you would start at the top and slide effortless to the bottom. In sales, it’s usually the salesperson that puts obstacles in the way of the customer from fl owing effortlessly to their destination. The obstacles start in the form of an outdated mindset of “control” and coercive techniques.
Instead of concentrating so much on outdated word tracks to overpower people, why not concentrate on understanding basic human emotion and thought in assisting the customer, rather than fighting him? Let’s start with the most abused skill in selling, which is listening. So much of selling is actually just listening. It is a proven part of communication that when most people listen, they listen intently for about the first 10 seconds and then quickly shift into thinking about what their response will be. A quick shift occurs in the salesperson that is now self-focused and control oriented.
To truly listen is to seek to understand based upon complete focus on the customer and their perspective. Perception of the customer is the only reality that matters. It’s not about right or wrong or overcoming objections, but about truly understanding the customer and their thoughts and feelings. From understanding comes a shared goal-achieving process with the customer. You and the customer share a destiny, rather than acting as opposing players.
Traditional objection handling techniques stress changing a customer’s thoughts and emotions, rather than understanding them and then utilizing those thoughts and emotions to come a winning solution for the customer. I call this paradigm shift “selling form the heart.” Some old-school types will read this and think it’s a bunch of psycho-babble and feel-good mumbo-jumbo. To those of you locked into that vein of thought, understand that it’s not my mission to change you, as most adults do not change. As Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t tarry too long with the non-believers.”