Why Selling Still Matters

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m already fired up! No, it’s not the three cups of Starbucks or the fact that my workout is done that has me going, it’s an article I just read, To Increase Revenue Stop Selling. The article opens with, “Creating or expanding business relationships is not about selling – it’s about establishing trust, rapport, and value creation without selling.”

I don’t disagree with the need to establish trust and rapport. When I teach persuasion workshops we focus quite a bit on two principles that address these. Robert Cialdini’s principle of authority stresses the need for trust and expertise. After all, would you want to deal with an expert you can’t trust? Of course not.

When it comes to rapport, that is facilitated by the liking principle. As Jeffery Gitomer says, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things not being so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” Friendship and likability are huge! We’ll see how important likability is in the upcoming election because I can’t think of a time when the more likable candidate didn’t win the presidency.

So I’m onboard with the need to be a trusted and well liked advisor but that’s not nearly enough. I’ll give a perfect example. Many years ago at my company we had a large project under way working with an outside consulting firm in an effort to stimulate more sales growth. We were highly profitable but sales lagged compared to our peer group competitors. The consultants met with our agents face-to-face, conducted phone interviews and administered an online survey. Our survey participation was off the charts and one of the consultants said, “We’ve never worked with a company where the client has had so much affection for the company. Your agents love you.” Did you catch that – affection and love?
We were a trusted advisor with excellent relationships and sales stunk. I said to one consultant, “We’re like the girl everybody likes but no one asks to the dance.” Trust and likability were not translating into sales.
I’m not sure how the author missed this point but value creation is selling. He wrote, “It’s time for companies to realize that consumers have become very savvy and very demanding.
Today’s consumer (B2B or B2C) does their homework, is well informed, and buys…they are not sold.” I have no disagreement with people hating to be sold but loving to buy. That said, however, today’s consumers are not as sophisticated as people think. Sure, they go online and “research” but you know what most of that amounts to? Price shopping.
Consider this; when telephones and the Yellow Pages were the norm, don’t you think there were people writing articles about how sophisticated consumers had become because they could call around and find out about products with ease? You bet there were!   What I’ve seen for more than 25 years in the insurance industry is people calling around to get the cheapest price the vast majority of the time. And so it is today when people “research” online. The majority are simply looking for the lowest price.
Value creation is about sharing why the price you’re asking is worth it. According to Brian Tracy, author of Advanced Selling Strategies, “Selling is the process of persuading a person that your product or service is of greater value to him than the price you’re asking for it.”
And here’s another interesting point that Steve Jobs showed us – sometimes people don’t know what they want or need. None of us had a clue about the iPod, iPhone or iPad until Jobs created them. Selling sometimes entails pointing out things the consumer might not have thought of. A good salesperson can fall back on the experience of other clients to point out features and benefits the prospective customer might not have considered.
The older I get the more I appreciate the basics. We don’t need grapefruit or Hollywood diets to lose weight, we just need to eat sensibly from the four food groups. We don’t need Madonna or Sylvester Stallone’s latest workouts to be fit; just get to the gym consistently and do some cardio work while you’re there. And we certainly don’t need the latest 10 step sales process that’s guaranteed to make sales skyrocket. Salespeople need to do the basics well – listen more than you talk, ask good questions to uncover needs, care about your client personally and professionally, know your products – how they differ from the competition and how they can help your client, understand how to ethically persuade, and don’t be afraid to ask for the sale.
Do people want to be sold? No. Do they want to work with people they trust and like? Absolutely. Can you get away without selling? Give it a try and soon you’ll be looking for a new career.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You
Learn to Hear “Yes”.
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