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Coaches Diary: Selling it Well


This week coach Olivia Stefanino helps a salesman think about his relationships with clients.

Pete had worked in sales for the last five years, but in spite of his extensive experience, he was convinced that he still had a lot to learn. Apart from his innate sense of curiosity - which had often got him into trouble at school - Pete particularly wanted to know why some of his colleagues were consistently viewed as the company’s “superstars”.

It made sense to start our work together by looking at how Pete approached his job. and then comparing his activities with those of his colleagues.

Pete’s employer was a well-established and go-ahead organisation, which retained an active marketing and promotional department. Regular press and radio advertising meant that all the sales team were provided with regular, and warm, leads.

I asked Pete if he had ever accompanied any of his super-successful colleagues on their sales calls, but he was quick to tell me that the company’s territorial allocation had meant that no opportunities for learning on the job had ever come up.

While Pete had been on plenty of sales courses, it was clear that there was still something missing from his presentation style. Like Pete, I wanted to find the solution, so I asked him to make a sales presentation to me, as though I were his customer.

Reaching for his laptop, Pete soon had his beautiful Powerpoint presentation up on screen and for the next 20 minutes he took me through his pitch. Quickly, I began to understand the problem. Pete’s attention was being taken by his laptop and his carefully prepared presentation. Instead of looking upon me as someone with whom to make a business relationship, Pete’s approach left me feeling as though I was just the audience.

I told Peter how I felt, adding: "The best sales people focus on creating great relationships with the customers, relationships that often turn into friendships. The average sales person focuses on winning the sale, but a great sales person focuses on winning the relationship.

"While it’s true to say that heavy handed sales techniques can sometimes win an immediate sale, in most cases only one sale will ever be made to that one customer. And of course, it is much easier to sell more products and services to a happy customer than to keep prospecting for new customers. Therefore, focusing on creating a good relationship with your customers and clients has to be the winning formula in the long run."

I asked Peter to shut his laptop and begin our role-play again, this time with him focusing on building a relationship with me before attempting to tell me about his company’s products.

At first he found it hard, until I suggested that rather than making statements, he should focus on asking great questions. "You need to find out what isn’t working for your client and what his or her problems are before you can provide them with the solution. Just maybe, you won’t be able to provide a solution to their current issue, but at least they will feel that you cared and that you understood what was important to them.

"Building trust in this way is vital if you are going to build a long term relationship with your customer. As you begin to build up a picture of what is important to him or her, you will know how to approach and steer future meetings. By building trust – and a relationship – in this way, you will ultimately become the provider of choice to your client and you will find yourself making repeat sales."

And after all, making repeat sales (and of course up-selling) is the golden secret of all great salespeople.

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power” at


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