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Train on selling or die telling

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Train on selling or die telling
  • Is it just me or are there still a huge amount of people who simply refuse to adapt in the new economy? Still with the smouldering embers of recession around us it seems that too many people are unwilling or unable to retrain themselves to adapt to the macroeconomic climate of 2010 and the challenges that face each and every one of us in business.
  • Going back three to five years a good product or service often sold itself. Liquidity within the economy was high, and allied with a general feeling of prosperity, selling wasn’t so much of an art as a cursory function. The concept of “selling” as distinct from “telling” was forgotten as bulging wallets and ever extending lines of credit made commercial transactions as simple to conduct as we are ever likely to see.
  • This ease of business also prompted a culture of laziness and complacency amongst vendors. We all knew that if we didn’t seal a sale that another prospect was likely to follow in quick succession. When this happens, selling becomes functional. The sale becomes almost exclusively about the product or service and has little if any human input.
  • The credit crunch changed this utterly. Instead of vendors being simply facilitators of a customer’s purchase ,the process has become more complicated and relies on deeper, more complex decision making processes.
  • Commercial expediency is now attached to those who can sell not just features, advantages and benefits to their potential customers but who can create emotional bonds and rapport with said customers. Great advertising will arouse a modicum of interest in what you are offering, great marketing will grease the wheels of commerce for you however in the new economy it is the human factor, that X-factor of relationship building which will maximise the seller’s chances of winning that sale.
  • Whether we like it or not we all have to be able to sell effectively. At its most basic a sale is a form of relationship between a seller and a decision maker. Across the spectrum of the economy, from doctors to dockers, everyone is selling something, be it their products or their services. The new economy means that selling is now the key skill attached to success and prosperity.
  • Legions of successful business people have for generations extolled the virtues of looking after customers. Sam Walton of Wal-Mart said that customers are the only real boss in any business and that they can sack anyone by taking their business elsewhere. Never has this been truer than in the economy of today.  If we take time to understand the people that we deal with each day and we form bonds with them that are more than simply transactional we create a platform to more than simply maintain business, we create a system whereby the customer is our friend and that enhances the prospect of repeat business.
  • Four examples that happened to me today between 8am and 4pm illustrate this to me as being more than an assumption.
  • Firstly I went to buy my newspaper this morning as I do each day. I use a pre paid system whereby I am sent a month of vouchers which I then redeem each day in whichever shop happens to be convenient to me. In my haste this morning I had forgotten my voucher, but the man behind the counter without prompting said to me  when I produced my coins for payment that he remembered that I used vouchers and that I could just pop back in tomorrow with today’s voucher. It was a nice start to my day.
  • The second and third instance happened with minutes of each other. Walking to my train it started to rain heavily so I popped into my local coffee shop with my paper to wait for it to pass. Whilst sipping my coffee I met two people I know locally. Firstly was my local pub landlord who said a pleasant “Good morning”, exchanged a few words with me and then on leaving mentioned that he “might see me in the pub tonight?”,.Seconds later the local estate agent ,who has me on her books and who is currently trying to show me some properties, walked in talking on her mobile phone. She saw me, made eye contact and then looked away! She ordered her coffee to go, had to walk by my table but not once acknowledged me. To make matters worse she emailed later in the day with a new property and made not one reference to this morning.
  • Finally I had a meeting with a client and we were discussing his business and some tactical details that we are looking to implement going forward. One of these is a basic CRM model which will give him better data mining and customer visibility. Whilst we were there he took a phone call from a customer but said he would call him back as he was in the middle of something. Just before writing this article I called him and chastised him for doing so, (not very PC for a consultant I know), his response was to thank me for reminding him as he hadn’t yet called the customer back!
  • These four little happenings in my day gave me a huge reminder that selling is the most vital skill any of us has right now. The newsagent guy has my business for as long as he wants it. He sold me his flexibility as well as a newspaper. The pub owner has similarly sold me his welcome to his establishment . In addition by asking me “If he might see me tonight” reminding me that the old ABC mantra of Always Be Closing is as true today as it ever was.
  • On the flip side the estate agent sold me nothing, she has shown to me that my value to her business is at best minimal. I am a number not a customer. I will sell her my apathy and change agencies. My client has reminded me that the most important person in your day is your customer and their needs. Nothing is more important. No CRM system or business modelling matters if you are not building the human bridges with your customers. The sad thing is that the estate agent and my client have probably a bigger monetary value per transaction at stake than the others.
  • Most frustratingly it’s the simplest thing to fix. But as the wise man said:what is simple isn’t easy. My advice to anyone who manages anyone who sells anything is to retrain them on the human side of the sale. This is not a recipe for success but it is a prerequisite for selling. Train your people (employees), to treat your people, (customers) like your people want to be treated. Without it you will make some sales but you won’t build empires.
Simon Kenny is a director of the Skills4Sales and Skills4Leaders consultancy.

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