There are certain sales behaviours that can actually damage the chances of success. Assertiveness is often interpreted by prospective purchasers as unwanted aggression. Persistence can translate into being annoying. Positive questions from the seller are usually received as rhetorical and manipulative. Focusing on features often triggers concerns with price or confirms that the seller is just not listening. The stark reality of selling is that pushing creates resistance, and assertiveness creates defensiveness. We all prefer to buy rather than being ‘sold’.
Although most sales people intellectually accept these truths, defects nevertheless pervade the behaviours and habits of most. Beliefs do not always equate to the right attitude, and knowledge does not always manifest in positive behaviour. Here are the seven pitfalls of selling that should be avoided. Aspire to embody the antithesis of these seven sins.
First Sin: ‘Selling is the transference of information’. No. Selling is actually building trust and transferring belief. Information can easily be sourced by customers without the assistance of a sales person who should actually serve to filter and distil the mass of available data down to what is relevant and benefits the client. Facts merely serve to support an emotional decision to buy from someone they like and trust. Emotion creates more influence than information.
Second Sin: ‘Talking is the best way to influence’. Only if your goal is to bore people into submission or negatively push them to your competitor. Words account for only 7% of received communication. People think at approximately 500 words per minute and you can only talk effectively at 125 per minute. You must engage the other person visually with positive and congruent body language or they will tune-out. Effective communication means asking insightful questions and actively listening to clarify your understanding and get to the deeper meaning. Listening rather than talking is actually the best way to influence.
Third Sin: ‘Features are benefits’. Not necessarily. Benefits must specifically solve acknowledged problems relating ultimately to time, money, comfort or risk. Prattling on with spurious features early in the sales process creates distracting noise and potential price concerns, preventing the buyer from focusing on the real value you offer in meeting their business needs.
Fourth Sin: ‘Objections are opportunities’. Not so. Objections actually reveal that the sales person has sought to close prematurely or that they do not fully understand the needs of the buyer. Objections are not buying signals nor are they opportunities to close. Yes, objections need to be overcome when raised but they are usually generated by amateurs. It is always better to avoid objections by first having them expressed by the client as problems before any attempt to close. Only seek commitment once you have complete understanding and the buyer’s readiness to purchase has been confirmed.
Fifth Sin: ‘The product is the product’. Not really. Selling the product, service or solution is the third and final sale in any engagement. The prospective client first needs to be sold on your worthiness (credibility) for investing their time and effort. The next thing they need to establish is trust in you and your organisation. Can they actually trust you with the information you are requesting and can they trust you to competently and ethically make recommendations in their best interests? If the first two sales are made, then selling the product, service or solution becomes very achievable once you align with their buying criteria and procurement process. The product is therefore problem resolution through the sales person. The buyer will engage effectively only once both credibility and trust have been established.
Sixth Sin: Skill and knowledge define value and success. Although these are important prerequisites, the real differentiator in the workplace and market is positive attitude and ability to influence. Knowledge and qualifications can easily create alienating arrogance and pride. People don’t care about what you know; they care about what you can do for them. This is why having a positive attitude and proven ability to deliver is crucial.
Seventh Sin: ‘Success is just a numbers game’. Work ethic is important and understanding the required activity levels for building and maintaining a sales funnel is essential. Yet the mediocre focus on being efficient in the least important activities. Be effective and avoid the busy fool syndrome. This means doing the right things, with the right people, at the right time. Yes, understand and honour the required activity levels for a healthy pipeline but progressing a prospect to becoming a customer is not about numbers; it is all about people, process and strategy.