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The Essence of Selling

Sales Management

A thoughtful commenter recently started a comment with, “The essence of selling………..”

I didn’t completely agree with the comment, but it got me to thinking about the “essence of selling.” I’m not sure I have a great answer, but let me think out loud.

  • Is it building relationships? Relationships are important in selling, but is that the essence of it–is that why we sell? I have relationships with lots of people who I never want to sell anything to.
  • Is it helping the customer? We want to be helpful, we want customers to like us, but we aren’t a charity or a social service organization (Even charities sell —though they call it something different).
  • Is it solving a problem, providing solutions for our customers? Our customers engage us because they have a problem they want to solve, something they want to do. They think we can help them do it.
  • Is it creating value for the customer? To be successful for the customer and with the customer, we have to create value. Without great value, the customer has no reason to change or no reason to select us.
  • Is it providing insight for customers? We want to educate the customers, present them new ideas, help identify new opportunities, show them how they can improve. But most of all, we want to focus our insight on things in which we can specifically help the customer. All the rest is pleasant conversation.
  • Is it demonstrating our knowledge, expertise? Is it demonstrating the superiority of our solution? We do have to demonstrate our knowledge, expertise, and capabilities to build confidence that we can, in fact solve the customers’ problems and help them achieve their goals. Without connecting these to what we can do for the customer it is either bragging or peddling—both of which are fairly useless.
  • Is it becoming the trusted partner of our customers? Certainly, we want customers to trust us–they won’t work with us, they won’t see us if they don’t.
  • Is it about helping our customers buy, facilitating their buying process, helping the reach a decision–hopefully selecting us? Our customers don’t know how to buy, we can help them in this process, we often underestimate the value we create by doing so. The toughest part about buying is not the vendor selection, but in aligning everyone on the buying team and figuring out what it is you want to do, why you are doing it, and what outcomes you want to create.
  • Is it about engaging our customers in thoughtful discussions about their business? We wouldn’t think about anything else. Customers don’t want to hear our pitches, they want to talk about their businesses, their goals, their problems, and what they can do about it.

There are probably a lot more things. These things are all critical to being successful in selling.

But it seems to me the essence of selling is producing revenue for the companies/organizations we work for.

Somehow it seems crass to be that direct, but that is the essence. It’s something we can never lose sight of. It’s something we shouldn’t be ashamed of, or afraid to declare to our customers.

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Doing all the things I’ve listed above are meaningless if they aren’t oriented to producing revenue (money) for our companies.

Don’t get me wrong–building relationships is great–just for the value of the relationship itself. Solving problems is challenging and fun. Providing insight is ego gratifying and helpful. Each are useful and valuable things. There are lots of people who do these things who do not sell. As sales people we have to do all these thing in order to sell–to get people to decide to spend their money on us.

Sometimes, I think many of us lose sight of this. We build and maintain the relationship in hopes that someday, maybe, the customer might want to buy something. We want to keep engaging the customers in discussions–as long as they keep seeing us, maybe someday they will give us an order. We’re continually providing ideas, the freshest insight, hoping that one day, the customer will whip out a PO.

But the essence of selling is producing revenue for our companies. We have to do all these things, but we do them purposefully. We do them for the goal of getting the customer to buy, to generate revenue for our company. Anything else is just a waste of our time, our company resources, and the customers’ time. They don’t want necessarily want relationships, they don’t want to have pleasant conversation. They want to achieve their goals, solve their problems, improve their businesses (so they produce money).

It seems obvious, but sometimes, I think we need to remind ourselves. We confuse what we must do to be successful with the essence of selling.

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