Selling should be far simpler than it is.

R Gb Need Help sales badge 2.jpgFor decades, experienced experts have taught that selling is a process that ultimately consists of matching a product or service with someone who needs it.  Yet, we are all salespeople and most of us fail.  Even more worrying, most salespeople fail.

In decades of selling occasionally (including sales training at P&G and several sales training programs since), working with sales people, and supervising and hiring sales people, I have learned that most sales people do not apply the skills that are widely known and proven.  Because the sales function is not as codified and measurable as blue collar or even many white collar jobs, it is easy to get lazy.

Yet many of us have to do it at some point.  Few are remotely good at it, yet, just as each of us think we are good drivers, we think we are good at selling.  A month ago, someone whom I had met a year ago and never heard from since called me.  She began by asking me if I was interested in using the services of her firm.  I told her that I had never heard of it and had no idea what it did.  So she emailed me a link to the website.  Looking at her website, it was obvious to me, as it should have been to her, that I had no need currently but might in a couple of years.  She asked no questions but ended the call.  I have not heard from her at all.  This behavior is more common than not—and from a professional sales person.

The seven key mistakes in selling are discussed briefly in this post.

  1. An undisciplined leads process:  Far too many people simply either wait for leads to come in over the transom or randomly call.  Then leads are not captured in any disciplined fashion nor are they followed up in an organized way.
  2. Failure to understand the problem and work to solve it:  Selling should not consist of incessant talking.  The effective sales person asks good questions.  What are the problems that the prospect has?  How can the salesperson solve them?  Focus on the problem solving, not what you are selling.
  3. Not building a relationship of trust:  We each buy from those we trust.  Selling is not a purely transactional process though order taking is.  When we buy we are making a commitment to the person as much as to the product or service.  Building this relationship takes time and there are few shortcuts.
  4. Being impatient:  While selling a candy bar to a grocery store shopper is a fast, impersonal transaction, selling a more complex product to a customer can be time consuming.  Many selling cycles can take up to several years.  Sales people need to be patient and not push harder than the internal process allows.  In many B2B sales there can be a couple of dozen people involved in a corporation’s buying decision.
  5. Assuming that customers have to be tricked into buying:  Some closing methods that people rely on assume that the prospect has to be tricked.  Even if this occasionally works, it leaves a bad taste in the prospects mouth and lessens the chance of getting good referrals (essential to both lead development and closing other customers).  A prospect who has been talking to you a while wants to buy, and you have to give them the reasons why.
  6. Reading all objections as price objections:  Even when a prospect says the problem is price, it is frequently not.  It is simply the easiest reason to give the salesperson if, for example, internal dissension makes it difficult.  So, taking it literally and simply, cutting price may not solve anything beyond giving money away.  The effective sales person will probe beyond.
  7. Failing to maintain a relationship: The most likely source of new business is an existing customer. So, keeping close to customers and ensuring their happiness may be far more cost-effective than prospecting for new customers or clients.

Few people in high school want to go into Sales.  Yet most people have to sell as part of their job—even if it is internally in a corporation.  So being ineffective at selling is not acceptable in today’s world.