Selling is Not Telling

I recently posted the saying “Selling is Not Telling” on my Facebook business page and received many questions asking me what I meant exactly.

I thought it created enough questions to discuss the concept in more detail here on my blog.

Let me start by saying, I applaud salespeople who are passionate about their product or service. I believe you need to be in order to be an effective salesperson. However, being passionate about what you sell can be a double edged sword if you, as a salesperson are more interested in extolling the virtues of what your product or service can do than learning the needs and wants of your client and tailoring your sales presentation accordingly.

For example, let’s say…

I sell sales training services that I am very passionate about; especially as my clients typically experience an increase in sales of 15-35% within the first 6 weeks of working with me. So, I am always excited to talk about my programs and how I think I can help.

Now, I have an appointment with a prospect. If it starts something like this…

I say, “Thank you for your time today! I am going to share with you how I can deliver increased sales revenue of 15-35% for your company by helping your sales people with their presentation skills over a short 6-week period.”

I’m in trouble.

I am not selling my client in this scenario. I am telling my client. Some of you may believe that they are one in the same from this example; after all, I am sharing a solid benefit with a supporting feature – this is a powerful technique, just NOT at this early stage of the sales process. The challenge here is, I am so passionate about the benefit of what I have to offer, that I am not going through the process of being an effective salesperson!

Although there are many steps in the sales process, the one I will focus on for this example is probing, i.e., asking questions and listening. In the example above, I assumed I knew what the client was interested in.

But, what if my prospect is not interested in sales presentation training? Or, increasing sales revenue? I effectively TOLD my prospect what I think she should buy from me.

To sell to her, I should find out what her real needs are and what results she wants to generate with my help. This is where selling begins. Asking lots of questions so I can define the problem and what kind of solution the prospect is seeking. It is with a clear understanding of this information that I can then sell my service.

In the questioning process, I may find out that the prospect’s problem is that she is not trying to increase sales revenue, but profitability. If sales remained the same, but profits increased by 5%, the company would add $2 million to its bottom line in 12 months. Maybe she thinks the presentation skills are fine, it’s the ability to fight off the “Little Voice” in the sales people’s heads saying that if they try to command more money for their products, their customers won’t like them and therefore won’t buy from them anymore. Wow! What a different situation than the one I presented in the initial example!

A true sales person is interested in helping his or her prospect solve a specific problem or fill a need. He should only discuss the solutions that he can provide. If he doesn’t have the right solution for his prospect, he should recommend someone who does if he knows of the right resource. This way, he will strengthen his relationship with both the prospect and the alternative resource allowing for new referrals and opportunities with both parties in the future; vs. trying to manipulate a prospect into buying a product or service that is actually a poor overall solution and having customer service issues and a dissatisfied customer down the road.

So, don’t tell your customer what they should want or need. Instead, use good probing skills to determine what your prospect really wants or needs. Then, sell them on your best fitting solution!

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