Excerpted from the book on mindful business management, Business Black Belt.
The reputation you build for the future is more valuable than the profit you earn today.
Your character plays a crucial part in completing a sale. It’s much easier for customers to buy from you when they buy because of you, not in spite of you.
One of the most profound personal experiences I ever had was imposed on me during a “vacation” workshop. This time, fourteen of us were in Hawaii for six days with the founder of the workshop company.
I was working as a salesman for Texas Instruments, selling electronic components. I was having a hard time with sales and being a salesman. I was very frustrated and I had an attitude problem. I’d read the most popular sales books and attended both private and corporate sales seminars, but I was still having trouble making sales. Something was really wrong for me and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
The most difficult thing was that I knew I had to get past my bad attitude to get to the other side. On the one hand, I wanted to say, “Screw sales.” On the other hand, I knew I wasn’t going to advance in life unless I understood what I was going through and dealt with it.
On the first day, I talked to the workshop leader about my dilemma. I explained my attitude about being a salesman and selling.
He asked, “Why should I buy from you?” It seemed like a simple enough question to role-play, so I said, “Because I work for T.I. and we’ve got the best stuff.” He replied, “Can’t I buy the same things you sell from someone down the street?” Hmmm… That was one of the biggest things that made me crazy. Other distributors of similar products were everywhere, so I didn’t have anything special going for me. Truthfully, I wanted to have an unfair advantage and I didn’t have one. I also wanted it to be easier to have people buy than it really was.
Again he asked, “Why should I buy from you?” I answered, “Because my prices are better.” He replied, “Don’t give me that. I can get a good price from any of your competitors. Don’t you think I can find a competitor who’s hungrier than you are and can give me a better deal?” That was pet peeve #2. I was losing orders every day because of our prices (I thought).
His question came at me again. I said, “Because we give better service.” He responded, “Yeah, but think about it. Wouldn’t your competitors tell me the same thing?” They would.
When I heard the question again, I panicked. I was desperate. I was going to say that I had better quality. But everybody could say that, so quality wasn’t an issue. My problem was that I couldn’t think of a good reason. I’d gone through price, quality, brand name, delivery, service, and all that stuff I’d been taught, but nothing was working. It just didn’t make sense. I could respond to all those questions and give a good pitch to explain why my company, service, quality, and prices were better, so why wasn’t I doing well in sales?
Relax, think about it for a week
The workshop leader could see that I wasn’t getting it, so he suggested I relax and just participate in the workshop. He’d ask me the question again later. As it turned out, the workshop was about how we are reflections of other people—others are reflections of ourselves. You know, it takes one to know one.
By the last day of the workshop, I had completely forgotten about my original problem. I had a great time, a great tan, and a variety of interesting insights into human nature. We were all saying good-bye, when the workshop leader turned to me and asked, “Why should I buy from you?”
“Oh yeah!!” I remembered and replied with complete understanding, “Because you want to do business with me.”
“You got it,” he said.
My response was immediate and natural. It just suddenly seemed so obvious. This is the number one reason people will do business with you. Or not. Everything else is secondary.
Being successful because people want to do business with you carries a lot of responsibility. Your reputation is on the line. You owe it to yourself, your future career, and your customers to sell the best possible product for the best possible company. You also need to be very well informed about what your product does and does not do. That’s how you give the best value to your customers.
We’ve all been watching TV pretty much since it came into being. We’ve all watched commercials as they’ve evolved. We’ve all seen and heard a variety of sales pitches, scams, and rip-offs, to the point that we are fine-tuned to fending them off. A clean, straightforward sales representation is refreshing, unique, and effective.
My product won’t work for you
Now that I was so immersed in the fact that my customers were buying from me, I could be more honest with them. If a product was not good for them, I could say, “In fact, a competitor has what you really need.” It blew my mind when I told a customer to buy my competitor’s product, but I felt better about it because I was doing my customer an honest service in the interest of getting them what they really needed. (That’s another reason to always know about your competitors’ products—not just to prove yours are better, but to know where they fit.) One customer later told me how relieved he was that I stopped pitching my product, because we both knew I was swimming against the current. As a result, he knew he could rely on me to seek his best interests. He wanted to do more business with me with other things. He did, plus he sent me referrals.
I’ve said this before, but let’s look at it again
In this chapter, I’m putting my finger on something that you may have had a feeling about but weren’t sure that you could actually do. You know when a salesman is giving you the run-around. You just have a bad feeling. When a car salesperson introduces himself with “If I make you a deal today, will you buy it today?” a sense inside you says, “Whoa, I’m just starting to look at cars. Does this mean you’re not going to help me?” (The salesperson is trained to qualify you—are you really a buyer or just a tire-kicker? How much time should he or she invest? Unfortunately, the cynicism comes across.)
We need to overcome the inherent conflict of interest in sales. Get rid of the idea that you don’t make any money if you don’t sell to a customer now. Selling needs to come from an interest in helping your customer first and making money on the deal second. This makes a world of difference in sales success. After I started doing that, my sales doubled immediately and I started enjoying my work.
That’s the difference between a good salesman and a bad one. Until you get this fundamental point, you’re never going to be a really successful salesperson. The ones who do get this are excellent. Sales seem to come easily to them. This new breed of salespeople can be honest and make money in the process.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter and I buy regardless of a sleazy salesperson, because I want to buy the product or service anyway. On the other hand, if I’m looking for something really important or expensive, I want to work with my kind of salesperson.
It’s OK to cop to your pitch
If you don’t recognize that they’re buying from you, then you could be making a sales pitch at them. If you catch yourself making this mindless pitch, you can always turn things around and get your customer back. Try asking them something like this:
- Am I pitching you too hard on this?
- I’ve talked perhaps a little too much; where are we?
- I’ve thrown a lot of numbers at you; does this make sense?
- I went off on a tangent there; did I even come close to answering your question?
- Maybe you shouldn’t buy right now. Let’s talk about your situation—maybe I can send you in the right direction.
This concept is part of the spirit of as well as transcends “Consultative Selling” because, in the wrong hands, that can be manipulative too. This is not a sales technique. It’s as simple as doing the right thing for the person in front of you and not what’s necessarily most profitable for you. Not only will you sell more, but you’ll feel great about what you sold. You’ll be happy to see that customer again, knowing that what you sold them did them a service. That customer will be happy to see you again because you helped them solve a problem. They’re also happy to refer you to their friends and family. I don’t care how much you spend on advertising, if people give you a bad reference, business will be tough.
This is more than having a positive mental attitude or psyching yourself up. You know who you are and that commands respect, separates you from the sales Bozos, and attracts people to you because they want to do business with you.
Business Black Belt Notes
- People buy from you and everything else about the sale is secondary.
- You owe it to yourself and your customers to sell the best and to know all about your product and your competitor’s products.
- A good salesperson has an interest in making the customer happy first.
- Then the money will come.