JOHNSON ON DISTRIBUTION MANAGEMENT: Are You Proud To Be A Salesman?
Being a salesperson in wholesale distribution is an honorable profession. We are selling business- to-business to other professionals within our field of expertise. However, not every sales position in this country is considered an honorable profession. This is generally a result of high-pressure tactics, bothersome telemarketing to your home, some multilevel marketing schemes and other questionable tactics more often used in the retail arena. The stereotype of the used car salesperson comes to mind.
Many people have negative stereotypes about selling. These stereotypes include thoughts of selfish deception, fast talkers and little integrity - people actually cringe at being sold something. Today’s predominate school of thought in sales is “stop trying to sell the customer.” Instead, learn how to “help them buy” something by becoming a total solution provider. Becoming a solution provider means solving a problem even if the solution doesn’t involve the purchase of your product. This is often a hard pill to swallow.
Learning to “stop selling” is a hard pill to swallow unless you are already very successful and have earned the self-esteem and confidence that rids us of the fear of not making a sale and being out of money, and out of work with visions of failure. This makes the selling process a real struggle and fear of rejection dominates our thoughts. This type of behavior then wears on us and we begin a vicious circle. We act like dogs chasing our own tails. We may even commit to ourselves to stop the cycle, which leads us to develop an avoidance syndrome for new account development. We only call on those accounts that call us or we have wellestablished relationships with. It is often referred to as “buddy calls.”
When you are calling on friends, it doesn’t even feel like selling. We often find ourselves in a comfort zone. We may become a little complacent and develop a route mentality gravitating to the status of order takers without even knowing it. Are you beginning to understand how complicated and mixed up being a professional salesperson can become?
The good news is, if you stick with it, continue to educate and train yourself, and believe in your company, your product and yourself, you will begin to see growth in spite of the selfish syndrome you created for yourself. It will happen based on your individual mindset and attitude about your profession and your personal ability to succeed.
Your attitude about success is the primary ingredient to success, and developing that right attitude is a skill set that can be learned. It requires putting the customer’s needs ahead of your personal needs, and yes, putting the customer’s needs ahead of your company’s needs.
However, if you concentrate on fulfilling the customer’s needs, you will ultimately satisfy both your personal needs and the needs of your company. In fact, the better you become at doing it, the more success is multiplied.
A key ingredient to developing this attitude skill set is learning to really listen to the customer and by asking sincere, open-ended questions that are aimed at finding the root cause of his problems and his pain so that you can provide a solution. This is not accomplished by resorting to the complex and manipulative closing techniques you may have learned in the old days in sales school. Solution selling is about honest, sincere empathy for a customer’s problems and searching for the right solutions.
Once you find the pain and develop the right solution, the sale is made. There are no objections for you to overcome. Price is rarely an issue and the request for a proposal is generally a formality.
Remember, if you are the type of salesperson that relies on the proposal to convince your customer to buy, then you will have a very low closing ratio. Personally, if I am not convinced that a customer is sold and ready to buy, I won’t even do a proposal. It’s just too much work if you haven’t found both the pain and the solution to relieve that pain.
So, practice your questioning skills. The power of the answers is often found in the questions. But, remember, it’s very difficult to even begin to ask the right questions if you haven’t developed your listening skills. A few tips:
- Go slow - not fast. Let the customer say everything he has to say. There is nothing wrong with a pause.
- Don’t fake anything. If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
- Build relationships, be funny at appropriate times, and show real concern and interest in your customers’ issues.
- Think of yourself as helping the customer buy, not as if you are trying to sell him something.