Sales people are often misunderstood – by customers and prospects, who often think we’re trying to finagle our way into their schedule so we can try to hard-sell them into buying something they don’t need; by colleagues in other parts of the company, who often (wrongly) believe that sales people get all the glory without the effort; and most of all by our bosses.
Whether your boss is a sales manager or a higher-level executive, unfortunately there are many sales people’s bosses who have a few misconceptions or outdated ideas about what really leads to sales success.
Here are a few of the most important things about sales that your boss might not know:
- Sales is all about building relationships: Whether you want to call it “rapport,” “trust” or “credibility,” the core truth of sales is that it is a business of relationships. Prospects won’t want to hear from you if they don’t trust you, or if they don’t believe that you’re looking out for their best interests. Customers won’t return your calls if they don’t respect your judgment. Instead of simply dialing lots of numbers and breezing through your calling script, take time to invest in a longer conversation and a longer-term relationship with your customers. Try to get your customers to perceive you as an expert in your field, an industry peer and colleague.
- Sales is not about dialing phones, it’s about exerting influence: Yes, sales people need to make the calls. And it’s true that the more calls you dial, the more sales you ultimately make. But what’s more important than the daily numbers game of making calls is what you do with each conversation while you’re on the phone. How influential can you be as a sales person? The most successful sales people have a way of connecting with what their prospects want, empathizing with their prospect’s challenges, and guiding the conversation toward a resolution which shows the prospect how the sales person can help.
- Sales is a matter of generosity: Too many people (some bosses included) believe that sales is a game of seeing how much you can “get” from your prospects and customers – “get” them to agree to an appointment, “get” them to buy from you, get them to commit to a bigger contract, etc. But in today’s sales world, where customers are time-starved and budgets are tighter than ever, successful sales people are recalibrating their methods and discovering the advantages of generosity. Instead of treating sales as a competition with the customer where you try to “get” as much as possible from them, successful sales people try to see how much they can “give” to the customers. For example, can you give your customers some free business intelligence, insights, or advice – even if the customer isn’t ready to buy? Can you give your customers your undivided attention and offer them your honest analysis on how to improve their situation? Instead of jumping the gun and trying to close the sale immediately, look for ways to be a generous problem solver for your customers – and then watch as the sales and referrals come to you.
Sales people are often misunderstood (by customers and by our bosses) because people think we can just automatically dial through a calling list, unleash a sales script, and make magic happen in any sales situation. The truth is more complicated.
Sales don’t just happen automatically. Each sale results from a series of interactions and trust-building conversations to guide a prospect through the sales process. Every customer is different, with their own unique needs, problems and points of pain.
Successful sales people are experts at the art of building relationships, exercising influence, and representing our companies with generosity, tact and interpersonal intuition. No matter what advances we see in technology, sales success comes down to this human element of building relationships, one person at a time.