In the last while, I’ve written about how customers can help sales reps to stop being their own worst enemy; how entrepreneurs who are afraid to sell can get over that hurdle; and now I’d like to have a little chat with the person at the center of these conversations: sales people, I’m talking to you. Please, stop perpetuating the stereotype of the pushy salesperson, for all your sakes.
The Bad Habits of Otherwise Good Sales People
Many sales people live and die by these kinds of credos:
- Never take ‘no’ for an answer.
- Always ask open-ended questions to avoid getting an outright ‘no’.
- Always be closing.
- There’s a ‘yes’ at the end of this conversation, if you could only hit on the right button – so keep them talking.
Some succeed by them, too – but not many. For the most part, sales reps who abide by these tips uncritically wind up doing themselves and their companies more harm than good.
Actually, I’ve had far more success – and the sales professionals I coach have done way better, my following these rules of thumb:
- ‘No’ is OK. Actually, a fast ‘no’ is the best kind of ‘no’. If your solution isn’t the right fit for a customer, it’s far better for you to move on down the list to someone else who might actually buy what you’re selling.
- Ask closed questions where you might get to ‘no’ quicker. That means asking intelligent questions, in keeping with their needs. “Is this the right solution for your problem? Is the timing right? Does this price work for you? Are the delivery terms what you need? Is there any part of this deal that doesn’t work for you?” A whole bunch of ‘yes’’ followed by one or two ‘no’s might just mean you have to adjust a few terms to get this deal done.
- Allow the customer an ‘out’. Plenty of companies offer no-contract arrangements or ‘no-questions-asked’ return policies and similar kinds of options, because they work. When a customer doesn’t feel pressure to sign, you’re going to get a genuine ‘yes’ from a happy and informed customer, not a quick deal followed by an equally quick cancellation and bad blood.
Sales people, you don’t have to be pushy to be effective. As I’ve often said, selling isn’t telling. If you’ve targeted your customer right and are offering them a real solution to a real problem, on the right terms, they’ll say ‘yes’ more often – and they’ll say yes again, when it’s time to renew their contract or buy another widget. And isn’t that what we’re all trying to achieve, here?