Consult, Don't Sell

So many of us know and understand how we like to be helped when it comes time to buy something. But, when we're on the other side, selling something, we don't often think in those same terms. The Golden Rule, a Biblical principle says: "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." This holds true in sales. All of us in the sales and marketing arenas ought to be selling to others the way we, ourselves, like to be sold to.

The truth is, that no one really likes being sold to. What we all want is a trusted consultant who is objective, informative and honest with us when we're in a position to risk our time and money on a product or service. We buy because there's a benefit we desire for ourselves from that product or service. We want the best price for the right product or service that meets our need. Each of these is important to remember when you're on the other side of the equation, in the position of helping the buyer.

There are many keys to selling, but these are three of the most important ones that we all should remember when selling or marketing:

1. You Must Connect With People Before You Can Be Trusted To Help Guide Them.

Author, speaker and leadership guru, John Maxwell says that people must "know you care, before they care about what you know." The principle is clear in stating that, in order for someone to trust what you're telling them, there must be an understanding that you're in it for them, and not just for yourself. Find any good sales consultant and the first thing you'll notice when they meet you is that they intentionally try to identify and relate with you before offering help. If you're in a department store, that person might say something like, "I'm sorry sir, but I noticed you standing there looking a little unsure.

I know there's a lot of distractions and noise in this store. The truth is that I sometimes wish they would turn down the volume a bit myself. Is there something I can do right now to help you?" While this is a statement appropriate for a department store, the point it demonstrates is true for any situation. When you can identify with prospects/people at a human level, you will start to build their trust and increase their comfort level with you. An excellent way of establishing both rapport and credibility at the same time, is to relay similar challenges that you've had, or your customers have had, and how you learned and overcame them. Let the prospect know that you're real, and that you 'get it', and people will, in-turn, want to listen to your recommendations.

2. People Buy For Their Own Reasons, Not the Salesman's.

None of us walk into a store or go online for a service and think, "OK, how can I help this company make money." The truth is that we buy based on what the individual products or services will do for us: offer peace of mind, a desired experience, save us time or money, or improve our lives in some tangible way. The Sandler Sales Institute, a nationally recognized professional sales training organization that I was fortunate to attend says that, "People buy emotionally and justify intellectually." So, if you're a TV salesman and you ask a customer, "Sir, what interests you about this particular model?" the customer will typically respond with something intellectual like, "Well, this one comes in the size I need and has the functionality I'm looking for." While this might be true, what the prospect won't say is that the reason why they want the really big, expensive Sony model is actually because they think the shiny design is amazing, and the feeling of joy and exhilaration they're going to have while watching the game in full clarity is worth the money. What we need to do as sales consultants and marketers is to ask the right questions and get to the bottom of what is really driving the person to buy. Focus on the prospects true motivations rather than projecting your own reasons on them or accepting any of their initial intellectual, boilerplate responses.

3. Price Is Important, But It Is Not The Most Important Factor.

Continuing with the illustration above, the prospect/person seeks the Sony TV for the experience it will provide him. Therefore, if you were to try and talk that particular customer into going with the less attractive, budget model by a brand he didn't recognize based on the fact that the price was better (and by the way, your margins are better on it too), chances are that you would lose both the customer's trust and their business. That's because you totally misunderstood his reasons for buying. I realize that it is counter intuitive, particularly in the current economic climate, to think that people don't buy things primarily on price, but it's a fact. Marketers often focus on the value a product or service provides because it's a slightly better approach for addressing both the emotional and the intellectual factors of a purchase. Case in point: Consider why people buy Toyotas over Hyundais even though Hyundais have longer warranties, nearly equivalent gas mileage and safety ratings, not to mention, equally high customer satisfaction ratings over the last 5 years. The price of Hyundai automobiles is often 15-20% less than an equivalent model Toyota. I would submit to you that, along with resale value (which is a direct result of the public's preference for Toyotas), the reason why people buy Toyotas is the peace of mind it offers them, not to mention, the brand name.

The bottom line is that when you understand the three principles above, you can begin to approach every engagement with a sense of what is important to prospects/people and start responding to their needs more like a consultant...more like a people-centric marketer.

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