Do you sometimes hate selling? It makes me feel slimy when I have a hidden agenda to sell somebody consulting services. When I try to get clients to buy something I end up subtly trying to manipulate them, and then I feel even worse that I’m not being genuine, not being myself.
Can you relate to this? There are whole libraries full of sales books and you’ll find very little about true integrity anywhere. These books dress up manipulation in fancy language and they’re steeped in trickery of one sort or another. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live that way.
I think there’s a better way, a way that serves your clients’ interests as well as yours. Here’s the key: Treat every client like an equal partner, with openness and respect. Learn to listen to them better than you ever have before. Listen to their fears and beliefs and everything that’s important to them–and do it in a non-judgmental way. Be curious and learn about their organization and their personal and business needs and how and when they’ll make a buying decision. Understanding others is the most important sales skills you’ll ever learn. Discover your clients’ buying criteria and speak to them without pushing your point of view as the only “truth”. Sound difficult? You bet it is. But you can learn the skills to do these things.
When you trust people enough to make their own decisions, you’ll stay far away from talking anybody into anything. Show potential clients honest benefits that might appeal to their needs as you understand them. You can also give them real consequences they may experience (if any) in not going your way, and do it without stacking the deck and making yourself look perfect. Simply give them the advantages of your services in a short, clear and simple way, and if you like tell a story or two about past clients and the good things they have found through your services. And feel confident enough to let clients decide for themselves.
What about buyer objections and buying resistance? Big deal. No need to argue or push back; just meet the resistance with acceptance, not tricks. You can learn how to empathize with your clients’ objections without folding up your tent, and then give them another point of view. There’s no need to bend the truth.
Look, the key is to do what we call “keep the ball in play” after you hear objections; not to push them off the ledge. All the while, it’s important to stay on the client’s side. That way it’s the two of you against their problems, such as no money, time or resources, or even against the perception that they can get a better deal elsewhere. Example: “It seems like if we go forward, we’ve got to figure out together how to make this affordable for you.”
You won’t be able to turn around every objection, but this way you’ll have a chance–and you won’t need to resort to manipulative tricks to make a sale.
The idea is to serve people’s best interests. Focusing only on your own needs means you won’t truly care about theirs’. And believe me: clients know when you only want to sell them something for your own selfish reasons, and they don’t like it. Wouldn’t you feel the same way?
So stop selling, and start partnering with your clients. Life’s a lot easier that way–and it’s a lot easier on clients.
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Authored For S3 Solutions by Marty Friedman
Marty Friedman is one of the architects of the “Power of Partnership”, a training course for consultants and solution sales professionals who want to sell bigger deals and have smoother projects. He has co-presented this training for clients such as HP, Accenture, and Bell Canada as well as many mid-sized companies and start-ups. Find out more at www.PowerofPartnership.net