For decades, salespeople have been told to sell strategically, become a consultant and trusted advisor, and stand with the prospect, establishing a bond and building rapport. We were told to ask open-ended questions and probe to find the pain — and once the pain is agreed upon, monetize and magnify that pain. We’re guiding the prospect through the sales cycle, we were told – if by “guiding,” you mean prodding, cajoling, removing obstacles and ultimately getting money to move from your prospect’s pocket into yours.
Those were the days.
Back in 2019, prospects began to walk the sales journey solo, at their pace. Some studies show prospects completing 80% of the decision-making process without a “salesperson/trusted advisor/consultant/solutionist.” Salespeople are no longer the keepers of information. Indeed, product knowledge is blasé.
Today, in the era of COVID-19, it is easier than ever to purchase solutions without a selling professional’s assistance – we do not hold dominion over information. We can no longer be a walking, talking spec sheet.
So how do we proceed? Face to face meetings are a rarity, fear, uncertainty and doubt are the norm and the internet educates anyone about anything. How do you, the selling professional, fit into this Brave New World?
Fortunately, you can carve out a place in the sun, for yourself. That’s one of the great things about sales; the world moves on buying and selling, so there is room for everyone.
I’m guessing your manager hasn’t mentioned this one very specific and completely obvious recommendation, which has been preached for decades but rarely, if ever, implemented.
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Be yourself. Be real, transparent, open and honest with yourself and your prospects. I know it sounds trivial, but we are pulled in so many different directions it is easy to lose oneself in the game.
- Know yourself
- Be vulnerable
Know who you are – “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” ~ Socrates
This isn’t a mystical exercise.
Self-aware selling professionals can put themselves in the prospect’s shoes. This is not done to find problems or pain and twist.
To know yourself:
- Know your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes.
- Understand how your mood and reactions respond to influences around you.
- Track how your environment affects you.
If you’re good at cold calling, embrace it. If you know how to interview over the phone, performing a needs analysis, keep asking questions. Weak on PowerPoint? Brush up over the weekend.
When spending time on the phone, facing more rejection than affirmation will affect your mood. How do you respond? Do you stay dejected? Recognize and move forward – they’re just numbers.
The work-from-anywhere movement means you can create your surroundings in any manner you like, so do it. Design your work environment for your well-being.
It is easier to be authentic when you know who you are.
Empathize – “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” ~ T. Roosevelt
The global pandemic has given everybody pain and discomfort. Never before have so many shared so much at the same time. This collective understanding allows all of us to empathize with each other at a higher level. We all have COVID-19 in common.
Unfortunately, the age of COVID-19 has made us a bit more suspicious of the world around us. Utilize a real, empathetic ear when talking with your prospects and sharing your knowledge. It is easier now to get into your customers’ shoes.
Honest empathy and understanding are human traits vital to being transparent and genuine.
Be vulnerable – “In the beginning, people think vulnerability will make you weak, but it does the opposite. It shows you’re strong enough to care.” ~ Victoria Pratt
What is it you fear the most when working with prospects? Is it your lack of a reputation that concerns you? Mention it right up front, “Mr. Prospect, I’m new at the sales gig, but I’ve surrounded myself with technical experts and I am a student of business. I’d looking for companies I can work with and help them be happier.”
Think about it – every time you get on the phone and have a conversation, you and your prospect are determining if you should each continue a relationship. This is exactly what professional selling should be. No trickery, just an honest investigation between two parties to determine if moving forward together, makes sense.
Some salespeople are afraid of their own price. This is poppycock. Don’t hide the price. In the executive summary state the cost of current processes, your price, and the business impact of your solution. Your prospects are smart and don’t have the time or inclination to play games.
They know who you are and have invested time into your relationship – you do not need to continuously tell them how good you think you are or what other companies say about yours.
Be willing to walk away at any stage of the journey. It is okay to end a relationship when there is no point in moving forward. Today, convincing somebody to do your bidding will lead to ruin. You are in the world of attraction, not manipulation for a result. This is freeing. You chose who to work with and under what circumstances – being open, honest and transparent empowers you with the direction.
Be authentic with yourself, co-workers, prospects and customers and you’ll have a productive and happy selling career.
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