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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA,

If you ask most salespeople what they do, they would most likely describe the solutions—products and services—they provide for their customers. Some examples are:

  • I sell lawn maintenance services.
  • We design point-of-sale solutions for multi-store retail operations.
  • We provide accounting services for the hospitality industry.
  • We custom design and fabricate outdoor signs.
  • We sell and service large format document scanners.
  • I sell advertising specialties.

What’s wrong with that?

The problem is that after awhile, all the descriptions start to sound the same. Not literally, but conceptually. The answers focus on the salesperson (or his company) and the product or service—not the needs or problems of potential customers.

By discussing solutions before identifying the need for a solution—a goal to be accomplished, a problem to be solved, or a challenging situation to be addressed—you fail to capture the prospects’ interest. Alternatively, if you bring the need to the forefront before discussing solutions, you elicit a different reaction. Rather than instinctively tuning out as soon as they hear “I sell…” or “We provide…,” potential prospects will at least listen to the description of the situation that your product or service addresses. Then, they are in a position to decide if they currently have a need for your product or service.

What should you do?

Preface your answer to “What do you do?” types of questions with a question or statement that focuses on the problem your product or service addresses. Here are some examples:

  • You may be aware that large retail operations must keep a minute-by-minute account of their inventory to facilitate the coordination of purchasing and distribution in order to avoid out-ofstock situations. We design, install, and service point-of-sale inventory systems that allow them to do that.
  • Have you ever wondered how people who need to scan or copy large documents like 2 ft. by 3 ft. blueprints do so? We sell and service the equipment that allows them to perform a one-pass scan of those large documents.

You can introduce “needs” with other phrases such as, “Do you know how…,” “You probably haven’t thought about…,” or “Would you be surprised to find out…”

To get your prospects’ attention and arouse their curiosity, first focus on their challenges, then introduce your solution.

What do You Want?

Most people want the same things out of life—health, happiness, fulfillment, to make a meaningful contribution, security, loving relationships, success, and money (and the nice things you can buy with it).

Most salespeople want the same things from their selling endeavors—more prospects to call, more quality appointments, a shorter selling cycle, less arm wrestling with prospects over price objections, bigger commission checks, fewer turndowns, not having to deal with prospects who can’t make up their minds, and more referrals from customers, especially from those for whom they’ve gone out of their way many times. (Did I leave anything out?)

So, if they want these things, why don’t they have them? It’s certainly not lack of desire.

Is it poor work ethic? Is it lack of skill? Bad luck, perhaps? Are evil forces in the universe conspiring against them? What is preventing them from having the things they want?

Your success in sales (and, one could argue, your success in life) is nothing more than that to which you are committed. I’m not talking about your goals, your dreams, or your vision of the future. I’m talking about the actions you take to breathe life into your goals, dreams, and visions.

If you are committed to strategies, behaviors, and ways of thinking that aren’t allowing you to have the things you want, you need to make new commitments—take new actions, think differently.

Do you truly want from your selling activities the things listed above? If so, ask yourself “Am I committed to...”

  • Engaging in more proactive strategies for identifying prospects?
  • Learning more about my target customer so I can position my product in a more compelling manner?
  • Learning more about my competitors so I can find meaningful ways to differentiate my product and my company from theirs?
  • Asking tougher questions in order to more thoroughly qualify (or disqualify) prospects earlier in the selling cycle?
  • Asking my prospects to make commitments and then hold them accountable?

If you’re not happy with what you have, or you just want more, examine your commitments.

You’ll find the answers to getting everything you want.

How Can a Bad Sales Call Make You a Good Salesperson?

An assignment often given to beginner writing students is to write a paragraph or short article as badly as possible. They use a lot of long, impressive sounding words, putting them in long complicated sentences. They drone on, mechanically linking one dull, stiff sentence after another. The exercise gives the students an opportunity to experience what NOT to do and develop a writing model NOT to be duplicated. If a student’s future works begin to look like his “model,” he knows he is going down the wrong path and it’s time to regroup or start over.

So, if you were to make a sales call as badly as possible and create a model of behavior not to duplicate, what would you do?

First, you would “beg” for an appointment. That is, you would inundate a prospect with all the reasons why he needs your product or service and then push, push, push for a few minutes of his time. You would use a worn out closing line such as, “Would Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday morning be more convenient?”

Then, during the appointment, you wouldn’t be concerned about the prospect actually having a need for your product or service. You would just cover in detail every feature and benefit, leaving no facet uncovered, and place special emphasis on your product’s unique selling points, regardless of the prospect’s interest. (You would also disregard the prospect’s bored looks and constant clock watching.)

You would avoid discussing the financial requirements for obtaining your product or service. And, if the prospect brings up the topic and gives any indication of the lack of willingness or ability to make the required investment, you would completely disregard it and just keep presenting more features and benefits to “cost-justify” your offering.

Finally, you wouldn’t be concerned about how buying decisions are made—what or who is involved. You’d just keep presenting and pushing for a decision. If the prospect pushed back, you’d make concessions, cut prices or do whatever you had to do to close the sale.

There you go—the ideal sales development model NOT to follow. Like the beginner writer, if your “work” begins to look like your not-to-be-followed model, then regroup, retreat, or just call it a day.


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