Why the hard sell just isn’t me

“When you don’t close a sale, open a relationship” – Patricia Fripp.

The idea of pushing on a closed-door to make a sale has never been my style. That’s not to say I don’t close deals, win business, and build lasting business partnerships. I do! And I really enjoy doing it. It’s also not to say I don’t admire those sales professionals with a steely spirit and an unshakeable confidence. It just wouldn’t ring true if I adopted their style.

But practically speaking, numbers matter.

The reality is there’s a number to hit to achieve profitability and targets provide that focus. I believe we can be target driven and competitive without chucking common decency under the bus. That sort of transactional approach doesn’t make sense for long-term relationships anyway. I think this is why I work for a business where many people feel the same way and opt for a more consultative approach, where I can guide and inform potential buyers and help them overcome a challenge.

Listening is often very underrated in our profession.

For me, the real art of the sale is in the relationship and trust-building phase. During discovery, you need to show that you’ve thought carefully about your potential customer, not just broadly conjectured what their challenges might be based on a dataset of similar customers but really talked to them and listened. Asking thought-provoking questions that help them to view their challenges differently goes a long way to guiding what the solution could be. Maybe even demonstrate how you’ve achieved something similar for another customer. If you haven’t, just be honest and explain you’re confident that you can solve it and share your thinking and rationale.

I’m a big fan of respectful business.

Prospects are people, they deserve an intelligent conversation, not a script or a blanket approach. They need to know you’ve genuinely listened to them and made an effort to understand their business. This is where empathy really matters, if you can only think of a deal in terms of what you need to close rather than what you’re helping your buyers achieve, there’s little hope for a fruitful long-term relationship.

I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of selling somebody a product or a service they wouldn’t derive any value from. Or doing it in a way that might make them feel uncomfortable or under pressure to make a decision that might not work out in the long-term.

People value good service and they really appreciate good advice. Trust is won when you can show that you’re thinking about what’s right for their business, short term wins will never outrun becoming a trusted partner in terms of profitability.

You win or you learn

Like most people who’ve had a long sales career, I’ve had my fair share of victories and disappointments. I’m no stranger to thinking we’ve absolutely nailed a meeting and then going on to find out a competitor won the business. It could make you wonder if you had used ‘hard-sell’ tactics and gone full ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ would things have worked out differently?

But as Nelson Mandela famously said, you either win or you learn and I think I’ve learnt that it’s not worth trying to be someone or something that I’m not, I can learn new sales approaches without abandoning my preferred style. And for me, great things can happen when you work with customers who share your values.

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