If It’s Common Sense, Why Isn’t It Common Practice?
I was having coffee with a close friend, @francineallaire, this morning. She’s an outstanding sales professional. As we often do, our conversation drifted to the challenges of professional selling.
We talked about how sales people have a tendency to make things overly complicated. So much time is spent on techniques to catch the customer’s attention. In the worst case, some resort to trickery and manipulation. More often, we fail to connect with customers because we talk about what we want to talk about, not what they want to talk about. Other times, we simply are wasting our customer’s time.
As we spoke, I made the comment, “At it’s core, all of what we need to do is just applied common sense.” Francine immediately agreed, but posed the very insightful question, “If it’s common sense, why can’t we make it common practice?”
It’s really one of the best questions I’ve heard in a long time.
Selling is really about common sense.
- We know how customers want to be engaged.
- We know customers don’t want a pitch, but want to be engaged in a conversation.
- We know that customers want insight and ideas about how to improve and grow their businesses.
- We know that customers hate to have their time wasted.
- We know we have to create differentiated value to win.
- We know we have to be focused and disciplined in executing our sales process.
- We know we have to create and maintain healthy funnels.
- We know that we have to keep feeding our funnels with new qualified opportunities.
The secret to sales success isn’t that secret–it’s just common sense. Not long ago, I interviewed my friend, Chris Locke. Chris is a Senior Buyer with a large company in the Automotive Industry. I asked Chris, “What do you expect of sales people, how can we connect more effectively?”
Chris responded, with simple and obvious advice. Some of it was:
- “Before a meeting, send me an agenda. Let’s make sure we are both prepared to use our time well.”
- “When you meet with me, talk about what I want to talk about. What I need as a buyer is different from what our engineers need, but sales people constantly pull out their standard presentation. It doesn’t cover the things that are important to me.”
- “I want to get the greatest value for my company. But if you can’t differentiate your products from the alternatives, then the only point of differentiation becomes price. Make sure you differentiate what you have to sell and present things that we value. Give me an excuse to buy on something other than price.”
- “I don’t want to be a gatekeeper, I want you to work with our engineers and manufacturing people. You can understand what they need better than I can–at least at a technical level. But if you waste my time in your sales calls, why should I introduce you to others? You’re likely to waste their time as well.”
Chris’s comments should not come as a surprise. This is how we are trained, this is what we expect of people selling to us. It is nothing but common sense. In my conversation with Chris, I asked, “Well isn’t that what sales people do anyway?” Chris sighed, “I wish they would. I tell them this all the time. It really helps me if they would do these things, but of the hundreds of sales people I meet every year, fewer than a handful actually do this. They usually end up getting a lot of business.”
Professional selling is not that complicated. We hear what our customers want, how they want us to engage them. We are trained about what we should do. It’s not complicated, it’s simply applied common sense. But why isn’t it common practice?
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