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I’m often asked about my philosophy on sales. It takes someone who sells to understand how to sell successfully. What people think is true about selling and what actually is true about selling are often different things. I’ve developed some rules for selling that seem counter-intuitive to some people. But if you’re in sales, they’ll be true for you.
1. Quiet people who are great listeners can make great salespeople. Why is it that the stereotypical salesperson is the slick, gabby talker? I’ve seen people hired to sell because they do a lot of talking. But if salespeople do all the talking with customers, how are they ever going to learn what a customer thinks and needs? They can only learn about a customer’s needs and interests if the customer is talking and they’re doing the listening. Quiet people tend to be very good listeners. That makes them perfect to be considered for sales. Just make sure that when they do talk they’re unafraid to ask great questions. As for the big talkers, I find their listening skills to be generally poor. If a salesperson’s listening skills are poor I know they’ll fail at sales. They’re probably not much value to other parts of your business either. What job is there in business today for a poor listener?
2. Great salespeople are humble have other people singing their praises. I once worked with a salesman who told me at our first meeting how smart and talented he was. After working with him for many months he was still talking about his talents and he was the only one. Why was he the only one? He was after all a smart guy. It was because no one else liked him. Listening to his endless self-love fests was annoying to other people. Customers didn’t want to hear them either. They also didn’t want to buy from him. Great salespeople sell because they love the challenge and rewards of selling. Their egos are strong and they don’t need to be the center of attention. As a result, they serve customers well and in fact enjoy serving. That’s they’re reward. It’s just an added benefit when they also find that their customers are the ones bragging about them.
3. Experienced salespeople are not always the best hires. I’ve seen too many people get hired because they had sales experience, but it was the wrong experience. Just because someone has sold before doesn’t mean they were the best. If I chose to limit myself to hire people with sales experience, I would ask candidates to give me the name of 3 of their best customers who they consider to be loyal. That means these customers would move their business to wherever the salesperson goes. Then I would talk with the customers. You quickly learn how loyal customers really are when you ask about the salesperson’s responsiveness, problem solving ability and concern for the customer. When the customer weakly supports the salesperson that also shows how poor the salesperson’s judgment is. Their selling is probably poor, too. Why limit yourself to only hire salespeople with experience? I predict sales success from people who are curious, fearless, and successful (at whatever they did). They are also willing to learn and listen well.
4. Good salespeople fail. A salesperson who consistently misses making sales numbers is not what I mean. I mean that successful salespeople are trying new strategies and skills when they sell. When people try new tasks they will sometimes fail. That’s OK. Just make sure they learn from the mistake and when they make the next mistake, that it’s a different mistake from the previous mistakes. I’ve seen sales professionals afraid to try something new. Sometimes the fear shows up as resistance to new ideas or new technology. It’s only through new ideas that sales professionals expand their skills. Selling is not doing the same old routine over and over again. It’s a never-ending process of learning. Someone who never fails is never trying something new. If you’re failing you’re learning and trying something new. That’s good for sales.
Not only do successful salespeople fail, they learn to overcome their failures. Some customers will say “no” despite the best sales strategy. Difficult deals sometimes turn out differently than we want. Being immobilized by failure is not an option for success in sales. Great salespeople move on past the failure and find the next success. I’m always more impressed with someone who has gotten past a failure than someone who has never failed.
These rules may be different than the ones you apply for your selling. If you want to get different results than what you have now, why don’t you give them a try?
Maura Schreier-Fleming is President of Best@Selling a sales training and consulting company in Dallas, Texas. Maura works with business and sales professionals on real-world skills and strategies so they can sell more and be more successful in business. She is the author of Real-World Selling for Out-of-this-World Results and Monday Morning Sales Tips. Maura was Mobil Oil’s first female Lubrication Engineer in the United States.
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