Sometimes not selling is the best way to sell. Rather than forcing your sales goals to focus on what you’re selling, it’s often better to deftly divert your attention to something they want to talk about. If possible, being a friend is much more effective in sales than being an aggressive sales representative for your company. Ultimately, how well you sell is far more important than how you sell your product or service.
What we don’t want
Of course, we all know that the “chemistry” has to be correct. How many times at the beginning of my career did I have to go on stage in a “hostile” environment? What am I talking about? I mean having to approach the sales manager of a large car dealership in my city, for example, to ask him to consider buying a service from me; in this case, an opportunity to advertise in a regional magazine. This would mean asking him to spend money with me for which he would demand guaranteed results. It would be rude, barely polite, sometimes insulting, and usually degrading to receive me. I would feel like being asked to crawl on my stomach to have the privilege of your brief attention to my request. As a woman, a businesswoman, a human being, I would feel violated and I would swear never to put myself in that situation again. It’s not worth it, I told myself.
Was I naive?
Did I understand that you were under a lot of pressure from your superiors to achieve optimal results while keeping profits at maximum? Of course! Did I understand that I was interrupting you during your busy and very stressful day to present my offer to you shyly, and probably as a hobbyist? Undoubtedly.
But all sales initiatives can feel like this, although thankfully not all are so disparaging. In fact, some situations can be much more benevolent, even welcoming and appreciative. After all, your role as a sales representative for your company is to offer help. While salespeople can suffer the humiliations of an undeserved reputation as scammers and criminals, certainly the vast majority are honest, hard-working people trying to make a living. Like you and me, right?
The secret of good salesmanship
While in that role, my life as a salesperson was not one that I enjoyed. Fast forward to the present. Somehow, my life has changed drastically, but sales still figure in my reality, but from a completely different perspective. I no longer need to make cold calls in person to try to sell my products. With the advent of the Internet, many things have changed over the years. It is much more common for me to “sell” by email. But the truth is that I no longer try to sell anything. Rather, I engage with the people I do business with in the most subtle ways so they don’t even know that I’ve delivered a sales pitch. I am not misleading or false. My attitude is one of constructive guidance, to courteously offer you my experience and knowledge to enhance your pursuit of business success. There is always an intrinsic value in what I tell them, that it never depends on them buying something from me. To be totally frank, I never want anyone to proceed with a sale unless they are convinced that they really want to. If they don’t see that it will help them, then they shouldn’t buy it.
How do I reward my current clients?
As everyone knows, your best customer is your current customer. I know this better than anyone, as I am constantly inundated with business from my current clients. But I certainly help the cause by doing nice things for them whenever I get the chance. I’m not talking about giving candy or sending flowers or inviting them to dinner. Okay, that would be nice, but that’s not my style at all. I’m pretty lonely and definitely a workaholic, so I hardly ever go out socially, to be completely honest. Instead, I do nice things for them, like not charging them for an emergency service they really needed, one that cost me nothing except my time and effort. Or write a letter on their behalf to bring them more business without them even asking me and again without charging them. Or adjust your search engine optimization so that your websites rank high in Google searches and they don’t even tell you I do. Recently, I spent several days discussing ways to bypass Flash files on some of my clients’ websites in case someone’s mobile drive was unable to receive Flash. These are things I should be charging for, but I was never able to convince some of these clients that they need those services, so I make them free. I’m not looking for gratitude. I am more concerned that they are happy that their websites are working for them and bringing them consistent sales. That is something you can understand. Am I defeating my own cause by not drawing their attention to all of these things, in case one of my competitors tries to push them away from me? Maybe. But I trust the core relationships we have as human beings working together, which is what I referred to earlier in this discussion as “chemistry.” I really like my clients and I want them to know it.
What they need and what I give
Also, I help some of my older clients all the time with their PayPal accounts online, for example where they have trouble logging in, finding what they need, and transferring their funds. If that sounds a bit murky, it isn’t. They trust me to help them and I do my best to earn their trust. As we talk on the phone, we both log into their account and show them their account balances and help them through the processes to transfer funds or increase their monthly limits. I show them their online sales and analyze where those sales are coming from by sharing the statistics I get from Google Analytics.
All these gestures take a long time and I am generous at times to the point of overdoing it. But the rewards I get far outweigh the time I spend helping them. Since I’m generally light years ahead of them in online knowledge, I’m sure they appreciate my efforts and will continue to trust me as we move forward.
The toughest sales jobs still haunt me
Still, I am not exempt from having to make phone calls to sell advertising for some of the clients I represent. This is not an easy job and it never has been. Today, in this challenging economic environment, it is probably one of the hardest things a salesperson has to do. Nobody likes to be rejected and failure is hard to swallow. Fortunately, as we gain in age and experience, we learn to approach tasks like these in more creative ways.
One of these advertising sales jobs is done once a year, so I don’t have to bother often with the contacts I’ve made in the past. But, when I do, they respond favorably to my friendly tone when I remind them of something we shared in the past, whether it’s commiserating with how bad things were last year or how nice it was to see customers respond to an ad that they had placed. I always give them the opportunity to gracefully bow if they wish. High pressure is not my modus operandi. I’d rather they receive my calls than be afraid to talk to me for fear that I will embarrass them and make an excuse to refuse. There have been instances where I spoke to a prospect once a year, laughing at some topic that pleased us only to walk away with no new business, but being satisfied that the relationship had matured a bit more and maybe with the next try, I would see a positive result. It actually mattered more that I had built a good relationship with someone I had never met in person and only spoke once a year under the harsh conditions of asking him to spend money in a bad economy. This gave me some good mental ammunition for the next phone challenge on my list. Being in a good mood with a lot of confidence is sometimes half the battle. And believe it or not, some people react well to a refreshing break in their day.
The definitive route to sales success
First of all, whether you’re selling something for the first time to a new person you’ve never talked to before, your biggest goal is to make a really good first impression in order to build a long-lasting and fruitful relationship. If you keep this in mind with each new phone call, you will find someone on the other side who will recognize your sincerity, your good intentions, and your highest worth. And if at the end of the day you have nothing to show, there is always tomorrow to try, try again.