Want To Fix The Sales World?

…Look in the Mirror

Full disclosure: I have a rather biased view of salespeople, but hear me out.  Yes, there are problems within the selling profession, and I fully realize there are some bad salespeople in this world.  There are also some bad doctors, bad engineers, bad accountants, bad architects and the list goes on and on.  Of course, all these professions also have gifted people who are necessary and appreciated.  We all probably know of an exceptional doctor who took the extra time to get to know us and reassure us and went above and beyond in the care they provided.  They may have even saved our life.

This type of example could be used for just about any professional position.  Any profession, that is, except sales.  I just don’t understand why.  How can we be so nearsighted?

When will we wake up and realize that most people need a push, once in a while, to help make difficult decisions?  Left on our own to discover what we really need, and the urgency with which we need it, can have devastating consequences… even life altering.  Even those who preach sales every day forget this lesson from time-to-time.  It’s time to assign some fault to one individual who seems to skate past all the blame that is heaped upon those in the world of sales.  It’s time to put a fair amount of blame on the customer!

That’s right, the customer is not without fault in the selling dilemma that confronts us.  I have spent 35 years training and teaching salespeople how to approach selling in a consultative manner.  I attempt to inspire those around me to believe that if they learn their craft, and do the things necessary to earn the customer’s business, they will have to be competitive with price, but not have to be burdened with an unnecessary price obsession.  I tell participants, over and over again, that price is certainly a factor, but it is rarely the most important factor in earning a customer’s business.  It’s all about value… isn’t that right, Mr. or Ms. Customer?  So, let’s talk about value.

  • How much is it worth to you to get an actual education from a well-trained salesperson? Training costs money.
  • How much is it worth to you to work with a long-tenured, subject matter expert? Holding on to key, skilled personnel, costs money.
  • How much is it worth to you to work with a company that preaches the quality of a transaction over the quantity of a transaction? These types of transactions cost money.

Now, assuming you don’t sell cars, think about the last time you went to purchase a car.  For many, value gets thrown out the window, and it becomes a sort of perverse price game.  “How much can I get this car down to? If they do not meet the price of the other dealership, I’m history!”  Are we not guilty of forcing the salesperson to participate in the exact game we vehemently oppose?  Oh, and by the way… this is a game many of us are only fooled into believing we actually win.

Do you really need you be reminded of this simple mantra; you get what you pay for?  When working with a salesperson, we need to add more to our buying criteria, which ultimately heavily affects price. Which one would you like to drop from the list?

  • Customer service
  • Integrity
  • Dependability
  • Ethics

We need to remind our customers, and we need to remind ourselves when we are customers, this important message:

“We are purchasing a partner, not a price!”

Finally, as customers, we need to resist the unethical temptations we put on salespeople.  We loath salespeople who are dishonest.  We don’t like dishonesty, unless of course, it might benefit us in some way when we are the customer.  If you do not respect a lack of honesty in your work place, why ask others to be dishonest?  When a salesperson says they cannot do something you are asking them to do, take “no” for an answer.  Stop pressuring salespeople to engage in activities that are questionable.  If a salesperson gives a little wink, and promises to do something that might not be “100% legit”, you be the one to say “no.”  Most ethic violations within selling are actually initiated by the customer.  It needs to stop from the customer.  It needs to stop from the salesperson.  It’s hypocritical to consider yourself ethical because you are honest, most of the time.

Cartoonist Walt Kelly’s modified quote from Oliver Perry said it best: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” If we really want to help the sales industry to be the shining beacon so many of us demand of it, well, it starts with us – the customers!

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