July 12, 2009

Controversal Wisdom For Sales Professionals: Stop Selling!

We spent a morning with a sales team recently, sharing tips and techniques to make their sales efforts more successful. Most of it was pretty straight forward and uncontroversial. Then we delivered the counter intuitive, but vitally important ‘stop selling’ advice. Eyebrows were raised!

‘Stop selling!’ may certainly sound like strange advice, however the reality is that most salespeople perform at their best when they stop selling. When the pressure to sell is removed salespeople begin to listen more closely to their customer's need and prospects start to open up about what they want. As a result the chances of success are increased.

Want to increase your sales? Stop Selling!

Think about it: 'nobody wants to be sold to'. Yes, they want to buy, but being sold to generally makes buying harder, as opposed to easier.

Buyers want to find the best solution for their business. On the other hand the salesperson wants to sell what he, or she has got. Once more, they want to sell it this quarter. The result is that buyer and seller often end up pulling in different directions.

However, when the salesperson stops selling and focuses on the same thing as the buyer - meeting his, or her needs - the chances of success for both sides are maximised. That goes to the core of the role of the salesperson in the complex sale - to help the buyer to buy.

The most successful sales meeting does not involve selling, but rather buyer and seller discussing opportunities, challenges and solutions. Similarly, the most successful prospecting calls are information calls, rather than sales calls.

Some Guidelines to Follow.

So, if you find yourself selling, then stop. You must disassociate yourself from selling, just as you want to distance yourself from the typical salesperson. So here are the guidelines to follow:

· Stop selling. Start helping. Start advising.

· Stop being a salesperson, be an expert and trusted advisor instead.

· Stop pitching, and start listening. Stop doing all the talking, get your customer and prospect to engage.

· Stop talking about your company and its products, focusing instead on the challenges and opportunities facing your customers. Stop listing features and benefits, talk about business impact instead.

· Stop assuming the customer needs your solution, or saying your solution does everything. Explore instead the opportunities, challenges and strategies of his/her business.

· Stop interrupting and start asking the prospect if now is a good time to talk, if your message is of interest, etc.

· Stop talking about your product and company. Stop listing features and benefits. Focus instead on the opportunities and challenges facing the prospects business and industry.

· Stop writing and emailing proposals. Start writing your proposals alongside the customer and arrange a time to discuss them once delivered.

· Stop trying to control meetings, instead get an interesting dialogue going and let the customer take you where he, or she wants to go.

· Stop closing, instead help the customer to create a compelling reason to buy.

· Stop looking only for people who are ready to buy and start creating the need for your solutions and helping prospects to become aware of previously hidden needs, or solutions.

· Stop taking a short term view, looking ahead to next quarter and afterwards to develop a keep in touch, or relationship mindset with those that are not ready to buy today.

· Stop sending brochures send an interesting white paper, or article with more interesting and useful information.

· Stop thinking the prospect owes you something and adopt an 'I owe you' mindset instead.

Now you may think that this advice is radical and new, but it is not. Nor are we the first to come up with it. For example, it appears in line one of the first chapter of the highly influential 1989 ‘New Strategic Selling’ by Miller Heiman.

How Will You Help the Buyer to Buy?

So, what will you do now that you have stopped selling. Well, it does not mean that you will be a passive agent in the buying process, certainly not! However, the nature, focus and effectiveness of your efforts will be very different. When you stop selling, you will start helping the buyer to buy in the following ways:

· Start learning about the customers business and industry.

· Start listening, instead of talking.

· Start collaborating with your customers in exploring solutions for their business

· Start sharing insights and telling stories of how your other customers are tackling challenges and exploiting opportunities.

· Start asking better questions – not just to gather information about the customer’s business (particularly if that information can be got from other sources) but to understand the opportunities and challenges facing his business

· Start inputing to the business case – the buying decision is first and foremost a business decision. That means you should be talking more about the business logic and underlying numbers for the purchase, as opposed to your company's unique selling points.

· Start building a relationship even if the prospect does not represent a potential sale for this quarter.

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