Times they are a-changing… and so is the face of selling. While selling remains a full-contact sport, there are some rules changes. Before we look at these, let’s examine the sport of Buying.
Unlike selling, buying has moved to being a non-contact sport for many items. Nowadays, buyers can actually sit in front of their televisions with a remote control and a telephone and make purchases without ever coming in contact with a salesperson. Within a very few years, buyers won’t even need the telephone. You’ll simply push a few buttons on your remote control and a signal will be sent from the TV to the remote site and the order will be placed, your credit card debited, and, in some cases, the product might even be delivered before you turn off your TV for the day. Sound far-fetched? It’s already a reality for pay TV, so why not with simple commodities?
So, what if you’re not a couch potato, or your remote control is broken and you want to shop (buy). It’s entirely possible to go to a store and purchase hundreds of dollars of very different stuff without coming in contact with a salesperson (check-out clerks don’t count). In fact, in some cases you don’t want to come in contact with a salesperson because he or she only slows down (or screws up) your buying process with poor directions, lack of product knowledge, or misinformation.
Another phenomenon that’s occurring in the world of buying is the advent of the big-box store where we have more product and less salespeople per square foot. We also have everyday low prices and it becomes the consumer’s responsibility to judge the quality (or value) of the product, something many of us are poor at doing. People are still enticed by a low price if they don’t understand or can’t see the added value of the higher-priced item. It’s human nature.
So where does this leave Selling? Well, if you’re selling commodities of any type (clothes, computers, cars, etc.), then expect intense price competition unless you can differentiate yourself or the product from your competition. If you can’t make your commodity item stand out over your competition, or you can’t add some kind of value to the sale, then the customer will buy for the best price. That’s today’s reality. Your job as a salesperson is to add value to the transaction. No added value, no sale!
Take car sales for example. Apart from the ability to test drive a vehicle, what added value do most car salespeople bring to the transaction? In some cases, not much. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the very near future we’ll be able to go to an auto mall to test drive various models and makes, or select a car from a catalogue (or from the Internet), place an order over the telephone, arrange for payment with the bank, and then pick up the vehicle at the dealer or location of our choice.
If you’re selling non-commodity items (and even some commodity ones), the old rules of selling still apply with the added factor that your prospects are very price conscious. So, let’s look at those rules.
Rule 1: People buy from people they know, people they like, and people they trust. The more you show a sincere interest in your prospect, his needs and wants, the stronger your rapport will become. The more you get to know your prospect, the more your prospect feels he knows you and the more he likes and trusts you. If you’re a hit-and-run salesperson whose philosophy is to grab the money and run, expect to be in a new career in the near future.
Rule 2: The person who wants to do business with you can justify anything. There’s an old saying that says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Take the time—whether it be 10 minutes, 10 hours, or 10 days—to show your prospects that you care. This will go a long way towards building the kind of relationship that only face-to-face selling can do. When prospects feel you have their best interests in mind, it’s very difficult for a competitor to unseat you, even with a lower price.
Rule 3: If a prospect doesn’t perceive you as being better or unique, then the only difference you have to work with is price. It’s interesting to note that you don’t have to be better than your competition, just different. If you’re different enough and you bring enough added value to the table, rules one and two kick in and the prospect will pay your price. If price was the only criteria people had for buying a car, we’d all be driving Yugos!
What do these three rules have in common? Just this: You can’t put them to use unless you’re in full contact with your prospects.
You have to be in their face, time and time again, with something of value to them, if you’re going to build the type of rapport that assures you long-term selling opportunities. You can’t do this kind of selling by sitting at your desk. You have to get in front of your prospects.
Don’t let yourself become a desk potato and sit around waiting for sales to drop in your lap. Get off your duff and make things happen.
Remember, professional selling is a full contact sport.