Check out my original post on why I decided to start writing about "Sales Principles."
I’ve heard many definitions of what is sales, but Mark Cuban put it best, “Selling is not convincing. Selling is helping.”
It is unfortunate that “sales” is often associated negatively. I’ll admit sales rightfully gets a bad rap, and there are many bad salespeople out there. We have all experienced a tricky or pushy salesperson. You feel horrible and used.
Have you seen Broiler Room, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wolf of Wall Street and so on? Slick hair, thousand-dollar suit. Excuse me while I clutch my wallet.
These experiences lead people to be cautious when buying products. Understandable.
Well, sales isn’t a bad word, and the great salespeople know how to help customers not convince them.
Evolution of Sales
Sales have changed quite a bit in the last thirty years. Consumer consumption and demands have also dramatically become more complex.
It first started with feature selling. Present the customer with how fast your widget can do something. Remember the computer processor wars? 1.5GHz vs. 1.7GHz! I’m going with the faster processor. I need my browser to open a few milliseconds faster.
Don’t get me wrong it is essential to discuss the specs. However, your product is more than just bits and bytes.
Feature selling is a losing strategy. The rapid pace of changing technology and the rush of new entrants will put you on constant shaky ground.
Then came solution selling where the salesperson focuses on the customer problem and matches it to a product or solution.
Theoretically, solution selling seems like a home run. However, in reality, the complexity of each situation does not allow for things to work out that easy.
“Everyone has a game plan until they get hit in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
Rarely in my career have I ever walked into a sales pitch where the stars aligned and I walked out with a signed deal. The one to one match of a problem to a solution doesn’t exist, especially in custom software development services.
The other challenge is solution selling doesn’t take into account the personal human aspect of buying and selling. You’ll need to get the customer to offer up what problems they are facing. What if they don’t want to tell you about their problems or don’t know exactly themselves?
Also, buyers are coming in well prepared and better educated. Open-ended questions to learn more are hard to get answered. You can’t just fit your solution in nicely to a specific problem.
Buyers are dealing with more complex problems than ever before.
Then why do so many salespeople beat this to death? I don’t know. Laziness, ignorance, greed…?
Today, there is a shift to focus more on insight selling. This type of selling focuses on helping customers work through challenging problems together.
• Actively listen
• Ask the right questions
• Bring ideas
• Roll up their sleeves to help come up with answers
We are in the idea economy. Bring ideas. Be a helper, not a seller, and your customers will come back to you again and again.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Features, solutions, and insights. What is a salesperson to do now?
The answer is all of the above.
It is imperative salespeople today possess the ability to navigate deals with every possible tool to help customers achieve their goals.
This complexity makes selling extremely hard. Rapid changing technology means you always have to stay up to date. Continuous learning is a vital part of sales.
Not to mention salespeople today must possess a high emotional intelligence (EQ).
At Skiplist, we don’t look to push machine learning for example, on a project just because we do those projects well.
We look for areas where we can provide the most value as it relates to the bigger picture.
Do we need an ideation session first to flush out the goals of a project? Maybe we can stand-up a basic architecture quickly to start testing our assumptions before moving to the next phase. Is there something off the shelf that can help us during this one phase?
Our Innovators Toolkit is often helpful to think about those early questions.
I recommend rather than getting lost in a specific sales methodology or try to do everything at once.
Focus on one thing.
How can you help your customers be better at what they do?
Help don’t convince.