Why the best salespeople are not salespeople, Brilliant Selling

Article by Tom Bird co- author with Jeremy Cassell of Brilliant Selling, published by Pearson

Whilst selling is the oldest profession in the world, today’s buyers are more sophisticated in their needs than they were, they have done more research before engaging a salesperson and they are more demanding around the value they receive from their interactions with salespeople and of the relationship that is created.

Why the best salespeople are not salespeople, Brilliant Selling

Most people don’t like being sold to but almost everyone is open to influence. In fact, a recent study showed that most of us (whether in a sales role or not) spend some 23 minutes of every hour trying
to influence others in some way. It’s important to understand that its only ‘influence’ if it is ethical and in service of a genuine win/win – anything else is manipulation.

The reality is, as soon as you start to come across as a salesperson who is overtly ‘selling,’ you are likely to negatively impact your success! Think about how you feel when someone starts ‘selling; to you. In the tech arena its easy to get caught up with details, features and functionality and to lose sight of the fact that people buy into a product, idea or solution emotionally first and are then open to logical justification.

The best salespeople know this and, rather than lead with logical justification, they create a very specific type of emotional connection that supports their influencing. This connection has a number of components that contribute to effective influence that achieves the desired result without coming across as ‘selling.’

Firstly, they take the time to identify the motivations of their buyers and the values that quite literally underpin and often drive a buying decision. Without knowing first what is really important to your prospective customer it’s difficult to create an emotional connection that supports your influencing. Asking intelligent questions (which often require prior thought and planning rather than ‘winging it’) really is the critical first step in building a foundation to identifying motivations, pain points and values.

Our research into highly effective salespeople also shows that the best of them create a relationship of influence based on demonstrating both credibility and connection underpinned by confidence. Most of us create relationships led by either credibility or connection and are often drawn to careers that enable us to utilise that preference (think credible pilot vs connecting air steward).

This is driven by our unconscious preference. If we can become aware of our preference and seek to proactively develop relationships that balance both credibility and connection, we are able to influence more people and increase our success with those who are different to us in their preferences.

We created a model, the C 3 Model of Influence based on our research and that of others. By paying attention to specific body language and voice tone patterns as well as by being curious as to how the other person is communicating, we can adapt our own approach. This flexibility in communication style is a hallmark of successful influencers.

One other factor is also important in influencing to help ensure that you do not come across as if you are selling and its linked very closely to the fact that people buy emotionally first and tend also to buy from people they like and trust. It’s a concept called pre-suasion and it is about the steps you can take that create a frame of agreement in the mind of your prospect such that when you do ask for the order it feels entirely natural and appropriate.

Whilst pre-suasion has many facets, it includes having a personal brand presence in the market (think about your LinkedIn network, for example) so that you are seen and felt to be an influencer, proactively adding value at every touch-point you have with the prospect (sending an agenda for meetings and understanding their needs, for example) and creating the right mind-set and emotion in them to support a positive answer to your questions.

An example of this latter concept comes from Dr. Robert Cialdini’s research into pre- suasion: If you want to survey consumers, asking “Would you consider yourself a helpful person?” first increased agreement to take part in a survey from 29% to 77%. In that example, the attention of the individual is being put on the concept of ‘helpfulness’ and so that concept is front-of-mind when the next question is asked thereby increasing the chances of a ‘yes.’

Today’s outstanding salespeople are still very proud of their profession. The focus, however, has shifted from techniques to relationship, from articulating to understanding and from a selling relationship to an authentic adult:adult relationship of influence. For the very best, they don’t think they are selling anything to anyone: they are simply identifying and understanding real needs and solving them through highly effective conversations.

Article by Tom Bird co- author with Jeremy Cassell of Brilliant Selling, published by Pearson

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