What pops up in your head when you think of the “sales industry”?
You might imagine door-to-door solicitors, big-suits in used-car lots, and having samples shoved in your face while you walk through the mall.
I get it…
There is this creepy cold reptilian feel to the concept of “sales scripts” and “sales methods”…
It is as if we are muttering spells and waving our pens and casting enchantments over prospects with the purpose of separating their money from their pockets.
It’s obvious, we, humans, don’t like to feel as if we are being influenced solely for the sake of separating money from our pockets.
At the same time, we feel like sales people have the power to do that which is why, one can say, there is a “subconscious resentment” towards the industry: We know we can be duped- and we simply don’t trust people that have the ability to do that to us.
However, I want to make the argument in this article, that sales (including the subject of marketing for the sake of this article) is a valuable art form that every body needs to develop skills in. Especially if you are creative, entrepreneurial, and just an overall go-getter.
Not only will a skill-set in sales increase the long term relationship with customers, it will allow you to more freely communicate your ideas in all areas of life, and thus better serve everyone around you at a higher level.
To Sell Is Human
You need to read To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink.
This book will change your entire perspective on the sales industry… in a good way.
You will learn that sales is essential in this day and age, where the advent of digital distribution of information has allowed many tiny entrepreneurs and freelancers to thrive.
There are many business’ where the business-owners are the accountants, and also the customer service representative-and also the sales-person….
Because, in a sense, everyone is selling something or another these days, it has changed the sales landscape and also the skill-set itself.
“Sales” is, in a way, has become more about adding the human-element in business interactions. A sales person does more than just “persuade” prospects- they also ensure that there is an inherent feeling of trust within the business interaction.
Your product may be compatible with your market, and solve all the problems that keep them up at night, but if you can’t create a real person-to-person connection with them- they will buy from a business that does.
Within this framework of thinking, you can begin to see these contrived actions, like “sales scripts” and “methods” as ways to improve yourself to be more of an effective relationship builder, and see “sales” as an essential part of the services and goods your company is providing.
In the next paragraphs I’ll explain how the sales landscape has changed in the “digital era”, and secondly, why the human element of selling has become even more essential to your business’ products and services.
What’s He Trying To Hide?
This might be one of the first questions you ask yourself when you enter an interaction with someone that has the sole purpose of selling you something.
Because there is a clear reward for your purchase, in the form of commissions or revenue for their top-end, there can be this speaking suspicion that this person will do anything to make the sale. This includes hiding facts about products, and ulterior motives.
Well, this sort of sales interaction is heavily declining as we advance technologically.
As a sales person, you no longer have to feel sleazy and manipulative ,unless, of course, you are trying selling something that you don’t believe in. In that case, the selling landscape has made it more and more difficult for you to survive…
This is partly because of the vast amount of information that is available for your prospects via the world-wide-web, AKA the internet.
Armed with the internet, your prospects now know what to look at when determining quality of your products or services…
They can read reviews online- they can even learn how to be more critical consumers, making the entire process of selling more difficult.
Think of the whole “woke” movement- how companies now have to make more eco-conscious products now because of increased consumer awareness.
Selling for The Digital Age
Case Example: When buying something as seemingly mundane as a mattress, Karen, mother of 2, part-time cupcake baker- entrepreneur (who does a fair amount of selling herself), is going to be armed with all the information needed to make a smart purchase.
This is because she has decided to go online to explore her options and, upon visiting a few websites that showed up as Google Search ads, she is now being frequently advertised to on her favorite social platforms…
These advertisements display new styles of mattresses, price comparisons, feature comparisons, and testimonials.
Sorting through the seemingly endless amount of choices online, Karen decides to subscribe to a very informative newsletter to learn more about what kind of mattress would be perfect for her body and lifestyle.
Throughout the next month, while she is contemplating her purchase, Karen discovers a couple more factors that need to be considered before making the big purchase.
Because of the value she’s received from this website and the newsletter accompanying it, she decides on a mattress company that suits her sleeping style, her physiological tendencies, and upon learning about the correlation between pillows and corrective posture, also decides to up sell herself on a pillow.
Before signing in to PayPal and making the consumer-plunge, succumbing to a bit of analysis-paralysis, she decides to chat with someone- in real life- to make sure she is making the right choices for her needs. Fortunately, there is a retail location a few kilometers from where she lives.
The salesperson is cordial and the environment is low-pressure. In this setting, Karen is asked further questions she had not considered and learns that there is a sale on a prior-generation mattress that has fewer features, although she didn’t need those anyway. She feels like the savings she just made has already justified her visit to the store.
Aside from adding the “final touches” in informing Karen on the products, our sales person here did not have to do any educating.
Thanks to the pre-selling that was accomplished in the “digital space”, the sales person is able to be 100% transparent
With the prospect being equipped with as much information as they feel like is required, the process has shifted.
Instead of the slick, strategic release of information that may only benefit the sales person, the sales person’s sole purpose in the purchasing process is to serve the prospect by figuring out what they may need, as well as reassuring them of what they have in their mind already.
In this way, there is more of a consultancy vibe to the whole consumer-sales person relationship in this day and age.
Yes, the sales person will still need to have the basic skill set of any sales person, like smiling, mastering eye-contact, frame control, and what Daniel Pink calls the attunement phase in the ABC’s of selling (attunement, buoyancy, clarity).
But this skill set is no longer used to “manipulate” the prospect into liking the sales person- causing a cognitive bias towards liking. It is now used as a way to build a geniune connection with the end-consumer…
A strong connection means developing trust- and a trusting relationship means that the prospect can be reached both emotionally and logically.
Combined with valuable online content that serves your customers information needs, a skilled sales force will drastically increase the long term value (LTV) of your customers.
If you’re the sales person, which you probably are if you’re a small business owner, you can get a great foundation of knowledge from useful courses like this.
Knowledge is power.
A skill set in this type of knowledge is extra useful now because of information parity, as information is on their side in the sales process, you’ll still be able to adjust the direction that you want your interactions to go- towards connection and serving the needs of your customers.