You are a salesperson! Of course they believe you!
When you look at the history of the selling profession and the salesperson, it is not always a pretty picture. The “inconvenient truth” is that it doesn’t matter if you are in sales, politics, religion, or any other profession, there have been enough shady characters practicing the same trade that they give the rest a bad reputation. They will mislead their intended audience, misstate the truth, and manipulate the details to the point that those in the same field who are truly people of great character and integrity find themselves having to overcome the baggage of the shysters.
I used to get really upset with politicians in particular. I was convinced that many did not even believe their own statements – they were simply pandering to their audience in return for their votes. Then finally one day I began to study linguistics. I found comfort in understanding the origins of the word – politics. Politics is actually a combination of two root words: poly (which means many) and ticks (which means blood-sucking parasites). Finally it all made sense to me.
Today’s successful sales professional usually does not fit the mold of the traditional “salesman”. Most have the desire to become a trusted ally with their prospect. Most have a heart that moves them toward making sure that their client wins in the transaction as much as they do. Additionally, the superstar sales person is committed to adding greater value on the client’s side of the equation. My friend Bob Burg’s book, The Go Giver, is a must read when it comes to how the relationship between a business owner/sales professional and their client should be.
Knowing the challenge you face in overcoming your prospect’s perception of sales people in general, what can you do to earn your credibility?
- Set your top priority as helping your client solve their issues.
- Be a person of integrity in every aspect of your relationship by doing what you say you will do – and then some.
- Use questions that will have impact in the eyes of your prospect and will move them into a discussion where they express their specific needs.
Why are questions so important in the sales process?
Questions normally illicit conversations and responses. They also give you the information you need to make informed recommendations to your prospect.
But I think the single greatest reason that we should ask well thought-out questions is to overcome the prospects perception of what a sales person actually does.
In the beginning of the relationship you have not earned your credibility with them. You haven’t yet had the opportunity to change their perception of you. Therefore you are a “salesman” (unfortunately yes, even you ladies will also be “salesmen” in their eyes at this point). And since you are a “salesman“, what you say is not readily accepted as being the truth. That is why it is useless for you to tell a prospect what you believe their needs to be; and it is exactly why canned sales presentations do not work very effectively.
However, if you know your industry you also probably know some of the most common needs expressed by your clients in that industry. You should work to develop high impact questions that will draw out conversations with your prospect and give them the opportunity to express those needs to you. Obviously, it will always be better for your sales process if the client tells you what they need – rather than you telling them what they need.
As the sales person, what you say may be “suspect”. However, as the decision maker, what they say is “gospel”.
So ask the right questions to get the prospect to say what the prospect needs to hear. Then guide them into understanding how you can help them make their business or personal life better by providing the product or service you sell.
One final thought; there is a great shortcut that immediately will give you a head-start in their perception of you as opposed to all other sales people. Get an introduction to them from a person with whom they already have a great relationship. The power of that referral will immediately raise your starting point in this equation.
If you were forbidden to tell a prospect what they need – what questions would you ask to get them to tell you what they need?