The lines between other traditional departments of an organization and the sales department have become blurred. The function of sales now overlaps the roles and responsibilities of each employee in an organization. Interaction with customers has become a vital role and thus, ensuring that the customers, clients, and vendors have a great experience has become important too.
In fact, selling, or sales has been an integral part of every human life, since time immemorial. The erstwhile barter system has given way to full-fledged, complex sales, advertising, and marketing, and is today, one of the most important functions that are vital to the growth and sustainability of any business, entrepreneurship, and start-up, or corporate.
To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink is a perfect guide for everyone, arming them with techniques and tools to enhance their selling skills.
The “We Are All In Sales” Ethos
Considering that ‘sales’ is now everybody’s job, incorporating a “we are all in sales” ethos in any business is essential. For example, Atlassian, the enterprise software company, generated more than $100 million in revenues without having any dedicated sales force in the year 2011. How did they manage that?
The answer lies in incorporating an attitude of “selling their business” during every interaction with clients, customers, and vendors. In the United States, entrepreneurs are slated to soon be the majority of the workforce. With this in mind and the fact that start-ups usually cannot afford a sales department, the responsibilities of sales fall on everyone’s shoulders.
Today, the average employee spends 40% of their time convincing, influencing, and persuading others. This is also called non-sales selling, or moving people. In the Ed-Med (education and medical) industries, the largest job sectors in the US today, non-sales selling and moving people is a fast growing concept.
The New Tenets Of Sales
Salesmen have had, for some time now, a negative “slick, pushy, used-car salesman” image. Salespeople could get away with anything earlier, especially in the used-car dealerships. This happened just because salespeople had more information about the product than the buyer, and that not making a bad buying decision was the customer’s responsibility (a concept known as caveat emptor or buyer beware).
Today, the Internet has made information available at our fingertips and the ‘information asymmetry’ has reduced. Customers today, can even expose dishonest companies online, damaging their reputation and business.
Today, honesty, transparency, and service have become the new tenets of sales, making customer satisfaction and experience vital to salespeople. This shift can be seen in non-sales selling as well. In the Ed-Med industry, with information easily available online, service is more important.
The New ABC’s
The age-old, ABC’s of selling (Always Be Closing) has given way to a new ABC of moving people – Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.
- Attunement – Attunement refers to one’s ability to perceive things from others’ perspectives and then act. How can one, therefore, be attuned?
Attunement does not include empathy, which refers to feeling. While empathy is important on should understand what the opposite person is thinking and apply ‘cognitive perspective-talking’. This implies, that contrary to the belief that ‘sales’ equals ‘extrovert’ behaviour, people should move towards being ambiverts – a blend of introvert and extrovert. This is because classic extroverts cannot se beyond their own perspectives, are not understanding of what the customer thinks, and can actually hurt sales. Ambiverts, however, have the ability to listen and then attune their perspectives to that of their customers.
To be attuned, salespeople should always assume that they are in low-power position because power makes people oblivious to any perspective apart from their own making them stick to their own views. Additionally, subtly mimicking actions, behaviours, and postures of their customers increases the chances of closing deals.
- Buoyancy – Rejection in the field of sales isn’t uncommon. However, it is essential that every salesperson stays afloat for the next customer that comes in. Buoyancy is that continuous will to keep selling day-after-day despite rejection. How does a salesman, therefore, keep buoyant during, before, and after rejection?
Interrogating self-talk or asking oneself the question, “Can We fix it?” is a better way to deal with a tough task such as sales, as averse to previously-famed self-motivational declarations like, “I am the greatest and I can do it!” Interrogative self-talk forces one to think of possible solutions and strategies during rejection. Buoyancy keeps a person positive, broadens one’s perspectives, and thus perceive the customers’ problems better. Such an outlook can even help a customer consider the alternative suggestion after an initial rejection.
Buoyancy also implies that salespeople should stay positive even after rejection. It means adopting an attitude where one tells oneself that this rejection is simply temporary and not a permanent feature. One rejection isn’t a personal setback. Seeing the positive in a bad outcome helps people deal with the regular rejection that they face as salespeople.
- Clarity – Salespeople are no more the sole custodians of information. Therefore, sales and non-sales persuaders, have to find a new method of moving people.
They need to work with clarity; which means that they should focus on making customers view their situations and needs in a new light. Help customers identify their problems by sifting through the vast amounts of information available to them, rather than seek solutions is more valuable as a sales service.
Once the customers understand the information given, the salesperson should make their sales pitch while comparing their product with another, as comparison helps customers perceive the product they need in a better light. Additionally, giving customers fewer choices and limiting their options increase the chances of sales.
Another way of adding clarity is by offering customers an experience rather than a product. This means that customers respond better to a sales pitch where they get first-hand reviews of the product being used. This means that the information given to customers should be clear and detailed.
Short and Engaging Pitches
We are bombarded with a lot of information from all directions all the time. Most of this information is in the form of advertising and marketing. If we look at Elisha Otis’ effective pitch for his invention in 1853, he cut the cable of an open elevator he was standing upon, at the height of at least 3 stories, in front of a captivated audience.
As they gasped, he didn’t budge. His invention, the automatic safety brake was a success, as was his pith to his audience. If we consider sales pitches today, we know that they have to be faster and shorter than they were in 1853. Considering the modes of communication we have today, they have to be short enough to fit in a Twitter headline or fit an email subject line. For example, President Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan was just one word “Forward.”
In addition to short, pitches need to be engaging, to stand out from the crowd of information we get. Pitches that get the customer involved in developing the pitch and contribute their ideas are often more successful. Such pitches mostly involve the customers answering a question; one that will make them think in favor and this move them. Another trick to make a pitch work is to use the concept of having a rhyme scheme. Rhyming appears to make statements look and feel symmetrical and accurate.
Using Improv In Sales
Often, salespeople rely on scripts – designed to bring about the desired result from customers – to make their pitches. However, with the complexity of sales increasing and being more dynamic in nature, it is essential that salespeople be prepared for sudden changes.
The unscripted ‘improve’ concept revolutionized classic theatre by creating an environment of open-minded interaction. Improv put the focus on listening to others, a skill that is most essential for salespeople to be able to know what their customers want and are thinking.
There are two more vital components of using improv. The first one is to understand that moving people doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Therefore, in the case that a salesperson is working with a partner, they should always try to make the partner look better in from of the customer. This is called a ‘win-win’.
The second component is to use, “Yes, and…” or “Yes, but…” while responding to one’s customer opinions and ideas. Adding an affirmation creates a positive tone and helps a customer understand that the salesperson understands likes their idea, but has a better one to offer.
Personal And Purposeful
Sales, today, is no longer an exchange of goods. It has become more personal and purposeful, and salespeople have to customize the personal experience for each customer. It involves adding a personal touch to the service that the salesperson is providing.
For example, a restaurant owner who puts up his photograph with a contact number for complaints adds a personal touch to his restaurant’s service. It tells customers that he is open to suggestions for improvement. This attitude will make customers come back to the restaurant.
Along with personal, adding purpose to the service and conveying it to customers is essential too. For example, in a study conducted to promote hand hygiene among doctors, it was found that they responded better to patient-oriented “Hand Hygiene Prevents Patients from Catching Diseases” rather than “Hand Hygiene Prevents You from Catching Diseases,” that put the focus on their own health. The first campaign matched the purpose of the doctors – to care for patients. Therefore when it comes to moving people both ‘personal’ and ‘purposeful’ are vital, as selling is after all, human.
Sales and selling have given way to the concept of ‘moving people’. To move people, one has to redefine the ABC’s of sales into the ABC’s of moving people. Additionally, to truly move people in the sales business, as well as those engaging in non-sales selling (essentially everyone these days), can use short and engaging pitches, use improv in sales and ensure that their dealings are personal and purposeful to win over customers in this new era of sales!