Stop Selling and Start Caring

Sometimes life feels like one long sales call. You’ve got dreams and ideas, but you need others’ help to make them come true, so you need to be able to persuade, influence, and sell. I’ve had more sales training and experience than the law allows, and I’ve been selling in one form or another since paying my way through school. I’ve almost always been very successful at it. I’ve been in sales heaven.

Some years ago, however, when the economy went through a correction my sales dropped off and I panicked. I retained a mentor to help me grow my business. I paid him a lot to tell me that money is the end all-be all, and that relationships with potential clients are just brief stepping stones toward making more money. That didn’t feel right to me, but I figured the guy was an expert and knew better than I did.

I tried this approach and my sales went up dramatically for a while, but then they plummeted equally dramatically as I unwittingly damaged some valuable client relationships. People don’t like being treated like ATM machines. Go figure. I’ve been in sales opposite-of-heaven.

Here’s what I’ve learned about selling:

  1. It’s about relationships. A lot of happiness in life and financial success in business is dependent upon your ability to form caring relationships. Even if you’re selling on the net, people still have to believe that you care about them enough to offer a good product at a fair price before they will buy from you. Remember the old aphorism, “People want to know how much you care before they care about how much you know.”
  2. Don’t sell anything you’re not passionate about. Sales is difficult enough without trying to sell something you don’t care about. The discerning buyer will sniff this out every time. Especially, just say “no” to bad products. Who wants to buy something from people who don’t care about what they’re selling?
  3. Get back to basics. Sure, there are sales techniques that are useful, but if you’re focusing on gimmicks to do well in sales you’ll never get there. Know your product and its tangible and intangible value to your sales prospects, and then get busy trying to genuinely help them be happier and more successful.
  4. Be honest. Unless you want to be mistaken for that loud guy in the loud plaid sports coat selling used cars, be honest and trustworthy. If something is a really good idea for your prospect, say so. If something is a really bad idea for your prospect, do the same. Buyers appreciate and trust those salespeople who offer frank and caring push back when it is appropriate.
  5. Listen way more than you talk. Salespeople tend to be extroverted, so they love to talk. This can be the kiss of death in a sales situation. Yes, you’re building a relationship, but it’s a special kind of relationship based on your ability to help others meet their needs. The best way to do this is to ask lots of questions and listen attentively to the answers. Then ask more questions until you’re sure what your prospects really need and if and how you can help them. Sales trainers always point out that you’ve got two ears and one mouth, so use them accordingly.

Big picture and long term, sales success isn’t about selling somebody something one time by dazzling (or even misleading) them with sales techniques. It’s about forming trusting relationships with potential customers who will return again and again to buy from you because they know you’re competent and caring.

Those are the kind of people I buy from. How about you?

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