Spoiler alert. The title of this article is a selling philosophy that can cost you sales – but it’s still prevalent. I had a reminder of that at a convention in Orlando when someone took the wrong message from my program. My speaking program, “Win it Easy or Come In Fourth,” is about making good decisions regarding time allocation. The basic idea is that salespeople spend too much time on customers that don’t move the needle and not enough on their “Freds,” the customers that are difference makers.
One attendee misinterpreted it and recounted how, when he was a sales manager, he would make sure that his team quickly qualified who was in the market to buy RIGHT NOW, and if they weren’t, to move along. Wrong move. I’ll explain why.
In today’s world, when someone is in the market to buy RIGHT NOW, they can do so without ever dealing with a salesperson. Most of the time, they can order what they want to order online and get near-immediate gratification. That means that salespeople are superfluous in this type of buying environment. So what are our jobs?
Well, we need to be relationship builders. Relationship building is more than being their buddy – it’s positioning yourself as a valued business resource that can help the customer achieve their objectives. Being a “person of value” is far different than being a “good time Charlie,” but people of values will be in position to get that opportunity when the customer is ready to buy.
We need to be expertise providers. That means that we contribute value through the sales call itself – by finding ways to help the customer achieve efficiencies, by sharing best practices, and by helping the customer anticipate future change. And we must do that without first getting an order. Yes – that goes against the old “don’t be an unpaid consultant” canard, but I’m here to tell you that most “unpaid consultants” eventually get paid, and paid very well.
When I sold cars at the start of my career, they told me that the best thing I could do to start a customer’s visit was to ask, “Are you here to buy a car today?” I counted. 50 times out of the first 50, the answer was, “no.” Worse, I started the customer off by making them uncomfortable – and then I had to climb out of that hole to get them to buy. I stopped asking that stupid question, and my sales went WAY up.
Making good decisions about time allocation isn’t about scurrying around looking for a customer with a pregnant RFP that you can price-cut to “win” by being the cheapest. It’s about positioning yourself to be top of mind with difference-making customers so that, when they are ready to buy, you’re the one they call (or email or text).