The Anatomy of Selling

These days, you’re in sales whether you think so or not. If you are working for an organisation or for yourself, every day you represent products and services in order to grow the bottom line. It doesn’t matter whether you are in finance, marketing, the business units or the technical department, at some point you will be a touch point for a client.

What is showing up increasingly in research is the X factor that differentiates organisations in a very competitive market. This X factor is the human side of selling, the X factor in sales = empathy.

Empathy is defined as the action of understanding, being aware or sensitive to, and even vicariously experiencing the feelings and thoughts of another. No matter which area of the business you are in, you work within two areas of responsibility; functional and human. The functional area in any position involves mastering the product or service: knowing what you represent to the client, this also includes a broader understanding of the marketplace and competitive intelligence – knowing the client’s business and their needs is paramount to making sales. However increasingly research is showing that this functional excellence is only the ante that keeps you in the game, but it won’t necessarily win it for you – you need more.

What is now known is that it is the interaction between the sales person and the client that drives repeat business and loyalty measures. You know it, you’ve lived it, but this takes real investment of time. Time to think, time to work through the 5 P’s: Preparation, Planning, Pitch, Proposal, Presentation. There was a wonderful presentation given by Professor David. M. Levy at the University of Washington called; “No time to think”. The premise was that we are losing our capacity for deeper thought and reflection because of the pace of working and living in the 21st century, but far more critical to the world of sales is the idea that there is no time to be. To be completely present in the moment, to pause to really listen to what the other person is saying, to internalise this and when appropriate, to show empathy.

Consider our world: 24/7, 365 days in real-time, we are managing e-mail; cell phone messaging, BBM, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Skype, Blogging and I haven’t even mentioned physically talking on the phone. Where is the time to actually physically socially connect? Are these time-savers becoming time-takers?

By being present in the moment we foster the ability to manage destructive interpersonal urges such as interrupting others. Perhaps one of the most important traits in a salesperson is the ability to manage a technical discussion, whilst being present in the moment, being alert for critical questions that will give the client the confidence that the salesperson has their best interests at heart. It’s a tough place – no wonder that the average salesperson takes up to 7 months to really get to grips with their environment and why in this age, it is critical to be able to have the skill of applied emotional intelligence. This means developing a competency for being present with your prospective clients, acting on purpose in real time with those who are important to you. This is a new era in sales.

Having a sales mind-set would be one where you consider some key factors which are determinants in keeping you at the top of your game:

  1. Stay positive. Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. Success is 90% mental attitude. You can alter your life by altering what you fill your mind with. You have to be a believer to be an achiever. If your mind can conceive of it, you can be it.
  2. Be prepared. Remember the 5 P’s: preparation, planning, pitch, proposal, and presentation. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results.
  3. Mind your reputation. You are representing your brand at all times. If you don’t have a positive reputation, it will be difficult to be successful in whatever you do. This permeates through from the office environment. Treat your colleagues with the respect they deserve.
  4. Be genuine. I have never known anyone to buy from someone they don’t like. Likability matters. Are you genuine when you engage with your clients and your peers? Are you pleasant and easy to talk with, without overfamiliarity?
  5. Put your best foot forward, especially on day one. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Are you neat and well groomed? Is your delivery polished? Are you demonstrating functional excellence and balancing empathy at the same time.
  6. Become a client-service fanatic. Good salespeople make sure the job gets done on time. Take care of the attention to detail. Even if this means going to extraordinary lengths, especially the first time they buy from you.
  7. Remember to listen. You can’t learn anything from your client if you are constantly talking. Be mindful of vocal fillers. For too many people, good listening means, “I talk, you listen.” Listening is a two- way process. Yes, you need to be heard, but you also need to hear others’ ideas, questions and objections. If you talk at people instead of with them, they’re not buying in – they’re caving in.
  8. Develop a thirst for self-development. You don’t go to school once for a lifetime. You are in a lifetime of learning. Sales superstars are constantly working to master their environment and up the ante. Take as many courses that you can to enrich your learning journey, read books, listen to audiotapes and inhale every opportunity when it makes itself available to you. This often takes the form of an impromptu meeting with an executive, use the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge that you can.
  9. Keep it all in perspective. It is impossible to underrate the importance of a sense of humour. When there are inevitable setbacks along the way, learn to laugh about them. Turn your obstacles into stepping stones.

Bottom Line: A salesperson tells, a good salesperson explains, and a sales superstar demonstrates.

In summary:

  1. We are all in sales.
  2. There is an anatomy to selling – functional and human.
  3. If you invest at both levels you will have both tangible and intangible outcomes. When a client believes that the salesperson has made a connection with them and understands their requirements, they will switch to you, stay with you and bring others to you. This understanding will get you to sales success as well as get you to where you want to be both professionally and personally.


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