Fixing Abysmal Sales Skills, Part 1

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ahaThe sales skills of people who sell are generally abysmal.  They have been poorly trained by people who don’t know much about sales, who promote opinion rather than science and who are lazy at analyzing what makes buyers buy. I will prove my case in this article and my intention is that this gives direction to those who want to excel at sales.

Product Training is Not Sales Training

Most salespeople never get trained to sell. They get training but the training is product training. This results in a double handicap. First, the salesperson doesn't know how to sell. Secondly, they regurgitate the product-centered indoctrination to the prospect that they receive from their company. To the prospect, this feels like a barrage of facts, features and benefits, none of which is focused on the prospect’s concerns. As simple as it is to differentiate from product training and sales-process training, this distinction is often overlooked. True sales training is transportable from one product or service to the next and from one company to the next because it is about the prospect of getting a prospect to buy and is product or service independent.

Stop Selling What They Need

When salespeople do become focused on the prospect, it is usually in a way that doesn't facilitate a sale. Too many salespeople are focused on the prospect’s needs. But people never buy what they need. They only buy what they want. So if our salesperson is selling the need for a college funding program because the prospect has a child age six, the approach can be totally misplaced unless the parent has a strong desire for the child to go to college. Selling to needs is a waste of time, a weak approach devoid of any thinking by the salesperson or the person who developed the sales process.

So the first thing that sales people must do is rip the word “need” from their vocabulary. There must be a penalty for this improper thinking and speaking. No prospect will ever buy based on what they need. They buy only what they want. To prove the point, consider the number of people in America who need to lose weight (65% according to the Centers for Disease Control). Yet the only people on a diet are those who want to lose weight.

Any sales person should be diligent and sell only what benefits the prospect.  In other words, the prospect needs it.  To sell people something that does not provide a benefit, i.e. the prospect doesn't need it, just to make some money is reprehensible.  However, ascertaining the need is not the basis of the sale.  It’s a discovery that any professional does as part of their fact-finding, that he does as part of his professional responsibility. But, the sale is consummated around the prospect’s desire and that must be the focus of the sales conversation.

Prospect Centered or Product Centered

To transition from a product-centered sales labor to a prospect-centered sales professional, the following practice is recommended. For a period of thirty days, the first fifteen minutes of every sales conversation must be devoid of any mention of the product. The goal of the sales professional is to ask and have the prospect answer ten questions about the prospect’s concerns. This exercise will have our sales professional become a prospect-focused professional resulting in more sales and more buyers who receive benefits.

Abysmal Sales Skills Part II

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