Changes in technology not only affect the types of products and services you can offer, but also how you manage your business. To expose graphic companies to fresh ideas on the business front, SGIA offers some excellent educational programs on topics such as marketing, pricing, and selling.
For example, in the one-hour webinar that SGIA hosted on June 23, sales trainer Rick P. Farrell of Tangent Knowledge Systems previewed some provocative concepts from his forthcoming book entitled Selling Has Nothing to Do with Selling.
Farrell contends that most salespeople “are very good at a game that’s no longer being played” and continue to sell with the equivalent of DOS while customers have moved on to Windows 7. He suggests that relying solely on charm, likability, enthusiasm, and persistence to build relationships isn’t enough anymore.
“Google has essentially rewritten the rules for salespeople,” says Farrell because it has marginalized and neutralized the salesperson’s traditional monopoly on information. “Customers tolerated meeting with us, because they needed access to that information.” With Google, customers can become far more informed about their options and can make selections before they even have a chance to meet the salesperson and be “influenced.” Here are six other key points Farrell makes in the presentation:
Customers don’t want more content, because “they are swimming in content!,” What customers really want today is context, and perspective. But customers won’t let you provide that context if they don’t trust you. And they don’t trust salespeople who continue to sell with a strong self-orientation and self-interest. The way to build credibility and get customers to share more information of their own is to act more as a change agent and facilitator. Your goal as a salesperson is to help customers decide for themselves whether it is really in their best interest to make a change.
Sales is not about selling, convincing, and persuading. Farrell says, “It’s about getting to the truth” about the reality of the customer’s situation, the problems they’re facing, and if they are in a position to make a change. Do they have the authority to make the change? Is the timing right for them to make a change? The answers to these questions may not always be what you want to hear, but if you can accept these truths (especially early in the sales process) then you’ll stop wasting your time on business that you’re unlikely to ever get. Once you do connect with a customer whose problems you can solve, your job as a salesperson is to create a motive for them to make the change by helping them understand the costs and consequences of not taking action. Farrell contends that most salespeople mistakenly sell for opportunity and success, whereas customers actually buy in order to avoid failure, loss, or additional problems.
If salespeople thought more like business owners they would behave entirely differently. Farrell says good business owners excel at building a business case for making a change. Even more important, he says business owners have a much better understanding of where and how they should spend their time, energy, and resources to get optimal return on investment. On the other hand, salespeople who equate success with being liked tend to waste a lot of time chasing business they don’t have a prayer of getting. They also allow customers and prospects to waste their time by not respecting the fact “Time is the single most important asset that salespeople have.” Farrell says that, “Once you start respecting time yourself, and recognize that time is where you will get the greatest return, your customers will start to respect your time too.”
Farrell recommends guarding information too, and using it primarily as a tool for getting more information from the customer so you can help them build a business case for change. “Allocate your information when customers are ready to make decisions on it.” Timing is everything.
The traditional value-proposition method of selling to get the ball moving in the right direction does more harm than good. That’s because everyone is positioning their companies on the same things—quality, service, value, reliability, and reputation. “When everyone sells the same way, and positions themselves the same way, the only differentiator left is price,” says Farrell. And when everyone looks and sounds the same, customers will stop taking your calls and start hiding from you. To avoid becoming a commodity player, you must find a way to differentiate your sales process.
Be quietly enthusiastic about getting to your customer’s problem and helping your customer understand the cost and consequences of those problems. Otherwise, says Farrell, control your emotions: “The salesperson who is most emotionally tied to the result of the sale will be consistently outsold by the salesperson with the least emotional investment in the outcome.” He says that salespeople who appear needy, enthusiastic and jazzed up are placing more of the emphasis on themselves, their company, and their products instead of on the customer and getting to the truth of the customer’s situation.
Sell from a non-selling posture, where you have nothing to prove and can speak the truth from the customer’s perspective. Help your customers organize in their own minds the cost of their problems and let them decide independently whether they need to make a change. Selling becomes fun at that point, says Farrell, because it puts the onus of proof on the customer. Your credibility and trust increase and you don’t appear as if you’re being manipulative and selling from your own self interest.
Rick Farrell’s presentation included dozens of other suggestions for how salespeople can successfully adapt to the fact that the traditional models of selling that worked in the ‘70s don’t work nearly as well anymore. SGIA members can listen to the webinar in its entirety in the webinar archives on the SGIA website: www.SGIA.org
Some of the upcoming webinars offered by SGIA include:
- Trends and Opportunities in Graphics Installation: July 21.
- Sign Law: Basics and Beyond: July 28
- Twitter 101: It’s Not About What You Had For Lunch…This is Real Business!: Aug. 4.