Common Sales Mistakes – Number 1

May 6, 2022
Sales is the most likely route to success in your business if you do it well. However, the first mistake I find with many companies is that sales itself is misunderstood. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share with you the core elements required to make sales consistently and professionally. Too often, people jump to tips and techniques to improve sales but, like all building processes, we must start with the foundations. There are 2 pre-conditions for sales to be made and the first one is ‘Need’.  

What is ‘Sales’?
The first thing we must understand is the essence of sales: What is it? And who are we, as salespeople? The answers seem obvious, I know. We exchange our products or services for money. We generate income for our business and ourselves. We tell people how we can help them. All of these are true but they don’t capture the essence of sales and, because of that, they lead us to incorrect conclusions and flawed plans.   I do not believe that I can sell anything to anyone but there’s a widespread ego-driven belief that great salespeople can sell coals to Newcastle or ice to the Eskimos. The point is not whether they can or they can’t; the point is that selling is not about selling anything to anyone.  

Selling to needs
To sell well, honestly, ethically and professionally, we sell according to someone’s needs. Effectively, we find that they have a need (no, Eskimos don’t need ice!) and therefore they will make a buying decision about meeting that need. Our job in sales is to help them make a good buying decision. We do that by understanding their needs, their buying process, their budget and their timeframe. We sell badly when we fail to understand; we sell better when we know the truth about them and their needs. The essence of sales, then, is the ‘Search for Truth’.  

Truth matters
The distinction between the negative view of sales (pushy, aggressive etc) and searching for the truth matters. When we think of selling as pushing product or services onto people, it creates a trigger for all sorts of bad behaviours: talking too much, ignoring what people say, forcing them to buy something. When we think of selling as searching for the truth, it encourages good behaviours: asking questions, listening to answers, tailoring our responses to the needs of people. As well as changing how we communicate, I think the change of perspective also helps with the view we have of ourselves.  

If we think of selling as pushing ideas onto people, that feels uncomfortable and we’re unlikely to do it. So, we end up doing no sales activity at all because we don’t want to be pushy. We don’t need to be pushy. We need to be curious. Seeing sales as the search for truth changes how we see ourselves: we’re trying to find out if people have a need that we might be able to serve. If they don’t, great; we can move on. If they do, also great; we may be able to help them.  

This first step matters and getting it wrong can be a costly mistake. We must know who we are as salespeople because everything else comes from that. We must step away from seeing ourselves as pushers of sales and, instead, see ourselves as enablers of sales for those with a need we can satisfy.  

Coming soon: Common Sales Mistakes – Number 2  

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