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The PROFESSION of selling

I have many times referred to the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA), their services, the benefits to members (including great hotel prices) but their greatest benefit is ... good, solid advice for sales professionals.

There are too many people who call themselves sales people and give the profession a bad name.

The legacy of the fast talking, slick "Teflon man" salesperson is a hard one to break from ... and it is only through a professional approach to selling that we can regain our credibility.

Our focus as sales people is to understand our client's needs ... to listen.
We need to be able to help our client's solve their business issues ... to understand their pain.
We need to be able to match our service or product, where applicable, to the client's issues ... that is selling.

If we don't have a good answer for our clients then walk away ... DON'T shove a square peg in a round hole.

If we don't understand our client's needs then DON'T push a solution on a client, when you don't know their pain.

The latest CPSA online magazine had a nice story that I'm sure we have all seen in action ... the high pressure sales person who shows up uninvited at the office. No appointment, pushy and the epitome of what should NOT happen in sales.

Read about this one ... when they show up at my office I just tell them to go away. This article is from the CPSA magazine, which you can access at their website .

How NOT to Conduct a Sales Call
Craig James

Last week I was sitting in the waiting area of a prospect's office when a young salesperson from one of the telephone companies entered. The office was a small one, with about five employees - the owner, two consultants, an admin, and the office manager. After introducing himself, the salesperson - whom the office manager had never met - launches immediately into his pitch. When he's finished, about 45 seconds later, the office manager politely informs him that they already have phone service, that they've been quite happy with it, and that she doesn't see any reason to make any changes.

Now, I'm secretly hoping our salesperson can demonstrate his selling skills by recovering from his first two major faux pas (marching in unannounced without an appointment, and launching into a pitch before asking a single question), and deal with this bit of sales resistance in an effective and professional way.

The salesperson responded by pointing out to the office manager a capability that wasn't being provided by the incumbent provider. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? But what if it was a capability the office had no current use for, nor foresaw any future use for, such as international calls? As it turns out, our salesperson got lucky - the capability was one that they could benefit from, but which they hadn't ever thought to consider.

"You know," replied the office manager, "we just might need that capability. However, I'm a bit rushed right now - it's Friday and I have to get our payroll done. Why don't you just leave me some information, and I'll call you next week?" Our salesperson's response was, to my dismay, "I can review this with you right now and give you a quote - it'll just take a few minutes." To which our harried office manager replied, "Look, I just told you I don't have the time for this now...and besides, you just walked in here without an appointment, I don't know you...we don't do business like this. I'll review what you leave and I'll call you next week if I think it makes sense to."

"OK", replies the salesman. "I understand. I'm sorry. Say, I'll be back in this area on about I stop in and we can review it together, when you have some time."
The salesperson feels he's scoring some points here, both by apologizing and by being assertive in proposing a next step. So is there a problem here? Well, the apology is a good move, but by plowing ahead with this offer fast on the heels of her admonition about his approach, he's evincing a lack of appreciation for the effect his cumulative performance is having on the office manager's impression of him - that of an overly aggressive, self-interested salesman.

And to top it all off, when the office manager says, in so many words, "Thanks, but no thanks", our friend has the bad sense to say, "Well, [Company name] requires us to try to get an appointment. As if the prospect gives a hoot what the salesperson's company wants!

What sales postulates jumped out at me as I was sitting there, doing everything I could to restrain myself from leaping up and giving him a free, impromptu training session?

1. Don't just drop in on prospects - schedule an appointment. We know cold phone calls are often perceived as being intrusive; imagine how an in-person cold call is perceived. Be professional - schedule an appointment.
2. Treat every person - including and especially the office manager or administrative staff - with respect. Not only is treating someone with disrespect in and of itself inappropriate and unacceptable, it's strategically foolish. If that person is the gatekeeper to the decision-maker, your disrespect will have just ensured that gate will stay closed forever.
3. Respect the prospect's wishes. Don't answer with a reply that says, in effect, "I'm going to ignore what you said." Always put your prospect's needs ahead of yours--always.
4. Take your cues from your prospect. If she's eager to engage with you, do so. If she's interested but not eager, or just doesn't have the time, acknowledge that, and be willing to play by her rules for now until you've developed a level of trust that permits you to regain control.
5. Ask questions first to determine if there are any unmet needs, and, if there are, what they are.
6. Never appear to be self-serving. Your job is persuade a qualified prospect that your offering is the best option for him or her. Do that, and you will, as a by-product, achieve your own goals.

About the Author:

Craig James President of Sales Solutions has over twelve years' experience in sales and sales management, primarily in technology and software.