How Do I Define Selling?
What is selling? It is a profession. Professional salespeople understand this and rise above the “order takers” that permeate the industry.
Are you a professional? Do you consistently work to improve your skills and abilities? Do you read books on selling and self-improvement? Do you listen to podcasts from salespeople that have shown themselves to be professionals? Do you study the art of selling in the modern world?
A professional salesperson is a person who partners with a customer to make their life better.
What selling is not
Selling is not bullying the customer. It is not pushing the customer. It is not “fast-talking” them into something they don’t need.
I don’t believe selling is spotting the taxidermied fish on the wall and asking about their fishing trip on the initial appointment. It is not asking questions like, “What keeps you up at night?” It is not about telling the customer what you think they want to hear, even if you have to tell a little white lie.
A short time ago, my sixteen-year-old granddaughter made a disparaging remark about selling. “It is crooked and all about lying,” she said. Curious, I asked for details and got the following story.
She and her mother went shopping for cell phones with a new carrier. They looked at the phones and asked a clerk in the store about what she thought about the one they liked. She then steered them to a particular telephone they hadn’t been interested in and began pressuring them to purchase “today” because of some “special” they were running.
They began asking questions and the answers they got were convincing enough that they made the purchase, and switched their phone numbers over to the new carrier.
A week later, they discovered that most of the information was a complete lie. The mother had to go up the chain of command to work at getting the issue resolved. I think they are still working on it after several months.
Because of that interaction, I don’t believe I convinced her what that person did was not indicative of a real salesperson.
The dictionary lists a dozen different ideas defining selling.
Here is the dictionary definition of selling:
gerund or present participle: selling
- give or hand over (something) in exchange for money
- persuade someone of the merits of
- talk someone into
The first one is technically true, but the second and third are the ones that can lead to that “pushy” moniker playing out. Don’t be pushy.
I frequently think about the act of selling, and my favorite game is to define selling in one word.
It’s not easy, but I believe it gets more to the heart of selling than most. A few I have come up with are:
- But what about Trust?
I’m sure if I spent enough time and energy, I could come up with a catchy acronym for these particular words or synonyms, but that is a job for another day. (Wait for next weeks acronym for “questions”)
I believe listening is the most critical skill in selling. Allowing the customer to know that you understand them. Listening lets you see what problems they are wrestling with and what their feelings are around the issue.
Then comes empathy. This emotion allows you to sit where they are sitting, stand where they are standing and walk a mile in their shoes. (enough of that). If you genuinely empathize with the customer, you will have their best interest at heart. You can feel their frustration.
Without knowledge of their problems or knowledge of the different ways you might help, you are not a salesperson. You must be creative in solving the issue, even if it doesn’t involve you or your product.
I know this is radical, but sometimes the correct solution is not yours. A real professional salesperson will acknowledge this and contribute to finding the right answer. This ups the trust factor, and the customer knows you are a valuable asset.
People want their problems solved. Period. A person with a broken arm wants a doctor to set the bone and put on a cast. Salespeople have the same responsibility. Knowledge leads to a way to solve their problems. If you can’t solve the issue for them, you are not helping.
Convincing and persuading are two words often used in selling. I’m not sure this is the best way. Better to share with the customer your concern, your thoughts, and possible solutions. That is better than the desperation that shows with a lousy salesperson.
I prefer to help customers any way I can, even if I have to give them someone else’s name and number. They remember and reward your thoughtfulness.
What about Trust?
Trust is huge. However, if following the previous thoughts hasn’t built trust, something else is wrong. Either you weren’t listening or didn’t ask the right questions. Time to rewind and start over. More on this in the coming weeks.
Oh, and practice, practice, practice. It’s the only way.