Why aren’t salespeople trusted?

I recently saw a quote by Andy Bounds saying that that salespeople choose to “Show up and throw up”, meaning that they talk themselves out of work by  verbally throwing-up all over the customer – “Sit there.  Shut up.  And listen while I tell you all about myself and our company. We were founded in 1922. Here’s what we do and how great our products are, let me tell you all about them…”

Most research tells us that 80% of salespeople don’t sell effectively, as Andy says they simply “Show up and throw up.”

Put simply, sales is about selling solutions to meet real needs. Most salespeople will say they do this, but as the research tells us, 80% don’t.

Before we look at what excellence in sales looks like, let’s take a moment to consider why salespeople take this approach:

  • They don’t know any better. This is how they learned from more ‘experienced’ salespeople who had previously practiced the wrong behaviours also.
  • They feel under pressure to get more sales. Their bosses may be saying things like ‘Come on we need more sales; we need to hit our numbers!’ This will have the effect of making the salesperson appear desperate and basically forcing them to ‘hard sell’ – the pushing of products without understanding the needs of their customer.
  • Most salespeople know that they should ask some questions, but what we think happens is they ask a question or 2, get a sniff of a product sale and then ‘throw up’ the features of their product all over the customer without fully understanding their needs.
  • Some salespeople think that this ‘throwing up’ approach is the best way to sell. We’ll dazzle them with our brilliance and they’ll have to sign up. (No they won’t)
  • Effective communication skills are also vital in selling, particularly the skill of active listening. Many salespeople struggle to listen effectively. Often they will miss a need cue given by the customer, possibly due to inattention, being otherwise distracted, thinking of the next question to ask, or simply not being very good listeners.
  • Being overly pushy or aggressive. Effective selling is about building long-term relationships based on openness, trust and honesty.
  • Speaking of which, too many salespeople spread bullshit and are effectively ‘snake-oil’ salespeople, that is they’ll say anything to get the sale. Customers see right through this.
  • Some salespeople are too self-centred. In a recent survey about half of potential customers felt that salespeople were only serving their own agenda, whilst another quarter felt that salespeople only care about making the sale, and another quarter felt uncomfortable as it was difficult to say no to them.
  • Often the salesperson will struggle to build a personal relationship with the buyer. Everybody is different. (No surprises there!) Effective salespeople adapt their approach and flex their behaviour depending on the individual.
  • Finally, most salespeople don’t handle objections effectively. This is an entire subject in itself. When a customer objects to something we say, the natural reaction is to try to convince them otherwise. To “Show up and throw up!” This is ineffective because yet again the poor old customer feels like they’re being hard sold to.

One of the biggest drawbacks that salespeople confront is that without properly exploring the customer’s needs, they see a sale in every customer without fully understanding them:

“When you’re holding a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail.”

In our view the most important part of the sales process is exploring the needs of your customer. Yes you have to effectively build rapport to start building your relationship but there is nothing more important than exploring their needs.

To do this you need to ask in-depth, open, needs-focussed questions. The more conversational you can make it the better. Imagine you’re in a pub with your mate on a Friday night and you’re chatting to them. It’s like you’re painting a painting of your customer and their business. If you were an artist, you wouldn’t half finish a painting and then try to sell it, it’s no different when exploring the needs of your customers.

A few tips when exploring needs:

  • Focus entirely on the customer. Try to ignore all distractions and get yourself into the ‘listening zone.’ This is harder than you think.
  • When exploring needs with a prospect, or even an existing customer, they should be doing 80% of the talking. You should be asking probing, open-ended questions that encourage the customer to start talking and continue talking. Keep it conversational by asking follow-up and linking questions such as ‘Tell me more about…’ and ‘You mentioned earlier that…’
  • If you get an opportunity to sell a product when exploring needs – DON’T! If you’re still exploring their needs, you haven’t got the full story, acknowledge their need and tell them you’ll come back to it. It’s very difficult to return to exploring needs if you start presenting solutions.
  • Treat objections as a sign of interest and welcome them. If they weren’t interested they wouldn’t object. But don’t go into a rambling dissertation about why your product is best.
  • Objections are basically unmet needs. Treat them as such and return to asking questions as they relate to the objection, you can then provide information targeted specifically at the objection, based on what your customer has told you.
  • Listen intently for ‘need cues’ these are hints and tips that your customer might give out but they’ll only say them once, and if you miss them they’re gone forever. ‘Tell me more about…’
  • Take good notes and organise them effectively. Further research suggests that about 60% of customers think that if a salesperson doesn’t take notes they’re not really interested.
  • Finally, summarise their needs to ensure you both understand and make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Remember, effective selling should be all about them never, ever about you. Some salespeople think they have to perform like they’re on stage or acting in a play. You don’t! Focus on the customer. Dig deep to understand their needs and provide solutions to meet those needs.

The results might surprise you.

Contact Brendan now while it's on your mind
Brendan Walsh