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Stop Trying to “Sell”
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By John Barrows | January 9, 2019

Sales shouldn’t be thought of as trying to “sell” anyone anything. We are either helping people achieve their goals or solve their problems.  That’s the mentality we need to have.  If you’re trying to sell people something they don’t need and using tactics to convince people to do something they otherwise wouldn’t do, then you’re the reason the profession of sales has such a negative perception.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sales is the greatest profession in the world when done right and the worst when done wrong.  Sales is done right when we’re helping clients achieve their goals or solve problems.  It’s done wrong when we’re trying to convince people about something they don’t need.

Selling to Goals

The goal when qualifying a customer is to find out if their goals or problems are big enough to make a change.  If our solutions are only going to make a marginal difference, then it’s most likely not worth making the switch since the cost of transition and adoption usually will outweigh the marginal benefit.  We should be searching for clients where our solution can make a substantial difference or whose goals or problems are so significant that they need to do something different to address them.

Selling to goals versus problems is about selling to pleasure versus pain.  Most of us are taught to sell to pain which is important. Pain drives inbound leads, is easier to identify, usually has a shorter sales cycle and most people can agree to what the pain is.  The problem with pain is that it’s mainly felt by (and therefore evaluated by) people below the ‘power line’ who are focused on the short term. Think about it, how many C level executives or decision makers come through inbound?  It rarely happens.

Selling to Pain vs Selling to Pleasure

Selling to pain is important but if we want to elevate the sale and get executive engagement we need to focus more on selling to pleasure which is all about helping companies achieve their goals.  This type of sale usually leads to executive engagement, larger sized deals and is more competitive proof. I’ve gotten companies to spend 2x more with me than my competitors because I was able to paint a vision for them that aligned with their business objectives and showed them how I would help them achieve them.

Tactically, I phrase my questions in terms of “opportunities” and “challenges” and I ask both throughout the process.  I typically like to start with pleasure-oriented questions to get the client talking about something they like and then see where the conversation goes from there.  If I start the conversation with a pleasure-oriented question and they answer with a pain they are experiencing, then I go down the pain funnel with them. That said, when I start with a thoughtful pleasure-oriented question about their goals and opportunities sometimes I don’t need to ask many more questions because the client opens up and tells me everything I need to know.

You can even ask the client “is this conversation about helping you solve a problem or helping you achieve a goal?”  With either answer you need to then dig into how big that problem or goal is and what are the implications if they don’t address it.  A question I think we should all ask is “what happens if you don’t make this decision.”  If the answer to that isn’t specific and meaningful, then we’re either not talking to the right person or we probably shouldn’t bother continuing the sales process.

Lastly, I feel like we should try to disqualify prospects more than we try to qualify them.  Find the reasons why they shouldn’t work with you before they do.  This approach tends to get the client to want to work with you more, especially if you’re open and honest about the strengths and weaknesses of your solution and where it fits and where it doesn’t.

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