"Salespeople Should Be Principled"
In 1936 an unknown author, despite many frustrating years of receiving rejections, finally managed to get his manuscript taken up by a major publishing house. That book became a classic in the pantheon of self-help books: "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Surprisingly, many people in sales have still not read this work. Dale Carnegie’s aim was to help all of us be better with each other, particularly in a business context.
He did this by laying down some Principles, which will make us more successful in dealing with others, especially those people not like us. Salespeople should definitely be friendly. Ancient Chinese wisdom also notes, " a man who cannot smile should not open a shop". Here are four Principles for helping us all to become friendlier with our clients.
Become genuinely interested in other people
Our buyers are actually more interested in what we know about what they want, than in what we know about our product or service. It is a common mistake though to be wrapped up in the features of our offering and lose focus on the person buying it and what they want. We better get busy really understanding our clients.
The key word in this Principle is "genuine". Having a correct kokorogamae or true intention, means we will be honestly focused on understanding the client so that we can really serve them and build a partnership. We must be fully focused on their success, because wrapped up inside that outcome is our own success.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
Salespeople have a nasty habit of selective listening and selective conversation around what they want to talk about. Their kokorogamae is centered around their interests and the buyer’s interests are secondary. Sales talk is a misnomer - there is no sales talk. There are well designed questions and there are carefully crafted explanations around solution delivery, which are tightly tied to what the buyer is interested in. Questions uncover interests and with laser beam focus, that is the only thing we talk about.
Sounds simple, but salespeople love to talk, they love the sound of their own voice and they become deaf to the client, often without even realising it. Check yourself during your next client conversation – imagine we recorded your words, would they be 100% addressed to the buyer’s interests. If not, then stop blathering and start talking in terms of their interests. By the way, Japanese buyers are rarely uncomfortable with silence, so don’t feel pressured to fill the conversation gaps with pap!
Be a good listener. Encourage the other person to talk about themselves
Good listening means listening for what is not being said. It means not pretending to be listening, while we secretly think of our soon to be unveiled brilliant response. It means not getting sidetracked by a single piece of key information, but taking in the whole of what is being conveyed. It means listening with our eyes – reading the body language and checking it against the words being offered.
Talkative salespeople miss so much key client information and then puzzle as to why they can’t be more successful in selling. The client doesn’t have the sales handbook, where the questioning sequences are nicely arranged for maximum efficiency. Instead the client conversation wanders all over the place, lurching from one topic to another, without compunction.
Actually, I am just like that as a buyer. I have so many interests and will happily digress on the digressions of the digressions! Well designed questions from the salesperson keeps the whole thing on track and allows the client to speak about themselves at length. In those offerings from the buyer we learn so much about their values, interests, absolute must haves, their desirables, their primary interests and their dominant buying motives.
Japanese buyers usually need a higher level of trust to be developed, before they may open up and talk about themselves. It is exceedingly rare to wrap up an agreement in Japan with just one meeting. So salespeople, play the long game here and don’t be in a rush. We are limbering up for a marathon, not a sprint in Japan.
Arouse in the other person an eager want
This is not huckster, carnival barker manipulation. This is becoming a great communicator, someone who can arouse passion and enthusiasm in others. Sales is the transfer of enthusiasm, based on the salesperson’s belief in the "righteousness" of doing good, through supplying ethical offerings that really help the buyer and their business.
One of the biggest barriers to success in sales is client inertia. They keep doing what they have always done, in the same way and get the same results. Our job is to shake that equation up and help them to get a better result, through doing something new – buying our product or service.
We have to help them overcome their fears and persuade them to take action. In Japan there is a penalty for action if something fails and less of a penalty associated with inaction, so the bias here is to do nothing. Having a need and taking immediate action are not connected in the client’s mind, until we connect them. We have to fully explain the opportunity cost of no decision, no action or no response to our proposal.
We achieve all of this by using well thought out questions, which lead the buyer to draw the same conclusion that we have come to – that our offering is what they need and that they need it right now. This Socratic method of asking questions works because it helps to clarify the buyer’s own thinking. Most salespeople don’t ask any enough questions, because they are too busy talking about features. We can arouse an eager want if we frame the questions well.
These Principles are universal and timeless. We can adopt these Principles and become more effective in our dealing with our buyers.