When people says things often enough, they become “common sense” and we take them at face value without even thinking about them. Sometimes you have to do a little mental housecleaning and update or get rid of common sense that is hindering you. Here are six candidates; I would love to hear yours:
The customer is always right. If this were true, there would be no place for consultative salespeople. A consultant knows more about your problems than you do, and even knows about them before you do. If this one were always true, no one would have bought anything Steve Jobs dreamed up, because they would not have “needed” it. What is the customer wrong about, that if you could educate them it would make a significant improvement in their business?
Be an expert for your customers. Yes, but… be careful about how you educate them. As Churchill said, “I’m always willing to learn, but I hate to be taught.” Even if you have all the answers, begin with questions so that they can make the answers their own. Besides, may you don’t have all the answers. We’re told to be like doctors for our customers, but one study showed that doctors made up their minds and interrupted patients within 23 seconds. Be a better listener.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In this attention-deficit world, potential customers have to quickly make up their minds about whether you have the competence to deliver value. The new saying should be: “People don’t care how much you care until they know how much you know.” The best way to do this and avoid the “expert trap” is to ask exceptionally good questions.
People don’t buy drill bits; they buy holes. This one is on the right track, but it does not go far enough. No one drills holes for the sake of holes; they are trying to build something. When the customer tells you why they want something, ask why. Then ask why again, then a third time. When you get to that answer, you will know the real value they need to receive. Better yet, ask and answer the why questions yourself before you get in front of the customer.
We sell solutions. This has become such a cliché that a lot of salespeople simply use the word as a synonym for product. Sell problems instead, and the solutions will become self-evident.
Never give up. People like to quote Churchill, who supposedly said, “never, never, never give up.” What he really said was, “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense”. The good sense part is what most people leave out. I have seen too many salespeople through the years spend far too much time on “deals on wheels”, which clog up their funnels even though no one will ever buy. Remember, if you’re going to lose, lose early. Qualify ruthlessly.