When I play the part of a buyer in sales call role plays, the salesperson often launches into a recitation of their product’s features and capabilities, which are easily countered by pointing out that their competitors offer the same features, and at a lower price. After they run into several dead-ends, the next tactic is to play the personal card: “Well, you get me as part of the deal.” That’s when I reply with my one-size-fits-all buyer’s question:
When I ask that question, most salespeople don’t have a good answer. They can tell me that they will be accessible and that they will take personal responsibility for my satisfaction, but everyone can tell a buyer that. On the other hand, it’s clear that many buyers will be loyal to a vendor because of the quality of the relationship they have with the salesperson, so it’s actually a pretty good answer—IF the buyer believes it and trusts you to deliver on the promise.
The trick to making the buyer believe it is not to say it, but to prove it with actions. What should your actions show?
There are four critical attributes you have to show that will induce buyers to trust you. I first read these attributes in Jerry Acuff’s excellent book, The Relationship Edge: The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success. Acuff talks about these, but the acronym and the description of what each one means are my own take, so if you don’t agree, blame me.
PICK stands for professionalism, integrity, caring, and knowledge.
Professionalism: Professionalism is the personal stamp of quality that you display in all your interactions with customers. Do you make dealing with you effortless and reliable? Do you follow through on your commitments? Can you get things done within your own organization for your customers? Do you communicate clearly and consistently? Are you punctual and prompt? If you have to speak about your competitors, can do it objectively and fairly?
Integrity: This one should go without saying, but unfortunately pressure is so often put on salespeople to make this quarter’s number that shades of grey can be rationalized to seem whiter than they are in some cases. People may not always notice when you act with integrity, but they will instantly pick up on it when you don’t. Do you honor your commitments? Would you recommend against your own product if you believe it’s not the right thing for your customer? Are you fair and honest at all times? Do you have the guts to tell your customer when you think they’re wrong? Or your sales manager? Do you address problems squarely and promptly?
Caring: Reports of the death of relationship selling are exaggerated. Sales transactions are just as much a social exchange as an economic one, and everyone responds to a personal connection. Do you make buyers feel that they are more than a number that goes toward your quota? Will you take active responsibility to ensure they get the results you promise? Do you follow up to ensure that your customer is satisfied and happy?
Knowledge: Although I just said that relationship selling is important, you still have to bring real business value to your customers, and value comes from bringing fresh insights that help them get faster, better, or cheaper in some way. Do you bring new ideas to improve the customer’s business? Do you know how to connect your solution to profits, processes and problems? Do you know how to make your customers succeed personally?
If you can consistently demonstrate the values of professionalism, integrity, caring and knowledge in all your dealings with customers and prospects, the customer’s “So what?” questions will be easy to answer. More importantly, it will probably never be asked.