Conversations That Sell
Collaborate with Buyers and Make Every Conversation Count
Author: Nancy Bleeke
Pub Date: April 2013
Print Edition: $17.95
Print ISBN: 9780814431801
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814431818
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The Importance of You in Selling:
Being a Real Part of the Solution
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
With today’s marketers focusing the bulk of their resources on data, hype,
and having a powerful online presence, you might think that salespeople
are no longer relevant. You might fall into the trap of thinking that buyers
don’t need people in their buying process, taking up their time, when they
can get “all the information they need” instantaneously over the Internet.
Don’t believe it! In today’s world, where information is pervasive, you, the
sales professional, are more important than ever.
What? The seller is more important than ever?
Yes, you heard me right. You are an essential component of what you
sell. You are an essential component in many purchasing decisions.
YOUR ROLE IN THE SOLUTION YOU SELL
For more than a decade, “experts” have predicted the demise of the sales
professional, arguing that online buying will significantly reduce or elimi-
nate the need for salespeople. Yet I haven’t seen that happen and I don’t expect
it will. What I have noticed, to the contrary, is that many online retailers
are adapting how they sell to include chat features that offer site visitors the
opportunity to connect with someone “live” to answer questions, discuss
options, and clarify information. They have found that personal attention
and assistance leads to selling more product.
This confirms my belief that there will always be a need for people to
sell to people. In fact, as of 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports
that there are over 13.4 million salespeople in the United States alone; and
if you’ve checked the job listings lately, you’ll find thousands of sales jobs
waiting to be filled.
Why is that? Why do buyers still need salespeople when they have access
to so much information? Let’s take a closer look.
With the commoditization of many products and services, combined
with the proliferation of information, you are often the differentiating factor
in a prospect’s decision to buy. While pricing, delivery, and the solution
itself are important, what makes a buyer choose your solution over your
competitor’s is often you—your understanding of their situation, your
concern for their need, your ideas about how they might best use your solution,
and the confidence you give them in your company’s solution. In
short, they need what you personally bring to the sales process and solution
during and after the sale—both in the business-to-business (B2B) sector,
where solutions tend to be more complex, and in the business-to-consumer
(B2C) marketplace, where personal experience and ability to relate to the
consumer count—a lot. You add value to the solution and that value closes
Let me share an example from my own experience.
Early in my sales career, I took the advice of a mentor who suggested
that I would win more business if I focused on my product, not my expertise,
and modeled myself—style, dress, and demeanor—after a certain successful
sales professional in my industry. Her message was that the product
would sell itself if I didn’t get in the way.
As a young upstart business owner, I thought I ought to listen. If that
meant being invisible and just selling the product, well, that was okay by
me. But that well-meaning, old-school coaching nearly cost me my first
big sales opportunity—a multi-year training engagement in the financial
I managed to land the project after some quick scrambling, but it ended
up costing me dearly—tens of thousands of dollars over a four-year period.
Why? Because I was so busy trying to stay out of the way, so focused on the
product pitch and being invisible, that I lost sight of the value I added to the
solution, and, consequently, so did the client. Bottom line, I did a great job selling
the product because they wanted my solution, but they didn’t want me.
I salvaged the deal by hiring a trainer who had the experience the client
requested and fit their suggested profile—someone older, preferably male,
with gray hair or, better yet, bald!—while I took on the role of account executive.
The percentage I paid my colleague deeply eroded my profitability
and cost me referrals that went to him as the front man.
Over time, though, I gained confidence and began demonstrating my
competence as a resource for the client, finding answers even when it wasn’t
my direct responsibility, driving the ongoing implementation, offering my
experience and advice, and using my talents to “get it done.”
After one particularly productive meeting where I was able to share
some of my knowledge, insight, and suggestions, one of the leaders who
had been part of the original selection team asked, “Where were you during
the sales process?”
I wanted to stammer, “What? Where was I? I was the one working
twelve-hour days to meet your deadlines and compile the information requested
by your thirteen-person decision team, each and every step of the
way.” But I wisely kept my mouth shut as she went on to say that if the decision
team had seen how smart, knowledgeable, funny, and personable I
was, I wouldn’t have needed to bring in my training colleague!
Hearing that hard truth was tough, but it taught me a valuable lesson
about the importance of being part of what I sell—of letting my personality
and unique strengths come through. If only I hadn’t hidden behind the
product, thinking that was all that mattered. If only I hadn’t blindly followed
my mentor’s direction to focus only on the product and not incorporate
“me” into the process and solution. If only I had demonstrated that I was
part of the solution and the value they would receive, I would have closed
the sale with fewer complications and a much higher profit.
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