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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sales Force Not Performing? It’s All About Building Relationships!

As a business subject, there has possibly been more written and spoken about sales and selling than any other.  What is still the case, sadly, is that plenty of sales forces are nothing like as effective as they should be.

I was lecturing to some very senior businessmen and women at an august educational establishment some time ago and I asked them their frank and honest opinions of their sales forces and their selling abilities.

Almost without exception they said that they were very happy with the performance and that they considered that their sales personnel were well trained, were good and in some cases, very good.

“That’s excellent”,  I said: “Now, most of you see sales people from other companies from time to time.  In general, how good are they?”

The answers ranged from adequate through terrible to disastrous including “We have asked the company not to send that joker in to us again”.

Rather than say anything, I let silence allow the obvious to sink in and there were at least one or two in the room who looked slightly shamefaced.

On the other hand I was sitting in the reception area of a client’s business waiting to go in when I overheard an interesting conversation on the telephone.

The company sold products door to door mostly in darkest Salford and the customers were often the more mature variety.  In this case, the conversation ended with the receptionist saying:

“Of course, I will, I am sure he will be glad to help you”

She turned to me and said:

“That old lady wanted to know when her salesman was calling as she had to fill in her census form and she needed help”.

That was one of the most pertinent lessons that I ever learned; that far and away the best way to generate great  sales performance is to build relationships.  My old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe, once described it as “building a wall round our customers”.

The fact is that many sales people think that selling is a matter of telling the customer about all the products or services and how wonderful they all are, when they should be asking questions and then letting the customer talk. 

There is nothing so satisfying as having a willing listener and as most business people are very happy to talk about their companies and what is going on, they do need someone to listen and make the appropriate noises from time to time.

There is no doubt that good sales people are good questioners and very good listeners which makes them an attractive visitor and one with whom the customer feels they have a rapport.

The fact is that selling is not telling; it is not a matter of beating the customer over the head with facts; it is not about the features of the products; it is all about questioning, listening and then offering a solution to a problem.  That way trust is engendered and the wall starts be built around the customer.

Totally irrelevant quote of the week:

“I am an old man and have seen many troubles.  Most of them never happened”  Mark Twain

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