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Monday, 26 May 2014

I Can Sell, I’ve Got the Gift of the Gab, Right? Wrong! You Need to Solve Problems!

I had the pleasure a couple of weeks ago of hearing a great presentation by US Vistage speaker, Ian Altman, on his theory of sales called Upside Down Selling.

There are multifarious articles, books, blogs, videos and much else on sales and selling but Ian treats the whole matter in a really uncomplicated manner with tips and angles to help along the way.

One of the basic factors is the fact that selling is not telling.  It consists of asking pertinent questions and then allowing the customer to bring out the issues.

In other words, sales people do not sell as such.  They are, in fact, problem solvers on behalf of the customer.

Think about it.  Every need of any of us relates to an issue that needs to be solved.  Even if we find a hole in a sock and decide to buy another pair, then the vendor is solving a problem for us.

The trick is to uncover that particular need so that the problem can be solved to the mutual satisfaction of the customer and the vendor.

To illustrate this, I recall that now many years ago I was in darkest Accrington with my old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the sage of Wythenshawe.  We found ourselves outside one of the many cotton
weaving mills in the town.  Phil stopped the car, got out slowly (he never leapt anywhere if he could help it), sniffed the air and said in commanding tones:

“Come on, we have business to do here!”

We went into reception and Phil demanded to see the works engineer who eventually appeared in his oily boiler suit and wiping his hands on a filthy rag.

Phil immediately told the engineer that he was running a particular process and he knew that they would be having problems with it.

Slightly surprised, the engineer agreed and Phil then demanded to go down into the shop to look over this process.  He told the engineer that he could solve the problem and sure enough, he did just that.

He could smell the problem and he could and did solve the problem.

That takes a large measure of experience to say the least but by asking the right questions any similar problem can generally be identified.

The key to all this is top understand that when a customer calls us they are doing so because they have a problem and they want someone to solve it for them.  This is one of the universal great truths of selling and sadly we often miss the opportunity.

If we sell to a customer based on our knowledge of our product or service that we offer then we are arrogantly assuming that we know best and we know better than the customer what they want.

If, however, we look back at our business from the outside we can see then precisely what the customer needs and to do that we will have to ask the aforesaid pertinent questions.

We need to discover why people need us, not what it is that we are selling to them.

Asking questions like this will uncover and satisfy the needs of perhaps 50% of customers and that is a high hit rate.


Remember, telling isn’t selling.  It is the problem solving that entices the customer into doing business with us.  It is WHY they need us, not WHAT we are selling.

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