Talk about sales, and immediately the image of the slick used car salesman comes to mind – with his heavily gelled hair, quick-fire sales pitch, and the musky smell of cologne hanging around him. Or maybe you would think of the numerous times you’ve been called by a random telemarketer (how on earth did he get my number, anyway?). Or what about that guy who goes door-to-door pressurizing your neighbors to buy his newfangled vacuum cleaner?
Unfortunately, it seems that most of the images we have of salespeople lands dead center of the negative zone. It seems like all they want to do is sell us their ware, regardless of what they talk to us about. They might be asking us how our day was, but in our minds it sounds more like, “Give me an opportunity to sell my product NOW”. It’s hard to win as a salesperson.
To be sure, many sales professionals tend to give the sales industry a bad name. Too many times, salespeople are only concerned with the bottomline, that is, to sell their ware, rather than genuinely communicating real value.
A call from a telemarketer always begins with “How are you?” and then swiftly launches into a tirade of one-way monologue (which is the sales pitch). No wonder people on the receiving end immediately get turned off once a phone call is revealed to be from a telemarketer. After all, how can you trust someone who you don’t know at all, or even know where he/she got your number from (which is really creepy)? Worst still, even if you were willing to give this salesperson a chance, you’d hardly be able to get a word in between his well-polished sales pitch. Salespeople simply aren’t creating any real value for the listener.
It gets worse – many companies have sales departments that still subscribe to traditional high-pressure sales tactics. A salesman from British Columbia claims that his sales manager instructed him to run through a canned presentation with potential clients, and if the client doesn’t get hooked, to call the manager down to browbeat the prospect. This might have worked in a pre-Internet world. However, with so much information at our fingertips nowadays, the prospect is well-equipped to fend off such heavy-handed blows.
High-pressure tactics can never work in today’s world. It may indeed contribute to an anti-sale, whereby prospects get so turned-off by such sales tactics that they end up posting negative reviews of the company in various social media channels or forums.
Daniel Pink, author of the bestseller To Sell Is Human, notes that the principle of the marketplace has transitioned from caveat emptor to caveat venditor – that is, from “Let the buyer beware” to “Let the seller beware”. Historically, buyers have always been on the losing end due to a lack of information or expertise on products or services. With reviews, ratings and online portals readily available on the Internet today, sellers are now the ones who have to be careful, lest they be marked as untrustworthy or dishonest – or just plain annoying.
At the end of the day, one thing is for sure – salespeople need to learn how to listen to, and be transparent, with the customer. To know what the customer wants, salespeople need to listen; to sell to the customer, salespeople need to assure the customer of their honesty.