I remember when I started in selling many years ago. Like so many before me I almost ended up in sales by default rather than choice. My sights was set on aviation together with all the images of take offs and landings. But instead I opted for a career of open and closes and a lot of rejection.
My early mentor said selling was easy. Just work hard and get your customers to like you, having powerful product knowledge and great relationships -this is the key to success. For many years I religiously followed this philosophy. I spend most of my time finding out every small detail of my customers and working up to 15 hours a day. I figured that the more time I spent in-front of my customers and impressed them with my knowledge the more likely I was to be successful. The truth is…. IT WORKED.
This approach seem to give me the edge on my competitors, making it possible for me to easily erode their market share and take their business. Life as a salesman was easy. As long as I continued to do the basic I would be successful. Alas the dream did not last…
Many things started change. The most significant change was that my customers had become a lot more clever. In most cases my superior knowledge did not excite them anymore. Suddenly they did not seem so keen on the relationship that I had spent so much time and effort nurturing. My fundamental basis for sales success had imploded. Yet acceptance did not come easy. I spent most of my time arguing against the elephant in the room and using old truths to reinforce my own reality.
It was not until I was exposed to sales guru Neil Rackham. In his break through research based book SPIN SELLING he drove selling into the professional era. The selling environment has dramatically changed. The biggest mind shift has been the realization that customers are no longer interested in what you are selling, they have a greater emphasis on what they need to buy. Rackham significantly shifted the sales landscape with one quote: “Its not what you sell, but how you sell that is important”
In my experience working with sales teams, this fundamental shift has been the biggest to bridge. Too many sales teams are obsessed with what they sell. They spend many hours practicing their pitch hoping that customers will come to the same conclusion. The reality is that many customers do not care what you sell – what they care about is what it means for them. The way you get them to realize it is indicative of the buying experience you are creating.
This new way of approaching selling is the key to survival.
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