Hey there Rainmaker, today’s post is bound to turn one of the core premises of business, marketing, and selling on its head…
But I think you’re going to find it pretty profound and enlightening…
In a sense, it will make your job of getting customers EASIER, and more STRESS-FREE…
Because it will take the conflict and challenge and pain out of the selling process…
And replace all that conflict and challenge with cooperation and simplicity.
I picked up this in an interview Jay Abraham did with sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer on Jay’s The Ultimate Entrepreneur podcast.
Gitomer made a very interesting point around a maxim we will all recognize…
“Customers don’t like to be sold, but they do like to buy.”
And yet, as marketing and selling professionals, we’ve built into our very language something that we know customers don’t necessarily like all that much.
If you help a customer buy, you’re considered a salesperson.
If you write copy that gets a customer to buy, you call it a sales letter.
The whole idea of helping a customer buy is called sales. And the definition of direct response marketing is sales multiplied.
Rooted in all this language is an adversarial relationship with the customer.
If we know customers don’t like to be sold, why do we call what we do sales and selling?
It creates conflict, because if we’ve done our job by its definition, we’ve put the customer through a process that they don’t like or appreciate.
Simply because of this conflict, it creates complexity and a challenge that must be overcome in order for us to be successful.
“Selling” puts us in an adversarial relationship with our prospects and customers…
We’ve kept the language, but most of the sales profession is moving away from this conflict-ridden, challenging approach to selling.
The desire to rid ourselves of this conflict is what gave rise to the consultative selling movement.
Rather than work against a customer to try to rip their money out of their wallet, we now function as “consultants” who help a customer discover a solution to their problem. A solution that we happen to have available for sale.
We don’t force their desire — we channel it toward our offer.
I don’t know the exact “title” we should give the professionals-formerly-known-as-salespeople…
But the gist of it is that…
You want to be thought of as a “buyer’s assistant…”
Your role is not to try to sell the prospect on taking you up on your offer, against their will…
Rather, to try to identify which prospects are already ready, willing, and able to purchase… And help them buy…
To identify which prospects may not be ready, but are willing and able, and work with them to make them ready… Then help them buy…
To identify which prospects are not willing, but would be ready and able if they were… To help them determine if their unwillingness can or should be changed… And help them buy if so…
To identify which prospects are ready and willing but not able… And figure out if through credit terms or some other accommodations you could make it so they are able to buy… Then help them buy if a solution can be found…
In short, to work with prospects who are interested enough to be in contact with you, and help them break down any personal roadblocks between them and their desired act of buying.
Furthermore, this calls for you DIS-qualify prospects, NOT qualify them…
You’re not trying to shove a square peg into a round hole as a buyer’s assistant.
You’re trying to figure out who is a real buyer (who is a round peg for a round hole), and who is just looking.
And so you’ll start to ask questions to find out whether or not they’re predisposed to buying from you. With the hope of eliminating any disqualified non-buyers as quick as possible, to free up as much time as possible to spend with buyers.
— Can they afford what you’re selling? Do they have the budget?
— Do they have an urgent enough need to justify buying now?
— Do they believe you can fulfill on the promises you’ve made, and that your solution is the one for them?
— Can they actually buy? Or is there someone else who also needs to be part of the buying process? (And all of these questions would apply for the “other.”)
— Does buying your product or service fit with their plans and big picture goals?
One-by-one, these lines of questioning (with a hat tip to John Paul Mendocha) will help you identify who is not currently qualified to move forward. They may be a buyer in the future (or not) but to get them to move forward today would require you to sell them, creating conflict, challenge, and quite possibly an unhappy customer.
IMPORTANT: This does NOT mean you cannot be persuasive!
Quite the contrary.
What it does require you to do is to understand who it is that wants to be persuaded… How best you can get those people’s attention… What you can do to get them interested in you, your message, and your offer… And what is going to make them WANT to buy from you!
What this probably means is you’re going to spend a lot LESS time doing hard-sell, beat-em-up-until-they-buy marketing and selling…
And you’re going to spend a lot MORE time sharing information related to your product or service and the problem it solves, and helping them establish buying criteria that predisposes them to choosing your offer over everything else.
At the very core, you want to be doing education-based marketing and selling.
You absolutely should have a product with distinct advantages over everything else in the marketplace…
I don’t necessarily mean you need to have the best product (which criteria make it best is very subjective)… But there has to be some criteria of your product that are superior to all other solutions available to the customer.
When your product is the best on at least some criteria the customer cares about, you can emphasize the importance of that criteria to buyers who may want to choose based on that.
Great example. When I sold IT training videos, they were ugly. There was no interaction with the trainer. These were two major downsides where competitive training companies beat us.
But we had trainers who had actually written exam questions for the exams the training prepared you for. So the content was excellent. Not only that, we emphasized learning over formality — so the training was actually interesting to listen to. It was like you were sitting next to a friend showing you the material, instead of in a classroom with the trainer droning on. And because of our lower production value, we could afford to bring you this top-notch content at an incredibly affordable price (helped the scalability of video training vs. in-person classes).
We could actually market to and talk with prospects about these different criteria they could use to choose what IT training they bought.
We’d emphasize our strengths, and admit where we fell short. We’d help them decide what priorities were really important in their own decision. And then we’d do everything we could to help them buy now, or to initiate their purchasing process. There was no conflict, no challenge — only cooperation and simplicity.
It’s also possible to do this in long-form direct response copy…
One of my latest big successes involves selling a backup solar power generator. The piece starts off by educating the prospects about a realistic scenario (a survivable catastrophe) in which backup power will not just be nice, but it will be necessary.
(It goes into a TON of detail on this, how it could happen, how likely it is, what will happen if the survivable catastrophe hits, and so on.)
Then, it lays out the case for backup power. It digs into all the options available in the marketplace, and digs into all the criteria by which you should evaluate their usefulness, should this survivable catastrophe occur. One-by-one, it invalidates all other solutions available in the marketplace, until only the product I have for sale is left.
At this point, I’ve thoroughly educated interested prospects to the point where they can make their own decision about buying.
And it works! I’m not at liberty to reveal specific numbers, but this promotion is likely to be a very big hit in the coming months, based on early testing.
And it’s all because I took the perspective not of selling the product itself, but by finding a way to attract qualified perspective buyers and giving them criteria by which they can make the buying decision in my favor.
That’s a breakthrough right there!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Rainmaker Numero Uno, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
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