If you hang around LinkedIn discussion groups that are largely patronised by Americans, you quickly learn of their taste for exaggeration. Noone should aspire to merely being a “leader”, fine though that aspiration is. We all have to want to be “Great Leaders”.
If everything is capitalised, if everything is “Great”, if everything is “Awesome”, if everything is “More Unique”, then these words—great, awesome, unique—lose all meaning. They lose all capacity to differentiate some things—those that aren’t really great, awesome or unique—from those that really are great, awesome or unique.
I want to start a campaign to use words in reasonably precise ways.
When is selling not selling?
So, let’s start with the word “sell”.
The problem is that many people confuse “sell” with “get client” (or “convert prospect to client”).
I have been vehemently addressed by people who want to use the word “sell” to mean every and any activity whose ultimate result is that a prospect becomes a client. But that loss of meaning results in a failure to distinguish those techniques for getting clients which work well, and those which work less well, and prevents u from identifying the differing characteristics of these two groups of techniques.
You would think that this approach would be of interest to all those businesses with goods and services to offload. After all, if you knew why some methods were bound to work less well, would you carry on using them in preference to methods that were demonstrably bound to work better?
The answer is, actually, some people will continue to do what they have always done because they are so invested in being right. That is, they so fear the imaginary consequences of being proved “wrong” that they turn their face against anything which will require them to acknowledge that, yes, they could do better. But let’s consider everyone else.
One of my clients asked me to help him to sell better because, as he said, “I don’t like doing it and I can’t do it.”
My response was, “well, don’t do it, then”. The point was that, whatever he was doing, he was actually able to get clients. Clients came on board without him having to “sell” to them. If he started associating this successful activity with the word “sell”, he would decide he couldn’t do it and didn’t like doing it. And he’d end up not doing it so well. (People like to be right.)
I define “selling” as those activities that result in a prospect becoming a client which make the seller more important than the prospect. Which makes the personal needs of the would-be seller more important than those of the prospective customer.
Most—all—businesses, small or large, have a need to get clients in order to get work, and therefore money and kudos. But making that need the focus of the seller’s attention is counterproductive. It will always antagonise the prospect, if only subconsciously. Just because we are, by definition, unaware of subconscious communication, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It may antagonise them sufficiently that they don’t buy, and you will certainly have less commitment from them.
Putting the seller’s needs ahead of those of the prospect is perceived by the prospect as the seller saying: “I don’t care that much whether I can meet your needs, or enabled you to spend your money wisely, I just want to get your money into my bank account”.
And it works, for sure. Not least because many businesspeople have been on the receiving end of this approach in the past and, of course, they do it themselves. So, there are a lot of people who see nothing whatever wrong with that approach. But it’s important to see that it stems from personal beliefs and emotions, not an objective understanding of how either people or business work.
It’s not the best way to get clients; it’s not the best way to keep them, let alone to get repeat business from them.
Getting clients is about first establishing that you can meet their needs. And that is about helping them discover what their needs really are. This is not necessarily easy, which is why many businesspeople decide that they won’t do it and invent specious reasons why they shouldn’t. Some people really can’t do it well, and they need training or coaching to help them do it better, just as each businessperson needs education about one thing or another.
It actually requires some skill in coaching.
However, bolstered by sales trainers and by those who want to remain right about what they are doing, the conventional wisdom persists, designed to reassure the seller that all they need or do is “sell”.
But, in the end, this selling just comes across as neediness, and neediness is very unattractive.
© 2015 Jeremy Marchant . image: Free images