Saturday, 9 February 2013

Sell people what they need, not what you can make them buy

A good salesman may be able to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, but it would be a lot easier to sell them something they would use, like a snowmobile.

Salesmen of the right calibre were and still are able to generate strong sales.  But their job in the 21st century is also to find a customer that fits the product they're selling; it is not just to sell to the first person that they can convince/coerce/deceive.  For too long many in sales sold people things they didn't need or really want.  Hence the generalised and unfair reputation all people in sales suffer today - consumers are reluctant to trust them before they can even say a word.

Pushing a sale onto someone can get get them to buy once and help you meet quarterly targets, but once that person realises they bought something more because of a sales pitch, flattering smile or likeable personality rather than the product itself, they're not going to buy from you again.

Nobody can be fooled twice

Once is the maximum number of times you can dupe a person.  Consumers are wiser and better informed before they buy, and even if they make a mistake they won't repeat it.

Here's my belief: it's better to have forty loyal customers than five hundred once-off customers.  Forty loyal, happy customers will become repeat buyers and tell their friends about you if the topic of your product or industry ever comes up.  A loyal customer is a gift that keeps on giving and they're a powerful factor in growing a revenue stream.  Before even thinking about making a sale, first identify whether what you have will meet a need or enhance the life of your customer.

Karma doesn't turn a blind eye to business

Serendipity can work in strange ways: when you decline to sell someone your goods out of honesty because they didn't really need it, they could very well refer you to someone who does.  The barrier of uncertainty and mistrust would have been broken; you will be seen as someone without ulterior motives.  The sale you make today will fill your bank account, but the taste you leave in a person's mouth will fill your karma account.  This sort of serendipity and good karma bypasses the person who wants to sell for the wrong reasons.  Remember your customer has limited money and many essential things (food, education etc) they need to allocate that money to.

It sounds radical and foolish to decline a sale, but if lost revenue for today is the cost of gaining unbreakable, lifelong trust then it's worth it.  Karma is as real as the hardships you face in business.  When trust is there people willingly loosen their purse strings.  In the medium to long term, this will become your competitive advantage.  (Note: medium to long term in this age isn't long at all.)

Find the right community of people that want what you're selling, don't make people want what you're selling.  When your name and reputation stand on solid ground you will have less of a need to find customers as you will be too busy answering to the ones that are knocking on your door.

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