Business Operations

OLSEN ON SALES: Our Parents Didn’t Raise Salespeople

About 75% of salespeople are presenting product and asking the customer, “What do you think?” This is not (even close to) a sales call.

“The problem, John, is that your parents raised a really polite son.” This is how I interrupted the eighth meeting with a young man who is learning to be a lumber broker/professional salesperson. That may seem harsh to some, but my clients are in a hurry and the people they hire (including me) know that.

The Customer Is Always Right
Our parents, most of whom were customers, taught us this! If you are in a service job or you have a boss/owner who wants to deal with all hard cases, then don’t argue with the customer. We don’t argue with customers, but we must stand up for ourselves. The master seller does this in a smooth way that doesn’t offend.

In B2B sales the customer is selling us also. There is a sale made on every call; either we convince our customer to buy from us and partner with us, or they convince us to work for them for free.

Don’t Back-Sass Me and No Means No

I was raised with, “Children are to be seen, not heard.”  “Don’t talk back to your mom/dad/teacher.” These attitudes are drilled into our psyches from before we can talk until we leave home and even then….

About 75% of salespeople are presenting product and asking the customer, “What do you think?” This is not (even close to) a sales call. (When we ask for the order, the customer will tell us what they think!) Of the remaining 25% most will go away with one “NO” or “I’ll let you know” (which should be spelled: “I’ll let you… NO,” because that’s what it really means.)

Only the top 10% of salespeople are:
Asking for the order.
Asking more than once.
Overcoming objections and closing.

All three are important but monster sellers overcome objections and close.

Adult Tantrums

Some customers will try to take the role of our parents, teachers or bosses. They are not. Some customers will throw an “adult tantrum.” We are not intimidated. We must recognize bullying and intimidation for what it is and deal with it immediately, in a calm, professional manner.

Those we let bully us will never be great customers. Create a respectful relationship with customers or move on.

Don’t Brag or Boast

The opposite is true for us as professional salespeople. We are shameless self-promoters. Does Apple “aw shucks” it when they talk about the iPhone? Does Tesla say the electric car “might” revolutionize our world? Does Ford ever tell us anything but the great things about Ford? No, they don’t and we can’t either.

The truth will set you free, but it will not sell itself. We must know who we are and what we can do for our customers, and we must sing it from the rooftops. If we do not have a strong definition of ourselves and we don’t stand up and communicate our value throughout the sales process, our customer will define us as a shopping service.

Hard Work Conquers All
We heard this comment from our sincere, hardworking parents when we should have been listening to the (rich) smart-aleck uncle who said, “Work hard and work smart.”

I see a lot of salespeople working hard at the wrong stuff. My first seven years as a salesman I made 60 to 70 calls a day, working hard. Made an OK living, but many around me were making three and four times as much, making 50 calls or fewer a day! I wasn’t working on my salesmanship, just pounding the phone.

We can dig a hole with a hammer, but it’s a lot easier with a shovel. Sales is the same; we can hammer away at customers or we can dig in and make them a friend and partner. We earn their trust by showing we are there for more than just the order, then we joke, cajole, negotiate and sell them with all we’ve got. Bring a partner-to-partner attitude; customers will feel it and treat you accordingly.

If we treat them like they are our parents, we will have a tough time pushing through objections and negotiations. We will sell less and for less margin. We are partners, not servants.
James Olsen

James Olsen is the founder of Reality Sales Training, Portland, Or. After 20 years in sales with Nike, North Pacific Lumber, and Forest City Trading, in 2001 James started his own sales training business, devoted to helping companies and individuals achieve rapid sales growth. Contact him at (503) 544-3572 or james@realitysalestraining.com.

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