To sell more you need to stop selling.

For years I’ve heard the same thing every January, even worse I keep hearing it for the following 11 months as well.
No matter the company or the title o seniority of the person who says it, the words are always the same: “We have to sell more”, “Our sales objectives increased by xx% versus the prior year”, “We have to pre-empt our competitors”, “Bring in new accounts and look for new ways to get more money from your current ones”.

Attention is always focused on how to bring more money to the organization and how we are going to get our clients to give us more money. There are even entire strategies fully dedicated to selling more, and seminars teaching us how to be persuasive, have great presentation skills and be excellent objection’s managers.

But even with all this, every year we face the same problem: We are not meeting the numbers. And to justify this, a never ending series of reasons get thrown on the table: “The client hasn’t come back to me yet”, “They cut down their budget”, “Legal did not approve the contracts on time”, etc.
And in answer to these, we hear feedback like: “Forget the phone and have a face to face meeting”, “Take xx person with you”, “Make them see the mistake they are doing”, “Push harder”. All fair suggestions, after all a simple phone call is definitely not enough. To really communicate what you have to say you are better of having a face to face meeting; also bringing someone more experienced or with more seniority with you might really help you close the sale.
But even with all these the problem remains.

Maybe it is because of my background as an advertising professional, but I think that the real problem resides in that people get so obsessed with selling and selling more, that they forget what it is that which they were selling in the first place.
What I mean is when you work in the Client Services department of and advertising agency in a mid level position, your most important responsibility is to make sure that you PROVIDE your CLIENT with the best SERVICE. Your objectives are very clear; the reason for your position to exist is precisely to HELP your client, PROVIDE her with SOLUTIONS to the challenges she has, and work as a TEAM to really SATISFY her needs. And all of this without having to think about how much you should charge your client for it. Let the executives of the Agency worry about that. Or at least that was my training a 12 years ago when I started working in the Advertising industry.

The problems is though, that as you keep advancing in your career and moving up on the “corporate ladder” you risk forgetting about service and, without really noticing it, you start adopting the philosophy of “sell and sell more”. There is no more space left in your agenda to think about service, you let your team work on that, and you focus on coming up with new schemes to charge more.

Now, I must confess that at some point I too was guilty of this. Lucky for me though, I was able to stop and think and remember that in 12 years of professional career, the times when I’ve had the best sales results have been precisely those when I stopped worrying about sales and revenue, and started focusing on looking for new ways to collaborate with my clients and help them get better results for their business, not mine.
The times when my clients have been more opened to listen to my suggestions and following my recommendations have been those when I did not talk only about how much more money they would need to pay.
In fact, if you want to loose your client’s attention immediately, just tell them they need to spend more on you, let them know that you are there only for their money. Maybe, if you are a hell of a sales person, you might get to sell them once or three times even, but sooner or later they will catch up and realize you are just after their budget and, for them, talking to you will just not make any sense again.
On the contrary, when you demonstrate an authentic interest for their business and you are really focused on providing them with the best solutions you have available for them without discriminating the amount of their budget, you win not only a great credibility, but the certainty that that client will always be open to hear you out and accept your proposals even if those mean a big investment on their part. And they will invest what you propose because they will know that you are not just after their money, but rather you are looking out for them and what’s best for their project.

When I think of this I just can’t help remembering Robin Sharma’s advice: “People like to do business with the people they like”.

It really isn’t rocket science; there are no complicated recipes to do it. You just need to take away that eco that resonates inside your mind yelling: “Sell and sell more” and instead repeat to yourself: “seek first to understand your client’s needs and then make sure you are able to deliver on them”.

As Tim Sander says in his book: The Likeability Factor: “There is nothing like connecting with each person’s sweet spot to become relevant to them”.

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The comments, opinions and recommendations posted in this personal blog are my personal thoughts, and doesn't necesarily reflect those of my employer.