Selling Truths & Sales Secrets

Gather round, all ye who are in sales, and sit at the feet of The Sales Wizard while I share profound secrets and insights from my bubbling cauldron of sales wisdom.

When you take away all the above hype, these secrets are not so profound—just simple truths of selling that have stood the test of time and will continue to do so. What I find so surprising is either salespeople don’t know them or they’ve forgotten they exist. Or perhaps they’re just ignoring them. Whatever.

How many have you forgotten over the years?

1. People buy from people they know, people they like, and people they trust.

Now here’s an old chestnut that’s so true it hurts. How many times have you met a salesperson whom you wouldn’t buy from if he was the last salesperson on earth? This truism explains why relationship building is so important in sales. People buy, but people still buy from people, and if the element of trust, etc., isn’t there, then there’s no sale.

2. The prospect who wants to buy from you can justify anything.

If the prospect knows, likes and trusts you, then price, terms or conditions will not be a roadblock to the sale. It’s often been said that you must sell yourself before you sell your product or service and, while this is true, many salespeople feel that the best way to sell themselves is to tell prospects how wonderful they and their company are. Wrong! You sell yourself by taking the time to truly understand your prospect’s wants and needs.

3. Sell on price, die on price.

If your biggest selling feature is your price, you’re vulnerable to every Tom, Dick and Harriet who operates on a shoestring and who can better your price. You can’t always make up on volume what you lose on margin.

Too many salespeople forget the basic law of discounting that states the bigger the discount, the more you have to sell just to stay where you are. For example, if you have a 20 percent margin and you discount your price by 10 percent, you have to sell twice as much (i.e. 100 percent more!) to make the same profit. Remember, bills (and salaries) are paid from gross profits, not gross sales.

4. Know why you’re better than or different from your competitors.

If you don’t know why you’re better than or different from your competition or you can’t articulate it, don’t expect your prospects to figure it out either. And if your prospects can’t see you’re better than or different from the competition, then their buying decision will be based on price. By the way, you don’t have to be better than your competition, just different enough to give prospects a reason to buy from you (see #2 above).

5. People buy for their own reasons, not yours.

This explains why it’s a whole lot easier to make a sale when you understand what the prospect needs and why she needs it. Could this be why the “qualifying” stage of the sales process is so important? A corollary to this gem is that people buy in their own time frame, not yours. Trying to push a prospect to buy before she’s ready is as fruitless as pushing a string and expecting it to go where you want it to.

6. You can’t sell everyone, everything, every time.

But don’t we like to try! The trick for the skilled sales professional is to find out who, what, and when. That’s why you need to know what questions to ask before you start to sell. Sometimes you need to disqualify a prospect if you are to be more effective as a salesperson. This helps you to avoid spending time with people whose primary function in life seems to be to waste your time (see #9 below).

7. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results! If you want to change your sales results, you have to change the way you go about getting business. Too often, we stumble around in our comfort zones, complaining about poor results when we should be stretching our sales wings and moving to new territories or opportunities.

8. If you can’t help a prospect, send him to a competitor who can.

Not everyone agrees with this philosophy, but I’ve made some pretty big subsequent sales to people I originally sent to a competitor. That action established me as someone who cared about the prospect’s best interests, not someone who was just out for a fast buck. It also established me as someone the prospect can trust to give him an honest answer to his questions and needs. Trust and credibility are fragile things, hard to earn and easy to lose.

9. Sell to prospects who can buy.

I’m amazed at the number of salespeople who would rather spend time with a bad prospect than no prospect. It’s as though their primary function as a salesperson is to be talking to somebody. There’s an old axiom that states, “If you want to make a sale, you have to talk to the MAN—the person with the Money, Authority and Need.” Make sure you’re not talking to a PWOT (Potential Waste of Time).

There you have it—The Sales Wizard’s nine fundamental truths of professional selling. Not only is the list not exhaustive, but I’ll bet many of you have secrets and truths of your own that you’ve learned from attending the University of What’s Happening Now—otherwise known as street smarts learn at the School of Hard Knocks.