by Mike Fowler
When you first started at your agency, there was undoubtedly an onslaught of advice thrown at you on how to succeed at your job. Some of this advice may have made a lot of sense. Other advice may have made you envision yourself sitting in a dark office listening to Alec Baldwin berating you through a series of sales acronyms like in Glengarry Glen Ross. You’ve probably heard ABC (always be closing) or KISS (keep it simple stupid). These simple sales tips have guided multiple generations of salespeople, but following this advice could severely limit your potential to grow as a competent salesperson.
Let’s examine a couple tenants of the old sales manual that should be removed from the training curriculum.
- ABC – “Always be Closing”
- KISS – “Keep it Simple Stupid”
- Selling is a numbers game
- Sell Benefits, Not Features
Today’s consumer is well aware of these sales techniques and can become defensive or even hostile when they believe you are trying to manipulate them into making a purchase. The people who are most successful at sales are those who are able to cultivate years of repeat business by developing relationships built on trust and mutual benefit.
So why do these old school sales tenants limit your potential as a salesperson? It is because they are misguided, focusing on a parasitic style of closing. Let’s break it down…
“Always be Closing”
The idea is to do whatever it takes to get a yes. Don’t focus on the close. Instead, focus on helping your prospect. It’s not about your gratification, it’s about theirs. If you help them they will be grateful, not apprehensive or remorseful. As an added benefit, you also increase your chances of repeat or sustained business; maybe even referrals.
“Keep it Simple Stupid”
Selling shoes is simple. Selling insurance is not. As an agent, you have to walk a tightrope. You shouldn’t try to overwhelm your client with jargon not commonly used outside of the industry, while at the same time not belittling them with overly simplified information that insults their intelligence.
“Selling is a Numbers Game”
Back in the day it was about cramming in as many cold calls in a day as possible to hit that quota. The old adage “Work Smarter, Not Harder” is very relevant here. Sales isn’t just about numbers, it’s about people. Research and relationships can go a long way to making your work more fruitful.
“Sell Benefits, Not Features”
This tenant tends to lead salespeople away from what’s most important: a prospect’s values. While the idea of selling benefits instead of features seems logical, it oversimplifies the process. Different people have different values and pain points. Listen to your prospect’s needs to determine their values.
These outdated methods for selling have some serious flaws. Mainly, they are overly simplified, blanket processes that are meant to be used the same way in every circumstance. The problem is that not every circumstance is the same. What works for one salesman may not necessarily work for another. The key is to adapt to your strengths. Over time you may find that you can compensate for certain flaws by using your strengths to de-emphasize your weaknesses.
Take Bob, for example. Bob lacks charisma but excels with product knowledge. Certain prospects aren’t going to like him because he lacks charm, while others will prefer his extensive understanding of the product he’s selling. Different people have different values. The key is to develop relationships with the people who you can connect with based on your strengths. This is how you work smarter, not harder.
The truth of the matter is that selling isn’t simple. Like any craft, it takes time and practice to hone your skills. If it all seems overwhelming, the best way to start is to throw out the acronyms.
Traits like self-awareness and adaptability will be important building blocks on your career path. Your ability to adapt to changes in the way we do business, as influenced by factors such as social media and new technologies, will be the difference that separates you from the dying breed of old school salespeople.