Selling is Caring (or acting as if)

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Last week I attended the University of Bradford alumni event where I had the pleasure to meet successful alumni and to listen to a very neat and cohesive presentation on selling, Dynamics of Success: A personal history of selling (Paul Cooper, 2011). The presentation was meant to provide an idea of how successful people sell. It gave a different perspective on selling and helped me view it as an art. And that is how I found out about the SPIN® selling (Situation Problem Implication Need Pay-off) formulated by Neil Rackham. The technique is simple, yet very comprehensive and it focuses on creating value.

The model aims to enable buyers to talk themselves into purchasing a product or service through what seems more like a therapy session, than a simple trade. The beginning point is spotting the gap between current state and ideal state. The core of this technique is recognising the need for change and acting on it. Through asking relevant questions, the salesperson gains insights into the buyer’s situation, enabling themselves to identify the problem and assess how it affects the buyer’s life, followed by the stimulation of their willingness to accept a solution (I just made it sound complex). This way sales people gain their clients’ confidence.

It is actually what every sales consultant should learn to do:

Customizing the offer to clients’ needs.

Focusing more on the features that will satisfy the needs of the buyer (otherwise clients may lose their interest).

Guiding clients to a conclusion and not telling them what to do.

Building up clients purchase decision through asking relevant questions.

Waiting for clients to request a solution and not offering it deliberately.

Ask, listen, and then sell. Ever felt that the salesperson was your friend? That is because they knew what to ask and how to listen. “Rackham points out that one of the easiest ways to identify whether someone has received sales training is by the number of problem questions they ask” (Richard Cross, 2011). From a buyer’s perspective, you realise you have been “SPINned” when you try to reach your estate agent on a Sunday evening to ask whether the price is the real value of that house you are planning to buy. Chances are you will get a positive answer. However, getting you to think you can trust them is what this method is all about. Selling is caring to some extent. As a salesperson you are not expected to attach emotionally to your clients, but to show understanding and desire to help rather than to complete the trade by all means.

Therefore, in my opinion, to be able to sell successfully, you don’t have to be a mind-reader, but an active listener with outstanding communication skills. Having people skills, such as being able to foresee people’s answers and being prepared to turn their disagreements into positives, is probably the key ingredient of an influencer, hence of a complete salesperson. Through thorough research and intensive learning, followed by a fair amount of experience and seasoned with a handful of patience and tact one can come to master “the art of selling” (Cross, 2011).

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