In the Kansas City Business Journal, Sean Stormes wrote an article about Bob and John’s book “Go-Givers Sell More” called “‘Make’ a sale? No, it’s helping clients find and get what they need.”
It’s 2003, and I’m leading 26 salespeople and two managers throughout a multistate region for a Fortune 500 company.
One day, an e-mail arrives summoning us to the corporate office for three days of intensive sales training. I thought: “Here we go again. Another program sold to our leadership intended to help the field increase sales via the manipulation of ‘those customers.’”
We had an outstanding team then, ranked in the top one-third in the country. What we needed, though, were more bullets in the gun — real competitive advantages communicated to our target audience through progressive marketing tactics — not more sales training. We needed leadership to help put us in a position to win.
This wasn’t it.
In fact, it marked the sixth time in 18 years that some corporation I worked for required me to deliver a team of salespeople for selling skills training. Sure, the time spent wasn’t a total waste, but I’ve personally watched thousands of salespeople become confused by the primary (highly flawed) principle taught by these firms: that the salesperson must always be in control. It just isn’t natural, and everyone feels bad about it — including the salesperson and her customer.
Being a leader, I took the initiative the next time around. In 2004, I was handed the reins of a national sales force. Almost immediately, our president asked me to continue the sales training (delivered by a national company) that already had begun.
Instead, I struck a deal: I asked my boss whether I could first assess the team members, and if I found them to be lacking in progressive, effective sales skills and knowledge, then I could teach them my system. He agreed. The results were a 22 percent jump in sales and an 8 percent increase in profitability in the first 120 days, far beyond anything they’d ever experienced.
For the past eight years, my public message and personal motto has been the same: It’s not about you; it’s about them — the customer!
So imagine my surprise and delight when I picked up “Go-Givers Sell More,” by Bob Burg and John David Mann (the follow-up to their best-selling parable “The Go-Giver”). I believe so deeply in the Go-Giver philosophy, I contacted Bob Burg to learn more.
“Sean, the Golden Rule of Sales is simply this: ‘All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.’ It all comes down to that.
“And you don’t elicit those kinds of feelings by doing whatever it takes to ‘make the sale.’ You accomplish that by focusing on how you and your product/service can serve them and by matching the benefits of your product or service with their wants, needs and desires.”
Burg and Mann go so far as to say, “You cannot make a sale.”
Burg explains: “In a market-based economy, you cannot make a sale because you cannot make someone do anything they don’t want to do. What you can do is create an environment where they want to buy.”
But isn’t that just semantics? And Burg’s response is typical of his and Mann’s contrarian (but not curmudgeonly) style: “Yes, it absolutely is just semantics. Yet semantics can be important because the words we use, even to ourselves, define our true thoughts.”
He continues: “If you’re out to make a sale, then it’s all about you. If your goal is to create an environment where the prospect chooses to buy, then it’s about them. And that’s exactly what and who it should be about — them!”
Burg and Mann think selling is a noble profession and are quick to counter the many myths about sales:
“Many think sales is about convincing others to buy something they don’t want or need. In truth, sales is finding out what someone does want or need, and helping them to get it. Many think sales is about taking advantage of others. It isn’t. Sales is about giving people more advantage. And many think sales is about taking. Actually, it’s just the opposite. In fact, the old English root of the word sell, sellan, literally meant, ‘to give!’”
So, what do salespeople give? Burg said: “You give time, attention, counsel, education, empathy, and most of all, you give value. That is what you give when you sell.”
Thank you, Bob, and we look forward to seeing you in Kansas City on Sept. 28 (details at www.burg.com/events).
Like I’ve always said, memorizing scripts, turning prospects and customers into prisoners of your outdated sales process, and believing that you can persuade people to buy something against their will is not the answer. It’s never been the answer.
Heed the lessons of the Go-Giver. Your customers will thank you the best way they know how: with a constant supply of profitable business.
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