This article was first published in Entrepreneur.com
Let’s get real for a minute. If you look up the dictionary definition of the word “sell,” you may not like some of what you find. There are unpleasant synonyms and usages, words like “persuasion,” “inducement,” “sell out,” “hard sell” and “sell down the river.”
Selling, in other words, doesn’t have an entirely good reputation, but you probably already knew that quite well. You know some people who react negatively to being “sold” and even deplore sales as a career. You’ve probably spent some energy justifying the role even to yourself.
All this makes it hard to do a great job selling. Unfortunately positive thinking alone won’t change people’s perceptions. And crossing over to the dark side—accepting the role of con artist and hustler—is ugly, immoral and doesn’t work well, anyway.
But there’s a way out, a way of acknowledging the tough reputation of sales and overcoming it at the same time. It involves the most important sale you’ll make—the sale inside your head.
Pick one of these simple ideas, however you say it:
- You get more sales by getting people what they want than by trying to sell them what you want.
- If you stop trying to control people, they’ll cooperate with you.
- If you listen to people first, they will then listen to you.
- If you help people you increase your chances of making sales.
- If you put your customers’ interests ahead of your own, you’ll end up better off than if you tried to achieve your own ends directly.
There’s a good reason most customers are suspicious of salespeople: Most salespeople are, in fact, more motivated by getting the sale than they are by helping their customers. And it’s made worse by the sales professionals’ relentless pursuit of efficiency, closing and objection handling—all of which are about the salesman, not the customer.
The idea is so plain it can be difficult to believe. It seems paradoxical: Stop trying to control your customers and you’ll get better results than if you try every trick in the book.
People want to buy from those they trust. The best way to be trusted by your customers is simply to be worthy of their trust. Be trustworthy. That means truth-telling and transparency. Above all, a relentless focus on the best interests of your customers will earn their trust.
If you constantly serve your customers’ ends, you’ll gain a reputation for being trustworthy. When people trust you, they hassle you less about price, they refer you to others, you get fewer competitive and more sole-source bids, higher repeat rates and far more cooperation from your customers.
Successfully selling yourself on building a trust-based relationship is a win-win. Customers get their interests served better, and you get your interests served better. But this only happens when you don’t lead from your own self-interest.
That simple, internal sales job is not all that easy. But the very best salespeople in nearly all industries have managed to make that sale. They have convinced themselves that everyone, themselves included, is better off if their primary focus is serving their customers.
Put it another way: Make your own sales not a goal, but a byproduct, a byproduct of making customer satisfaction your primary goal.