The Sandler Sales Institute offers one of many approaches to selling available to corporate sales organizations.
I don’t know their work personally, but they have a good reputation, as far as I know. And just two weeks ago, I heard a very solid testimonial about some of their work from a very savvy, and satisfied, client.
I say that as preamble because I have no reason to think they are worse than any other sales training approach in the market; in fact, my only first-hand data says they are better. Still. Nonetheless. Try this quote(pdf) on for size:
Sandler Rule: The professional never does anything by accident. You should never ask a question, make a statement, or behave in any way unless it is in your best selling interest.
The advice that follows is pretty good—listen more, let the customer talk—but it’s hard to get past that opening statement. Basically, it says, never do anything that won’t help close the sale for you.
That would rule out mentioning solutions that don’t rhyme with what you’re selling. It would rule out referring customers elsewhere. Or suggesting a customer can’t afford what you’re selling. Or that your product might be wrong for a particular customer.
Simply put—if your customer’s needs don’t match what you’re selling—don’t mention it. Sell it anyway. Don’t do, say, or think anything that might keep you from closing that transaction.
Think about the mindset implicit in this view. It says the seller’s interests are deeply, inextricably opposite those of the buyer. That buyer and seller are in competition, in a zero-sum game. That there can only be one winner in the customer-seller struggle—and we all know who that is supposed to be.
This is not an isolated quotation. Here’s another, from the website of a Sandler licensee.
Prospects are inherently motivated to get as much information about your company, your competitors, and the competitive alternatives (like doing nothing, or buying something that is completely different from your product/service). They want to see your complete proposal first…
Prospects LOVE proposals…Sales is the only profession where people are expected to give away valuable information prior to payment. The more technical the sale, the more information is expected prior to signing a deal.
Again, the assumed context is us against them. In this view, the customer’s job is to squeeze as much competitive information, and to gain as much competitive leverage from the seller as possible. The seller’s job is to withhold as much information, and to extract as high a price, as possible.
This is the ideology of the past. The world is moving toward more interdependence, not less. Suspicion is expensive—and there are greater and greater opportunities for suspicion in a connected world.
Trust is the counter-intuitive solution to suspicion. You can build trust in commercial relationships; contracts can either be defenses against evil perpetrators, or the occasion for in-depth discussions about expectations and transparency. One is expensive. One lowers costs.
In sales, the era of competing against your customer is over. We need something like Trust-based Selling™, based on a simple principle: if you consistently do what is good for your customers, you will end up creating more value than those who are solely motivated by self-aggrandizement.
And you will end up getting your fair share of that added value.