By Chuck Sink
The debate rages among sales executives and trainers on two extremely differing schools of thought about selling. One school follows the traditional model: Prospecting > Appointments > Presentations > Follow up > Close. The other model (which has been around just as long) takes only one word to describe: positioning.
Business hard asses believe the only way to increase sales is to increase the volume of activities in the traditional model. They will insist on making more cold calls, setting more appointments, following up however many times it takes, answering every objection, asking for the order 3 times and even attempting to psychologically manipulate the prospect into saying yes. The sale is more important than the relationship because the eye is only on the current month’s bottom line.
Oh, the injustice!
The problem with the old school of selling is that when you push for an appointment with someone who isn’t ready to buy, that person agrees to a meeting with the intent of learning something from the salesperson, or else why waste the time? What often happens is the prospect innocently pumps the potential vendor for information to help them make an informed future purchase. The salesperson mistakes this for deep engagement. Then after a time the prospect buys from another salesperson who’s developed a stronger relationship and whom they trust as a category leader, having been positioned as such. The first salesperson cries foul. “I’m just an unpaid consultant! I provided all that time and information to help her make a more informed purchase and she bought from someone else!”
Carrying a resentment, the unsuccessful salesperson may bring suspicion and negative attitudes to the next new business meeting. He may withhold valuable information as a bargaining chip or attempt to manipulate the buying cycle because he’s skeptical about the prospect’s intentions. Guess what happens then? In waltzes the trusted brand leader (by invitation) to scoop up the business.
Pushing hard to make sales can work in the short term. You can make a living but you’ll never earn a fortune doing it because there’s only one of you to go around. You have to keep chasing after the next new customer or transaction, one by one, to keep revenue flowing (or trickling). Your customers will drop you in a heartbeat for a lower price or a perceived better deal. The relationship clients have with most hard charging salespeople is only one or two transactions deep. Client respect and loyalty require something more than exchanging products and services for money or getting the deal of the day.
The New Hustle
Positioning your brand with real value; attracting new customers to call you with the intention of doing business is the superior model of sales & marketing and it’s far from a passive approach. It requires you to stick yourself out there in the market and let people have some of what you offer. It requires that you be generous with your knowledge and time at conferences and networking events; giving speeches, seminars and interviews for the right target audiences. It requires a strong presence on the Internet, offering your website and blog as an industry resource, geared toward your customers. It requires robust social media activity, posting content that’s entertaining, educational, ego-feeding and enriching. Overarching all of these activities is conveying a consistent brand identity across multiple channels and always delivering on your brand promise.
Love when this happens!
When you get an unsolicited phone call or an email that says something like, “I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about your work and I’d like you to help my company with…” you’ve hit pay dirt. There is no pressure to make a sale or worry about qualifying in the prospect’s mind. The prospect has already made his decision to hire you. You earned his trust by demonstrating your value already. Your brand occupies the leading category position in his mind. Price is secondary. He’s willing to pay more, if necessary, to secure your services over the competition.
Positioning even works well in the short term because delivering your message to many at once as opposed to one prospect at a time will insert you into more selling opportunities. For example, giving a best practices or industry hot topic presentation can put you in front of 50, 100, or more prospects for an hour or so at a single meeting. You have their attention and you’re the expert. That kind of positive exposure could take months to accomplish with one-on-one meetings using the traditional sales model.
The branding, sales and marketing functions have always been codependent. Today they are inexorably intertwined.