A majority of people resent selling as well as the feeling that they’re being sold something. It doesn’t have to be like that. In this three-part series, I will reveal a method for selling that builds trust, focuses on the buyer’s needs and enables you to establish a value-based price.
You probably dislike selling. You’re not alone. Most people do. We hate being perceived as hustlers, peddlers, and sources of unwanted attention. But selling doesn’t have to be that way.
The Mystery of the Undeserved Bad Reputation of Selling
That selling leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths is strange when you consider that a large part of human interaction involves selling. You’ve probably engaged in selling recently. Perhaps even today.
You don’t believe me?
Well, let’s see:
- Has it happened that you have persuaded your colleagues into going to lunch at that new restaurant?
- At some point, has your son or daughter talked you into letting them buy a new app or game for the phone or tablet?
- Have you ever convinced your partner, wife or husband to take the car to have it fixed since you had an important meeting and it was going to end late?
If you answered yes to any of the situations above, you’ve either sold (1 and 3) or been sold to (2).
This is the point that Daniel Pink makes in his insightful and entertaining book, To Sell Is Human.
Only 1 Out of 9 Work in Sales or Marketing, but 47% of All People Move Others, Whether They Know It or Not
“The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives.” – Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human
Here are slides from a presentation on value-based selling that I held some years ago at a meet-up about value-based pricing hosted by my consultancy brand, Leancept:
That we do sell in our daily lives is clear when we consider all the words for activities related to selling, moving or convincing others:
Note that this list doesn’t include all the imaginative slang used for selling to or moving others…
To sell is, as Pink puts it, human.
An Insight Born From Tanning Pills
My dislike for selling began when I, as a student short on funds, tried working in telemarketing. Sitting at a desk in a former warehouse, my work usually consisted of trying to convince (mostly) members of the older strata of the population about the (poorly documented) benefits of certain dietary supplements and tanning (“brown without sunshine”) pills.
My career as phone-based huckster didn’t last long. It took me half a day to realize I’d rather be cleaning bathroom stalls than putting my energy into talking lonely elderly people into buying products that were the modern equivalent of snake oil and lucky charms (and probably harmful too). As a restroom cleaner, at least I’d know that I was doing something that made the world better. Not only that, but I’d also have a good, honest reason to feel dirty.
As my freelancing career took off, selling became part of my work. I came to realize that it wasn’t selling itself that I felt dirty doing. What I resented was selling something I didn’t believe in. That made me cringe inside. Pitching my own services was easy since I honestly knew that I was helping the buyer. I was fortunate enough to be able to vow to never sell something I felt would not help the buyer. Many others aren’t so lucky, they sell what they have to sell to get by.
The Selling Power of Enthusiastic Conviction
My conviction of the worth of what I was arguing for when selling grew, and so did the number of deals. My genuine belief in what I was selling coupled with my enthusiasm made an enormous difference to my success at selling.
Even so, I had yet to think more structurally about selling and the sales process itself. My sales technique was born out of intuition and worked. But it was not the most effective. I still didn’t truly enjoy selling. Being on the salesforce was required of me as one of the owners of a digital agency. The truth was, I had colleagues who were much better than me at it. They enjoyed doing it and that made them highly effective in convincing prospects about the value of our services.
That said, you don’t have to love the act of selling to do a decent job as a salesperson to get by as a freelancer or owner of a small design shop. With the right method, value-based selling won’t be “selling” anymore.
The 3 Steps of Effective Human Value-Based Selling
“The key is to be strategic and human—to be strategic by being human.” – Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human
The best value-based selling takes place when we view each other as humans, first and foremost. I was recently reminded of this when visiting Italy. The manager of an establishment we visited spoke at great length and with moving conviction about the importance of seeing each other as human first, even in business. He showed it by hugging each member of his staff and then us, his customers.
You don’t have to hug your prospects and buyers to do value-based selling. In fact, I advise against it, unless you know them well. But I strongly recommend that you meet your buyer as a fellow human, empathize with them and tune in to their needs. And, using a word from Pink, upserve them:
“Upserving means doing more for the other person than he expects or you initially intended, taking the extra steps that transform a mundane interaction into a memorable experience.” – Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human
Step 1: Qualifying Your Leads
Not everyone is a buyer, has a need your product or service can meet, and the ability to buy it. Determining whether you can and want to sell to someone is called “qualifying the prospect.” It’s one of the most important activities of effective selling and something many beginning sellers skip. As a result, their hit ratio is low which undermines their confidence.
Step 2: Leading the Sales Conversation to a YES
Great value-based selling is about listening. The salespeople who are liked and appreciated are conversationalists that generally listen way more than they talk. They have a way to make prospects feel listened to and create a shared vision using open, framing and confirming questions. Finally, they create an environment in which the buyer feels that the seller is collaborating with them to achieve a mutual goal.
Step 3: Secrets of Closing Deals
You have it. The buyer wants it. The meeting is over. You part ways. What happens now? Many deals cannot be signed immediately and require buy-in and approval from others on the buyer’s end. Under these circumstances, it’s important to stay in touch and do whatever you can to ensure the sales process doesn’t die. You will want to finish the conversation, and buying journey, you started.