This really needs a solution!

I’ve mentioned an important influence on my career before, a man I consider one of the greatest sales trainers in the world Mr. Dave ‘Giff’ Gifford. He has taught me many things and foremost among them is this:

‘The World is full of sweety faced, smiley sales people’ 

The thing is these days, its not enough. When it comes to trading in todays post recession market places, no one is interested in forming ‘relationships’ with sales people. In fact, I’m not sure they ever were. Our clients are interested in having their problems solved. Thats it. Its nice to get along, but its not essential to the process.

I’ll admit somthing here. I have what has been described as a polarising personality. That is, some people think I am witty and charming and creative. Others think I am opinionated, difficult and blunt to the point of rudeness. There doesnt seem to be much in between. The thing is, it doesnt stop my clients buying from me.

What would you rather ‘earn’ in the first call:




Most sales training requires sales people to establish trust in an initial meeting, or certainly in the early stages of their process. How is this possible? I have people I consider friends I dont trust! Trust is earned over years sometimes, and its a difficult thing to attain. Much more so for a ‘sales person’ that the customer believes has magical powers capable of making them do the things they dont want to do.

I already mentioned ‘like’. People buy from people right? Well, yes. But not exclusively. If you really want a product or service you will buy it despite the sales person. Examples? How about your weekly shop at a supermarket? Do you form long bonds of association with the person behind the till? Unlikely. Liking the seller helps, but it isnt a pre requisite. Its not neccessary.

Respect? If I am taking the advice of the person I am buying from, if its a consultative sale, I will need to respect what they have to say. Its why I can win even if I am dealing with a customer that I ‘fell out’ with in the first instance because of my, er, ‘unique approach’. Its clear from the way I conduct myself and the knowledge I have about the subject in question that my opinion is valuable. And thats the key word here. Value.

Just what is it you are selling? 

A product? A service? Features? Benefits? Or the answer to the customers problems? Or at least part of an answer. The first stage to a successful high level, value creating sales relationship is to understand the customers problems. The second stage to solve them.

You dont need to be their mate. You dont need to wine and dine them. Do you know what, you dont even need to discount your stuff if it solves a problem. Creating value, demonstrating why what you have to sell is worth it is what it is all about.

No one ever bought anything they didn’t need

Who wants a product they perceive doesn’t work? Something they have tried before maybe, spent money on, really invested in, only to have it fail to live up to the expectation. This is usually down to a poor sales effort in the first place. Badly prescribed solutions, over promised results, a lack of understanding as shown by the seller, or a lack of engagement in the proces in the first place.

Here is the problem with a consultative sell. If the client doesn’t engage, if the sales person fails to get into a conversation at the correct level. The problems aren’t uncovered. If the problems aren’t uncovered, they can’t be solved. Rather the buyer and seller enter into the usual dance of trite platitudes and negotiation based on cost. The client, typically pathologically optimistic (they are in business after all) is generally disposed towards trying stuff out. Why not?

The seller, not focussed on the problems, rather, their own quota or commission or KPI’s or whatever, is happy to simply turn their inventory over.

Cue one unhappy buyer and one unfulfilled seller.

  1. D Evans
    D Evans says:

    As one who believes that the product or service should be the primary salesperson I think that is an absolutely excellent article!

  2. Jon
    Jon says:

    Excellent advice there Tony! Any sales person that goes into a call unprepared, without any clear goal or strategy is going to fail and fall into that age old to and fro of price. If you’re not engaging your customer and creating value in the product that you are selling to provide a solution to their problem, or indeed, provide a solution to a problem that they were not aware that they had in the first place, you are doomed to fail. One of the biggest pitfalls of a seller is failing to listen or read their buyer correctly.

    Deliver on what you promise, show value that can be measured, be engaging and consultative in your sales process. Get this right, you will gain the credibility and respect from your customer.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hey Jon! Welcome to the blog! Great comment, and a fantasic summary of the consultative sell, word for word perfect.
      Keep an eye out for my forthcoming blog on the difference between low level and high level selling!

  3. nonfatadvertising
    nonfatadvertising says:

    Tony, you rocked it! I love the way you just SAY IT too (no fluff and theory). Of course I still need some good advice like this from time to time…but where were you 8 years ago when I was just starting out?!!! : )

  4. J
    J says:

    While I agree that you need to have a plan and you need to provide solutions to problems that your client has I do not agree that you cannot build trust with a prospect in a relatively short period of time. The problem is what definition of trust are we talking about? You have friends that you don’t trust and so do I.. because I know that they are “shady” and have done things that cause me not to trust them with certain things (like my single friends that I would’nt trust with my kids because they have no clue how to take care of kids). However, I’m not trying to earn that kind of trust with a prospective client. Respect and trust go hand in hand in this situation. If my client trusts me enough to take a percentage of his company’s advertising budget and create an effective campaign then I would believe that he indeed does respect my ability to do so as well. Of cousre a much deeper trust comes from a successful completion of such a campaign and honoring any and all committments that you make to your client (ie. calling when you say you will, keeping in contact, delivering what you promise, etc.).
    I do also agree that you do not need to be friend with your clients and in fact there are many cases that it can hurt you.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks J! It’s difficult to disagree that it’s about your definition of trust. Perhaps I should have talked about degrees of trust. You are quite right, they clearly trust us with money for instance. But it’s also about the level of conversation and invlovment in the purchase no?
      A low involvement purchase needs a little bit of trust, a higher one more?
      Thats why I prefer to talk respect! Easier to get your head around maybe?
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!