It's Only Common Sense: How to Sell Without Selling


Everyone hates being sold to. Of course, people want things. If they are in the business of buying and using PCBs for example, they need to buy them. But they want to feel they are in control. They want to “decide” on their own, (or so they think) without someone chattering in their ear about how their particular boards are so great.

They find the process of being convinced insulting, if not tedious. They can see a sales pitch coming from a mile away and that is why we salespeople have such a hard time getting appointments with them.

Can you really blame them? They’ve heard it all before. The same old spiel: “We’re the best!” “We’re better than the other guys.” “Buy your boards from us and you won’t regret it.” “We have 99% on-time delivery and quality.” “The customers we work with love us to no end. I can have one of them call you if you like.”

The worst part is that they are so busy talking they don’t take the time to stop and listen to what the customer wants from the buyer. All they care about is getting their point across in less than 10 minutes. They don’t even take time to reflect on the buyer’s face, on her eyes… on her yawning. These sales people don’t even bother to look for feedback from their buyer. All they really care about is making the sale, no matter what.

No wonder it doesn’t work. No wonder customers don’t want to see them. No wonder they can’t even get a phone call returned.

But instead of seeing the error of their ways, these salespeople blame the problem on the buyers, especially the young buyers; their favorite targets are, of course, the millennials.

You can hear them crying in their beer at the 99 in Boston, the Keg in Toronto, or the Hard Rock in L.A.:

“These kids are doing the buying now, and they don’t care. They don’t have any loyalty at all. You can’t even get them to return a phone call, never mind get in to see them. They won’t go to lunch; they don’t play golf and they sure as heck don’t want to hear anything about the product. All they care about is Facebook, Twitter, and that Linkedin. Those are the only things they pay attention to. It’s not like it used to be. You used to be able to develop a relationship and friendship with buyers. But not anymore.”

Follow me? I’m sure you have heard all of these excuses before. Yes, excuses—because that’s all they are. And you know what? I have been around for a long time and these guys weren’t any more successful with their techniques 30 years ago than they are today. Nothing has changed for them because they never changed. In the end, their approach to sales is all about them, not the customer; that’s why it didn’t work in 1985 and that’s why it doesn’t work today.

A sale is all about the customer. What the customer wants, what the customer needs, and not what the sales guy wants him to have.

From a new book called Dream First: How to Quit Overthinking and Make it Happen by Ellen Marie Bennett, here are 10 ways to sell without making the people feel like it’s a transaction.

  1. Give a brief overview of why you are doing what you do.

  2. Flip your script and make it about them. Ask them pertinent questions about their company and what they need to be successful. Get their story out of them and then you can find out how you can genuinely help them.

  3. Ask questions about what they hope for and what they need.

  4. Listen like you’re a doctor trying to diagnose your patient’s ailments. Listen more than you talk. Listen 10 times more than you talk.

  5. Take notes about everything they say so you won’t forget anything.

  6. Make sure you understand clearly what they want. Ask them to clarify if you are not sure you get what they need and want.

  7. Be human and relatable. Get them to relate to you. This sounds like a touchy-feely kind of tactic and it might be, but listen up: It is the most important arrow in your tactical quiver. Use it wisely and for heaven’s sake be sincere.

  8. Be efficient. Keep the meeting short and sweet. Get the info you need; hit on the points you want to make, show them what you need to show them, and then hit the road.

  9. Use your emotional intelligence to gauge interest levels; if they seem busy, stressed, or need to move on, pick up on that, be sensitive, and give them room to graciously go do what they need to do. They will be grateful, believe me.

  10. Be proactive and recap what you are going to do. Lay out the next steps and then send a follow up email to make sure that you are both on the same page. Keep that ball rolling from one meeting to another.

One last thing: Remember what they told you they needed and get to work on providing exactly that. It’s not rocket science. If you did a good job, you got them to talk about what they need from you. Now all you have to do to seal the deal is deliver what they want. Then, you’ll make the deal.

It’s only common sense.

Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.

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