Of all the misconceptions that arise when entrepreneurs or business owners think about starting their own company; no area is more misunderstood than the sales function. Many business people have a mistaken impression of what it takes to succeed in sales. Furthermore, what passes for sales training often promotes ideas about the process that are doomed to fail. When uninformed or naive business people follow the formulaic approaches to selling that these trainers present as skill-building, the results are often a disaster.
The truth is that many sales people begin with a strike against them in the eyes of certain buyers because of past interactions with sales people that were less than satisfactory. When many people think of sales people, the image that comes to mind is that of a fast-talking, manipulative, exploitive, and dishonest person that is focused solely on making a sale and not at all of helping a prospect or customer achieve their objective(s).
Common Sales Myths
- Myth: Scan the office and comment on a picture, trophy, or find something that aligns you with the buyer
Reality – Many buyers are offended by this and see it as being a “tactic” that is insincere. So much so, that Walmart refuses to allow vendors into the buyer’s offices and forces the conversation to occur in a windowless, artless, non-personal space to avoid any chance of that happening.
One buyer for a major southwest retailer actually would purposely react angrily when a vendor or supplier would comment on what a lovely wife he had or what cute children he had (by looking at the photos in his office) as a way to disarm the vendor. He would exclaim, “how dare you comment on my wife and my kids – don’t think you can get familiar with me!” Of course, he was not really offended by the comment, but had heard the same comments over and over and realized that they had been trained to react to the office decorations and he wanted to maintain the control of the sales call.
- Myth: Buyers buy from friends
Reality – Buyers buy from people they envision can solve problems within their own organizations. Especially in sales that are heavily technology-based and require purchase of software or hardware that the purchasing organization has not used before – the buyer wants to know that should something go wrong; there is one person that s/he can call to get it fixed. I had one buyer tell me that he wanted to know that if something went south, he knew which one neck he had to choke to get it right.
- Myth: Sales were lost because competitor had a better price
Reality – More sales are lost to “no decision” than to competition. Even when sales go to the competition, it is not because of price in a large percentage of instances – but because the winning sales person/team did a better job of meeting a need and helping the buyer “visualize” a solution.
- Myth: Buyers are swayed by product features
Reality – Buyers are buying a business answer and not a product. What the buyer is purchasing is a solution to a problem (losing money because… or, have an opportunity to increase productivity/increase efficiency/reduce turnover/etc.). Sales will often “blame” marketing for the lack of product features when the reality is that the sales person has not done a sufficient job of converting the prospect’s business issues into a solution provided by the product or service. No one “buys” a feature – they buy what it provides for them!
- Myth: Lower price wins
Reality – if all things are equal, sure a lower price is more attractive. However, the role of the sales person is to ensure that all things are NOT equal and that there is value to doing business with him/her/the company that exceeds the “savings” of the lower price.
There are organizations that are focused on developing sales people and that offer research and training to improve how people perform the sales function (one of them is a division of the American Society of Training & Development). However, it is essential that people who are involved in selling don’t forget that a sale does not occur UNTIL a buyer is ready to make a purchase. If the selling approach does not mirror how people wish to buy; then the selling effort will fail.