Monday, October 5, 2009

No Sell Selling

I may as well admit it. I hate salespeople. I hate being sold. I don't enjoy selling. Unsurprisingly, I have never been very good at it. Over the years I have had a lot of "sales training": Miller-Heiman, Sandler, coaches and consultants and classic selling books. I've learned all about "win-win" and relationship selling. None of it did much good. I still hate it. So I am more surprised than anyone to find myself involved (enthusiastically so) in a network marketing venture that is, however you look at it, a sales job.

I don't think I am the only one with this aversion to all things sales. Certainly there are plenty of people who both enjoy and excel at selling. But I think there are far more who find the whole thing just uncomfortable and distasteful. I understand and believe that "nothing happens until somebody sells something", that good salespeople are all about building social networks and long term relationships, and products and services have no value if they aren't ever sold. So what is it about selling that people dislike so much?

Most of what I hate about Sales comes down to this:

  • I don't care for the feeling of being pounced upon, whether that be walking into a store or picking up my phone. 
  • I don't like "spewing", wherein a salesperson launches into a carefully rehearsed routine designed to overcome my resistance without making the slightest effort to know me or my interests and needs.
  • I don't like to feel tricked into buying something I don't need, or "upsold" to a model full of features I will never use. Nor do I want to trick anyone else into making a purchase either.
  • The whole process often feels like a contest between the salesperson and me, one in which he is quite skilled and I am ill prepared to compete.
So is there really such a thing as No Sell Selling (NSS)? I think maybe there is. And I think it probably involves each of the following:

  • Integrity. You not only have to have it, you must project it. If the most important thing to you is closing that sale, then its not NSS. People want to trust the person they buy from, and trust is earned by performance.
  • Belief. You must absolutely and totally believe in the product you are selling, understand who will truly benefit from having it (and who will not) and, ideally, use it yourself.
  • Attitude. You must regard the process of selling as matchmaking. Of making a good match between your product and your customer. This means you must listen to and understand their needs (and wants). Success is not a sale. It is a good match. One that makes the buyer want to rush out and tell everyone he knows about it.
I am slowly beginning to appreciate and apply this to myself and my business. I sell nutritional programs that have produced real, measurable results for me and others. There are very few things that people care about more than their own physical health, so skepticism can run high. Couple that with it being a network marketing company and the wall of doubt can be thick and high. The temptation to try to overcome a prospects doubts with "selling techniques" can be pretty strong. And if that is what is required then I probably am doomed to fail.

Instead I am trying to learn to use NSS. I don't set out to "make a sale" but rather to share information that a prospect can use to make a good decision.  I listen to the prospect's interests and needs and only then talk about how (and whether) the products I can offer meet them. I share the results that I and others have gotten from the products. And I try, sincerely, to help people decided for themselves what to do and then support their choice. If I do it right, then I end up feeling like I just shared the discovery of a great new restaurant with a friend. That I can do. That's No Sell Selling.

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