When it comes to sales, most salespeople and entrepreneurs think of the task as one they can easily break down to its basic components: You meet people, you present your products and/or services; and, if they’re interested, they'll buy from you.
For some industries, this approach is actually effective. However, in my experience, sales is a field that demands much more creativity, and a more fine-tuned approach. Speaking like a robot and repeating a spiel ad infinitum turns people away, but there’s another way to become a more effective salesperson: focusing on purpose, rather than achieving certain metrics.
Purpose as a motive
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What do I mean when I suggest "purpose" as a motive for sales? Essentially, I mean adjusting your sales strategy to focus on delivering suggestions based on what a customer needs, rather than presenting a list of products that your customer may or may not care about.
Think of it this way: Sales is about trying to achieve a good fit. When a good fit is achieved, a transaction takes place. Traditional sales metrics are about trying to find clients that fit your products and services. Selling with purpose is more about finding good clients than fitting your products and services to their needs.
Problems and solutions
It’s important to acknowledge that most successful businesses aren’t created as ideas for products; they’re created as ideas for solutions. Rather than dreaming up some novel configuration of services, successful entrepreneurs look at a given problem in a target market and develop a solution for it.
Selling with purpose is a smaller-scale version of this approach. It means that you be communicate with clients, understand what their pain points are and offer a solution that may solve those needs -- even if you're making a compromise on your usual service offerings or suggesting something offered by a company outside your own brand.
Getting to know your clients
The biggest key to success in this approach is getting to know your clients on a more intimate level. Rather than just talking to them, you’ll actually listen to them and try to understand their goals, their needs, their pain points and any problems with similar providers they’ve had in the past.
With this knowledge, you’ll be able to put together a customized solution that works for them specifically -- increasing the likelihood that they’ll follow your recommendations.
The big disadvantage here is the more limited flexibility you’ll have to offer. If you’re used to selling straightforward packages, you may need to negotiate custom deals and deviate from your older standards. You may also need to compromise when it comes to price, or sacrifice an occasional deal by recommending a solution you can’t offer.
Still, there are some tremendous advantages to selling with the intention of helping a client rather than pushing whatever it is you’re offering.
Adhere to this approach long enough, and you’ll see the following benefits manifest:
- Higher close rates. Everyone wants higher close rates, and you’ll get them with this strategy -- the compromise, of course, being that you may have to alter what you’re actually closing on. Still, being able to win more business with more clients will mean greater opportunities in the future, and higher bottom-line revenue, even if you stray away from one-size-fits-all packages.
- Better client relationships. Listening to your clients and putting your clients’ needs above your own need to meet sales targets lends itself to creating better client relationships. "Better relationships" here means higher rates of client retention, smoother working relationships and ultimately, a more successful business.
- Greater trust and reputation. This is probably the biggest benefit, because it’s going to manifest with both the clients that you win and the ones you don’t. For example, let’s say you offer a solution outside what your brand can offer to a prospective client. You won’t close a sale here, but the prospective client will leave with a heightened impression of your brand and knowledge of the solutions you do offer. Accordingly, you’ll see higher rates of referrals and a more positive reputation in your industry and community.
This isn’t a straightforward approach; there’s a steep learning curve that can be mastered only through experience, since you’ll be recommending custom solutions for almost every client you talk to. It also isn’t ideal for every industry. However, the long-term benefits of pursuing this strategy are evident.
Trust and reputation are priceless, and as you get more comfortable with your initial client targeting process, you’ll see higher close rates, too. Give it a try in your own sales strategy, and see how it fits your clientele