Bad sales reps the world over act in their own interest, creating a stigma around the profession. Rather than counter that perception by creating positive experiences, some businesses disguise the role in cloudy titles like Business Development Rep, Partnership Managers and Solutions Experts whose ambiguity fools few. While some organizations really do envision the roles corresponding with those titles differently, all-too often it’s an attempt at misdirection in the hopes that a prospect will let their guard down.
But clever sales professionals apply those titles in a literal sense with a genuine interest in creating lasting partnerships to provide solutions and those who do it well can sell more than they ever have as a nice ancillary benefit.
In some respects this is easier in larger organizations with different product lines as there are more viable solutions to consider. To the sales rep with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, so in smaller organizations with one main product or a series of add-ons it’s tempting to try and force a square peg into a round hole to close a deal.
The “trick” to avoid creating the impression that you’re slinging software is to simply cut it out and instead be open and honest in setting expectations around your tools and help determine whether your solution can really solve their problem. Not every prospect is a cookie-cutter fit for your product. It’s worth acknowledging that to yourself and at times, to them to help instill a more transparent and consultative environment in the sales process.
Every sales pro wants to earn the trusted adviser status with their prospects, but the fastest way to ensuring that never happens is failing to put their needs ahead of yours. Focusing on a customer-first solutions approach will help the prospect feel that you’re invested in their growth and success in the post-sale phase, instilling confidence in your knowledge and abilities.
The best sales reps will be forthright in telling a prospect that Product ABC will not perform XZY and in recognition of that honesty they’ll believe you. It can be difficult to see the benefits of this approach immediately, but it pays dividends in the long run as these people will return when their needs have changed, or refer others who have that immediate need now that they have a clearer understanding of your service’s capabilities and trust in your authority. Even if you're focused on the personal gain, you’ve managed to avoid a bad-fit customer who will have a negative experience that reflects poorly on both you and the company.
When trying to force people to buy from you through sheer willpower alone, you’ll be in a slapdash race to the finish line and likely advance many deals only to uncover serious roadblocks at the end or, worse, once the contract has begun.
Be diligent and thorough in understanding your prospect’s business goals, as taking the time to explore those things in-depth is not only helpful, but gives them time to gain confidence that your motivations come from the right place and your own goals are aligned with theirs.
To borrow the personal motto of race car drivers and fighter pilots alike: “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Doing it "right" can take more time, but yields better results in the long run, and will help your prospects see that there's more to the role than simply slinging software.