The end of summer’s gloomy retail sales figures, coming after two months of modest gains, are giving rise to considerable pessimism among sales professionals. While understandable, this pessimism is also, I believe, completely unwarranted but not for the reasons you might think.â€¨
Yes, back-to-school sales at the big chain stores are rotten. The housing market in many areas is lousy. Consumer confidence is weak and may be even weaker by the time you read this. I don’t disagree with any of that. Facts are facts.
What I do take issue with is the notion that this can’t be a time of strong productivity for the sales professional. It can be and should be a great time, no matter how discouraging the economic indicators may be.
Pessimism may be contagious, but it shouldn’t be.
There are at least two reasons this should be a period of profit and productivity for the savvy sales professional.
First, most sales people are paralyzed in today’s environment. They don’t have a system for success and, facing a difficult environment, are merely reactive. They’re shot-gunning their efforts. If you have a process or system, and you trust it and embrace it, you enjoy a distinct advantage over others sales people.
Second, you need to identify the real issues facing CEOs in this environment. When you have identified those issues, you will be able to position your product or service so that your prospects must have it to resolve the problems they face. Most CEOs right now are trying to streamline processes, decrease expenses and increase revenues. So you will need to help them discover that your product or service is necessary to their success in meeting those goals. That’s how you distinguish your product or service. It goes from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have.
This is not a time to talk about your product or service’s features. This is a time for a pain-based approach. You need to identify your prospect’s pain and demonstrate how what you are selling removes that pain.
Here’s why the prospect’s discomfort works to your benefit. A lot of veteran salespeople have never learned this, but successful sales depend less on the sales professionals’ ability to talk rather than on their ability to listen. (Many sales people who rely almost exclusively on their own gift of gab tend to burn out quickly and needlessly.)
The secret of selling lies in getting prospects to talk about their pain. That’s because the way to make a sale is to identify the prospect’s discomfort and then to show how the product or service you are selling makes that discomfort go away. Simple, isn’t it?
And it is in down times like these that prospects are most likely to speak with the greatest candor about the problems they face. Sometimes they will pour their hearts out to you, which is not often the case when they’re flying high.
Plus, they’ve got the time. Now it’s up to you to seize it.