A new year and a new president. Change is in the air. And as lots of people are saying, now is also the time for a new type of business.
A new type of business needs a new type of purpose. Sustainability is one.
A new type of purpose also needs a new type of marketing. Maybe not exactly a new type. But at least a return to a truer, more authentic type of marketing. Marketing that is about figuring out what people really want and giving it to them.
There’s been a lot written and said about more authentic marketing in the last few years. And in my opinion, social media is one of the opportunities to make that goal of authenticity much more real. What better way, for example, to find out what people really want?
But as well as marketing, every business needs to sell something. So what does a new type of selling, one that’s suitable for a new type of business, look like?
Again perhaps it’s not exactly new. But it’s definitely a change from the used-car salesman type of selling we have come to associate with all sorts of products from financial services to …, well, used-cars.
According to Huthwaite, for example, the new type of selling is consultative. I’m a fan of their approach. Maybe I take it further than they intend but for me most selling techniques they and others suggest can be practiced authentically and honestly.
Asking questions to find out what a customer’s problems are? Don’t invent problems. And don’t project your own or others problems on to them. Instead really listen. Yes, really, really listen. Find out what those real, deep-down problems are, and you’ll find gold.
Asking questions to find out the impact of these problems? Don’t manufacture fear. Don’t scare the customer into buying your solution. Instead, work with them to uncover what the real risks are. Write them down, agree them, quantify them if you can.
There’s absolutely no point in manufacturing fear. As soon as the customer cools off, if they’re half-sane, they’ll go back to a more balanced point of view. And forget any dangers that seemed real during your oh-so-clever sales call. You’ll lose the sale and waste everyones’ time.
Another well known sales technique is to answer a question with a question. In the trade this is called the “porcupine”. A trivial and annoying gimmick, a way to buy the salesperson time? Or a way to better uncover a need?
When people ask questions, sometimes it doesn’t really come from curiosity. Sometimes they have a point to make. So “how quickly does your product degrade?” may really mean “I am concerned about damaging the environment”. Use the porcupine to further understand this concern, in all its depth, and how it relates to the broader set of needs the customer has.
“Always be closing” – the salesperson’s mantra. Isn’t this just another way we recognise pushy sales technique? Another abhorrent bit of behaviour that means that sales people are so low in status that we have to artificially compensate them (with loads of money) for their otherwise valueless job?
Not for me. Good sales people learn to love the word “no”, offered in response to any close. “No” is simply a sign that you haven’t fully understood the needs and the drivers and the circumstances. It means you haven’t found a way yet to give that customer or client what they really, truly and deeply need. You’re probably not even conscious of that need.
But it also means you’re on the way. Keep going, keep working with the “No”s, keep a true heart and you will find the way.