Sunday, January 09, 2011

What makes a good salesperson?

I have always been interested in what makes a good salesperson and started reading a new book, Slow Down, Sell Faster!: Understand Your Customer's Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales. I was never a great salesperson of products, though I did sell shoes at the mall when I was 15 and did a pretty good job. I have always admired those who can sell things or products, as it does take a certain amount of psychology to get people to feel that they need or want what you have to offer.

Anyway, the author of the book, Kevin Davis, has taught thousands of people at Fortune 500 companies how to "slow down" and sell faster. He uses an eight-step method that focuses on "the power of slowing down each sales conversation, asking more questions, identifying needs, and supplying solutions--in the right sequence, with the right approaches." Most salespeople focus on their selling process and don't get into the head of their customer and find out what their buying process is when making major purchases. The problem is, as Davis points out, that "customers don't care about your selling process. They care about their buying process."

If you are in a sales job or work in a business that sells products or services, it looks like a helpful book. If you have bought a major purchase lately, did the salesperson help you make that decision, or are you like me, more likely to buy online to avoid salespeople altogether?



Blogger M said...

Is the book addressing B2B sales or consumer sales (cars, appliances, etc.)? There is a big difference in how the sales process works for these two markets.

When I'm on the receiving end of a consumer or B2B sales pitch, my main issue is "don't waste my time".

Generally, you can't sell me a car, appliance, or clothes. I'm there because I've already done my homework. Just cut to the chase and make it snappy.

For B2B, don't show me a Powerpoint slideshow. It means nothing. Show me your product.

7:54 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...


Good point. In the Introduction, Davis says that those who will find the book most helpful are business-to-business salespeople whose products or services are considered major purchases by their customers, and B2Consumer salespeople who offer high-dollar products or services, particularly if there is more than one decision maker involved.

8:08 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

I work with a consultative sales process. I spend a great deal of time trying to find out what a client does, what that potential application of what I am selling would be to improve what he/she is doing and how my product will speed their time to market, help with design, and ultimately increase his/her profitability. If I can't do that with what I have then I move on to the next client. It seems to work.

8:10 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Bob Sorensen said...

My computer quit. I went to Office Depot because it was very convenient, I used to work there, I don't like Staples &c. I always felt hustled at Best Buy. Office Depot was acting like Best Buy, giving me plugs for the extended sales plan for $120 (IIRC), plus something they do to the computer for another $70 before you take it home.

This included taking out the pre-installed anti-virus software, and putting in another brand that I have seen pre-installed. But I had just finished telling the sales associate that I yank out those pre-installed virus scanners and use Microsoft Security Essentials. And he agreed that it is a good product.

Then, they did not have the model in stock in there store, or anywhere in the district because they are about to be discontinued, perhaps next week. I thought it was silly to put it in the sales flier if it may be discontinued soon.

At any rate, the extras that they were trying to sell me would increase the price by about $200. Maybe someone who has not purchased and set up computers before would be interested, but I did not appreciate being steered.

I bought a comparable model at Wal-Mart, and the purchase protection plan (normally, I do refuse those things), which was a suggested add-on and not a pressure sale, for $39.

All told, I was out the door after spending $450. It's a good machine, and I had much less pressure than Office Depot or Best Buy.

Yes to your other question, if shipping rates are good, I like buying online. But some things I just have to see.

8:16 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

I live in a town with a population of 10,000, with no other municipality with a population of even 5,000 within ten miles, so buying things on the web is a natural for me. Even when I lived in Silicon Valley, however, I did as much shopping as possible on the web. No crowds, no parking problems, inventory is more frequently in stock, I can visit more "stores" quickly. Also, I prefer to do a lot of research before buying anything major, and the web allows me to do it.

9:01 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Topher said...

"The problem is, as Davis points out, that "customers don't care about your selling process. They care about their buying process.""

Sounds about right to me. As an engineer, I usually know what I want and when I want it. So when some pushy fool who thinks himself a salesman comes up to me and starts badgering me about buying something half the time I just walk out of the store. And I almost never buy a large item on my first trip through the store anyway.

It's like getting hit on by somebody you're not interested in - they have just disqualified themselves even more by continuing to bother me.

9:25 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Topher said...

"plus something they do to the computer for another $70 before you take it home."

Sounds kind of like a bachelor party.

9:25 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger I R A Darth Aggie said...

There is a big difference in how the sales process works for these two markets.

Way to miss the point.

I don't care about your sales process. I care about my buying process. If you want to make the sale, you'll care about my buying process, too.

And it doesn't matter who the customer is: we all have one, from me the single guy all the way up to the Fortue 1 company...yes, the processes are very different, but that's irrelevant. The good salesman is agile enough to work with the process.

11:45 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Gospace said...

I sell appliances, and other items in the big box, (part time) and my sales per hour are generally above that of my fellow sales associates. When a customer asks for something, the salesperson has to consider three things. 1. What the customer asked for. 2. What the customer actually wants. 3. What the customer actually needs. Sometimes, all three are the same.

And, when someone is "just looking" at appliances, they have already decided they want a new one. As a salesperson, my job is to help them say "Yes" to the one they want. Asking ther right questions gets you there

12:50 PM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger David Foster said...

A (business-to-business) salesman of my acquaintance was fond of the saying: In sales as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

Too many salesmen fail to intelligently "diagnose" the customer's needs before proceeding with a prescription.

It's been suggested, and I think correctly so, that a good salesman needs to be both *assertive* and *responsive*. Miss the "responsive" part, and you'll never understand what your customer wants. Miss the "assertive" part, and you'll just waste everyone's time.

4:47 PM, January 09, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shop as much as possible on-line. Even bought my car after on-line viewing and negotiations, only hitting the dealership for the final test ride and signing.

How about when your hair stylist tries to sell you gel/spray, in the middle of your session. I have actually switched stylists if they failed to pick up the hint that I was not interested after one or two visits.

A good salesperson is also needs acting talent. Back when you were selling shoes, didn't you ever have to control your reaction when someone took off their shoe whose odor eaters had failed.

11:12 PM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

show the client the product....precisely.

people are too busy to be shown the dog-and-pony show.

some people are so afraid to ask for the order that thay only focus on the powerpoint or the pitch hoping that will get the client to ask for the product and are anxious as it comes to a close.

4:23 PM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger peternolan9 said...

Hhhmmmm....selling. I was a failed 'wannabe-salesperson' for 5 years. I moved from technology to IBM sales as a Systems Engineer in 1990 with the idea of becoming an IBM rep. A necessary move in the 'IBM Career Path'.

Bad luck for me 91-93 was a MASSIVE recession. I started my own company in 94 and still had trouble selling. Finally I did 'The Landmark Forum' in December 96 to have a 'breakthrough in selling'. I closed USD3M in deals about 8 weeks later and about USD10M in 1997 alone. Politics at the success moved me on to PwC in 98 where I closed the biggest deal of the year in Australia in my segment....only to have PwC mess it I moved on again. Since 97 I close about 75% of the deals I go after. 25% is considered excellent.

What did I learn at that class? I don't share. ;-) That's how I make my living. And the period 91-96 I read ALL the books and tried everything. What I picked up at Landmark made everything else obsolete.

2:22 PM, January 12, 2011  
Blogger Methadras said...

What makes a good salesman in my mind is someone who knows that I already know what I want, let's me know they are available for questions in case I need to ask or some other assistance, and is knowledgeable about the product they represent. Outside of that, get out of my way and let me buy what I need or want.

1:55 AM, January 13, 2011  
Blogger Maddad said...

No salesman is good enough to already know what you want. If he's a good salesman he'll be able to find out what you want and sell you that. A better salesman will be able to sell you something that closely approximates something you want, and a great salesman will find out what you want but sell you something else entirely. (And be smart enough to move on before you return it.) A fantastic salesman will make you think you wanted that something else in the first place.

None of that negates the advice in the title of the book, which is good and in my business absolutely essential.

8:43 AM, January 13, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one who has been involved with technical / consulting type sales for umm.....a long time, I have found myself to be most successful selling products and ideas I actually believe in (duh) that are of true and measurable benefit to the customers I have CHOSEN to approach. No one product is all things to all industries and all applications.

10:05 AM, January 15, 2011  
Blogger Don said...

I was terrible at selling cars because, honestly, I would never had made the deals people were looking to make in order to get the cars I was selling. Most people I dealt with were upside-down (the usual term then was underwater) on their current vehicle and simply wanted to roll the difference between their debt and the trade-in into the new loan. As long as the payment didn't go up by too much, they were ok with it. I never found a way to live with helping people to do that or advising them how. I knew it was their decision, but it *felt* like I was running a con and I think it always showed.

Selling computers and the like for Best Buy was a lot easier, but selling the dreaded Protection Racket Plans was a lot harder--again, those things are not good deals for most people, in my opinion, but it wasn't an option to tell anyone that. I simply told the truth about what was covered and what they cost and let the chips fall where they may, which meant that I was constantly being reminded that didn't sell enough of them. They only kept me on because I was reliable and did a lot more work than most.

I'd like to be better at selling, because one of these days the dream retirement is to "semi-retire" as a bladesmith . . . but I won't be trying to sell things I don't believe in, and I won't be trying to convince broke people to borrow large sums to buy a hunting knife. That's not the real world for most people in sales, who have influence on their sales approach ranging from complete to zero.

11:29 AM, January 15, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don’t think I’m a good salesperson either, but I am sure I am a consumer. And being a consumer, I would want a salesperson make me understand everything I want and need to know about the product he’s selling. I don’t want him blabbering about how great the product is. I want to hear him say how it would benefit me. And he can do that if he would address my needs first before thinking of his sales.

Guillermina Falkowski

9:20 AM, April 03, 2013  

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