I’m not partial to expletives in my writing, but I’m making an exception with the embedded video below, which you should watch before reading the rest of the post (don’t worry, it’s enjoyable as well as instructive):
Now let’s do a breakdown of the salesperson’s interaction with Snoop (the female assassin):
• Our friend at Home Depot opens the interaction casually, unobtrusively and in a manner that suggests he genuinely wants to help, not sell.
• He assesses Snoop’s needs in terms of features, functionality, application, frequency of use, etc. with open, unbiased, and non-leading questions.
• When describing the options, he gives genuine, personal opinions about his favorites and backs them up with data.
• He’s surprised and grateful when the transaction occurs, suggesting there was no expectation or greed on his part in helping Snoop choose the tool.
This is, in microcosm, the way sales is moving – both in-person and on the web. Historically, sales was a job for the tenacious, aggressive, never-take-no-for-an-answer, never-show-weakness, make-the-sale-no-matter-what personality. And it still does exist, even in high-tech software sales (I love a story our new VP of Marketing tells of a high pressure sales guy who tried to sell him an enterprise SEO software package at his previous company).
We’re shifting to a world where the less a salesperson tries to sell you, the more interested you are. When I sold consulting on behalf of SEOmoz, I closed deals with an incredible success rate – something over 90% of the customers I got introduced to or on the phone with (who fit our sweet spot and whom we wanted as customers) became clients. And it’s not because I was great at sales – I’d never taken a course or read a book on the topic. In fact, I abhor selling.
It’s because the demand was created long before I picked up the phone, and my job was simply to assess the potential client’s problems, explain how we could help (if we could) and then ask if they’d like a quote. Much like the salesperson at Home Depot in the video, the client was already in the aisle, browsing the selection, with money in her pocket.
Such is the power of the organic, reputation and demand-driven environment that’s evolving around us. I’d argue that in most high-tech companies today, even those that thrive on high-value, enterprise sales made by dedicated, cash-incented sales teams, 2/3rds to 9/10ths of the “selling” is done before the “rep” ever gets on the phone. The new salesperson doesn’t sell – they help. They facilitate. They explain and offer insight. And they leave the selling to the product and the marketing.
p.s. The clip comes from the television program, The Wire, which I also recommend.