A few years ago, I answered a knock on the door to find a young woman ready to solve a problem of mine. We had off- white carpet that was getting dingy and I needed to bring it back to life. It was like the voices of the carpet cleaning Gods had spoken and sent me Cindy. Cindy was eager to help me and even offered to clean one room for free. This was great. I figured she would do one room and I would pay her to do the other two. A couple of hundred bucks and I would be good, Cindy would have a sale, and voila… Later in the evening, Cindy showed up, ALONE. No crew, just her and a fancy vacuum cleaner. She was knee deep in vacuuming my couch before I figured out that I had invited the dreaded Kirby sales rep into my house. This wasn’t going to solve my carpet cleaning issues. However, I wanted to see what this machine could do. Although I was duped into the sales pitch, I figured it would be fun. Two hours and a lot of buckets of dirty water later, I was ready to buy the thing. She kept the suspense by not revealing the price. I figured it would be six or seven hundred dollars. Maybe a bit much, but was still interested. After a four-thousand dollar quote and a half hour of pushy sales tactics, I was ready to call the police. No need to worry, Cindy finally left, and my seventy-five dollar Walmart vacuum still works fine.
The Kirby sales tactic is as old and dusty as that green couch Cindy cleaned for me. I recently wrote a post about risky marketing strategies and the consequences of making customers angry. Being unclear and inauthentic about intentions is not a great way to build a relationship of trust that is needed to drive a sustainable sales effort. Today’s consumer is busy, savvy, and perhaps a bit jaded. This is great news for professional sales person who know their customer, their product, and most importantly, the rules of engagement:
Rule#1: Be authentic
Buying customers have a need the sales rep can provide for. Many times, this need is below the surface and not very clear. So many times I see that the customer doesn’t know he has the need. Through an open and honest approach, I share my purpose with the customer and contract for their valuable time. Customer’s don’t care if the pest control guy happened to have an appointment down the street that cancelled. Customers are much more likely to listen if pest control guy uncovers a need such as a spike in the Black Widow population, or growing ant colonies in the neighborhood. The customer will give of his time if the need is compelling, not because the Jones’ down the street no-showed for his last appointment.
Rule#2: You are not friends with 99% of your customers.
Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson have turned the relationship selling model on its head with their book The Challenger Sale. They challenge the notion that the best sales reps are “relationship builders”. They categorize sales reps into one of five categories (Hard worker, challenger, relationship builder, lone wolf, and reactive problem solver). They found that the top performing reps are nearly 7 times more likely to be challengers than relationship builders. Successful reps teach customers how be successful while using the products they sell. This may be as simple as Cindy teaching me how to be successful at keeping a safe and healthy home by cleaning it better using a Kirby. Today’s sales rep doesn’t teach their message alone. According to Dixon, the rep must tailor his message to his customer and the customer’s specific needs. This takes effort and a good sense of the market by the sales rep. This takes an intentional approach to preparing for the sale. Showing up with a “cookie-cutter” presentation is old and tired. The successful rep takes control of the sales process because his efforts have unlocked a solution that he has tailored to the specific customer.
Rule#3: Coffee is still for closers!
Alec Baldwin’s ruthless character in the 1992 Glengary GlenRoss reminds the sales rep what his ultimate job is. With a tailored message to the appropriate customer, taking control and closing the sale without Glengary Glen Ross pushy tactics is possible and much better. Ultimately it’s not about asking for the sale, but actually getting the sale that sets the awesome sales rep apart from the “ex-sales rep”.
A few simple rules of engagement to become an awesome sales rep in the new era of selling. This is not only effective, but exciting and engaging. Rolling up your sleeves to improve your customer’s business while increasing yours is awesome and rewarding.
What is the worst sales tactic you have seen this year? What changes would be needed to make it the BEST?
Rocco De Leo