Getting The Edge In Professional Selling
Terence A. Hockenhull

GOOD SALESPEOPLE are able to sell effectively because they listen to their customers and take the time to find out exactly what it is that they want and need. I know from personal experience that dealing with salespeople can be an exasperating and frustrating experience especially when dealing with a salespersons who don’t listen.

All too often, the salesman is trying to push his products down the customer’s throat. I’ll concede that sometimes the salesman has great confidence and belief in the products and services he is selling. Usually he has the mistaken belief that the higher he sings the praises of his products, the more likely the customer is to buy. From a customer’s perspective there is little worse that being told how good a products is when you don’t need it.

Salesmen must show concern for their customers and customers’ needs. Rather than thinking about moving the product, they should think about whether it is actually needed. As I have said too many times, if the product isn’t right, don’t sell it.

The effective salesman sees his or her relationship with a customer, not a buyer/seller, but as consultant/client. He appreciates that his client may be facing some very real problems within his business. He also knows when his products and services will help the client solve those problems. Rather than forcing his products on the client, he allows the client to tell him what the problems are and what he wants to do about them. Then, and only then, will he start talking about the products and how they might help the client.

Telling the customer what is wrong and how it can be fixed is somewhat presumptuous. I, for one, resent someone trying to tell me how to run my business or what he can do to fix it. Having said this, there are occasions where the customer has very real problems but is unable to identify exactly what they are or how they are really affecting his business. If this is the case (and this is something that most salesmen will encounter in their selling careers), it is still inappropriate to come barging in telling the customer what is wrong. Careful questions of the customer will often get them to acknowledge the problems in their answers. Since the customer has arrived at the conclusions himself, he is more likely to be willing to do something about them.

Clients do not like to be forced into making an early commitment to buy. If they are not ready to make the decision based on the information they have on hand, there is still a long way to go in the selling process. This is one of the reasons why clients object to pushy salesmen. Until the customer is ready to make a decision having all the necessary information to hand, he will not say “yes” to the sale.

For cheap items, there may be an impulse to buy on the spot without looking at alternatives. When the solution is an expensive one, the customer expects, and has every right to examine alternatives from other vendors, before making a decision. The salesman who fears the customer may go elsewhere is usually selling a sub-standard product or (as is more usually the case) is unable to sell it to the client effectively.

People involved in selling must work with their customers, not against them. Helping the client make the right decision is one of the secrets of selling. To do this well, the salesman should be careful whom he goes to see. Again, it is all common for salesmen to visit customers who have no need for their products and continue to push for the sale. In all, the salesman will have wasted his own and the client’s time. Time that could be better spent looking for clients with problems that the products or services would solve.

Selling can be extremely rewarding. Building lasting relationships with clients based on trust and respect helps and simplifies the process of selling. Try to force a customer into a decision to buy something that is not needed will almost always result in an objection and make it doubly difficult to sell anything to him in the future. Patience, understanding, and concern for the customer are all qualities demonstrated by the effective and professional seller.

Terence A. Hockenhull is a long-term resident of the Philippines. He is an accomplished sales consultant who currently holds an executive sales position with an Italian geotechnical company.