Every industry and profession has myths that affect the way business is conducted. Some myths seek to express ways for achieving success, while others attempt to explain failure. The sales field is rife with its own myths. They are particularly interesting because each one is crafted to explain away the problems of the selling profession. But accepting these uncritically only serves to impede improvement. By analyzing them carefully, it's possible to achieve breakthroughs that lead to increased sales.
Here's how to turn 10 sales myths into facts.
1. It's not who you know that counts; it's who knows you. There may have been a time when knowing all the right people led to success, but not today. Now it is who knows you that gets you the business. Making a name for yourself (your product, company or service) is the key. If you're known as the leader or expert in the field two things will happen: 1) you will get in the door and; 2) business will come to you.
2. It's not high price that kills sales; it's low credibility. If you run into the complaint that your prices are too high, zero in on the correct issue. More often than not, price complaints are the result of inadequate marketplace credibility. Low price becomes the distinctive quality when companies fail to communicate to customers other, more significant reasons, for doing business with them. Drive up your company's credibility and the price problem will diminish.
3. It's not a lack of leads that causes a decline in sales; it's lack of customers. Having more leads isn't the answer to boosting sales. Calling on tire-kickers wastes time. What every salesperson needs is customers who want to do business with them. If a company isn't producing qualified leads, it's letting down its sales force.
4. It's not that customers refuse to buy; it's that they buy from someone else. What's worse than outright rejection? Indifference. It's far worse. Most customers don't reject doing business with a company; they simply have a reason-ranging from minor to significant-to buy from someone else. Arming customers with valid reasons for doing business with you is the basis for increasing sales.
5. It's not a poor location; it's lack of excitement that keeps customers away. Location is important, but it is not as essential as some would have us believe. A less than desirable retail site need not be a negative. If there is excitement, flair, enthusiasm in the marketing and presentation, customers will find you.
6. It's not the customer's objections; it's following the salesperson's agenda that eliminates prospects. Some salespeople kill sales before they get started with a customer. In an attempt to qualify a lead, they say, ``When do you think you'll be ready?'' or ``Where are you in the decision-making process?'' Instead of tuning in to the customer, they press forward with their own agenda. If they don't hear the right words, they dismiss the prospect!
7. It's not that our customer bought from another company that's distressing; it's that they didn't know we carried the same product. Whether the product line is narrow or broad, it makes no difference. Whether your services are few or many, customers think about what they want, not what you sell. A consistent effort to keep your product lines or array of services in front of them, will get you business when the need arises.
8. It's not competitors who create a sales problem; it's a company's lack of a unique identity. Blaming even fierce competition for taking away sales is like blaming an HMO for being sick. The problem is not what the competition is doing but what we have not done to present ourselves as a resource for customers. Does anyone ever ask, ``And what is it that you do?'' If so, your company has a bland, unexciting image. It's time to change it.
9. It's not the decline in sales that's the source of difficulty; it's failing to take prospects seriously. Some call it skimming the cream off the top. Once the ``ready-to-buy-now'' prospects have been culled, there is still plenty of business-and someone will get it. The key is to evaluate the prospects and create an ongoing plan to stay in touch with them until they become the cream. They will buy at some point and the only worthy goal is to be there at the right time.
10. It's not that they don't need what we sell; it's that they aren't convinced they need us. Just because customers may have a need for what we sell doesn't mean they will give us the business, even if we perform better than others. In fact, there are times they may want what we sell, but they don't want us. Developing solid answers to the question, ``Why does the customer need us?'' is a major step in building sales. When price, delivery, quality and performance are virtually the same, why should the customer want to do business with us? If you can't come up with the reasons, neither will the customer.
Believing in myths keeps sales managers and salespeople from maximizing effectiveness-including reaching optimum levels of sales. Dispensing with the myths frees the mind to gain new insights and break through the barriers.
Mr. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm in Quincy, Mass.