If you were to look up the definition of the word ‘sales' right now, you would probably find a definition that goes something like this: “The exchange of a commodity for money; the action of selling something”. I've got something you want, you offer me some sort of currency, and in return, I give you what you were looking for. It's straightforward, it's simple, it's wrapped up in a neat little package that makes the bulk of our commerce driven world go round, and it's NOT AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO LOOK AT IT.
What if I told you that just about everything you have ever known, been taught, or come to learn is typical about ‘sales' is not very useful. What if I were to really turn the conversation on its head and tell you that the word ‘sales' describes something most are blind to? Before bringing such an out of the box concept full circle, let's look at Wikipedia's definition of the word ‘sales' to see if there are any clues to be found that hint at the bigger picture. It reads: “A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation.Signaling completion of the prospective stage, it is the beginning of an engagement between customer and vendor or the extension of that engagement.” Wonder what it is that stands out about Wikipedia's definition that sets it apart? It's one word: engagement!
While most people are too busy defining sales by the act of providing ‘goods or services for money', it's easy to forget that they are also in the act of ‘engaging' as well. This is a human/communications piece that is the foundation of the transaction. But it remains hidden most of the time. The fact is that the only time commerce ever occurs is when people exchange commitments. This usually occurs after a level of trust has been established. The exchange of the goods/services for money occurs only after initial commitments been exchanged. The foundation of all commerce is built on commitments. Those who can best articulate their commitment are always the best sales people”.
Great sales people are skilled at two things: building trust, and making commitments to take care of the concerns and needs of their customer. This makes way for the potential to forge very powerful relationships with people who will pledge their loyalty to your company and give you their business faithfully. Every customer represents a plausible lifetime opportunity… if your sales team can design conversations that produce commitments… and those commitments produce result! Conversely, if your team engages each customer as though they are a transaction rather than a potential lifetime relationship you will run into trouble building these lasting relationships.
Unfortunately, the skill to design long term relationships doesn't come naturally to most people. Most possess the desire to build customers for life, but not the know-how. For instance, specialized employees such as mechanics often make the mistake of muddying up customer engagements with all sorts of technical jargon. The customer's primary concern and their pain may not be resolved by spouting out terminology they don't understand. Research shows that employees lack the practices to build trust, credibility, and commitments by design.
Each and every customer should be engaged based on the long term value they can provide to your business, rather than the financial worth of the engagement they are having with you at any particular moment. Your sales people may have only seconds to show potential customers their intent as well as their ability to build trust and commitment. The words they say and how they react to the customer's query or pain will decide not only whether or not the customer is booked for an appointment, but whether or not you run a business that closes sales, or merely talks to people on the phone.
This is where teaching employees how to step out of their comfort zone becomes mission critical. They need to know how to reflexively deal with each customer's unique situation, feel their pain, examine their breakdown, and pull out all the stops - not to make a sale - but to find a solution. Closing an individual has everything to do with the strength of the bond formed with that customer, how long you can make that bond last, and whether or not the customer walks away from the conversation with a shared commitment.
For instance: imagine you run a salon offering a cut and color deal for $70. One of your competitors across town happens to be running a special this week for a cut, color, and manicure all for $50; a rate so low based on your payroll and expenses that you would not even turn a profit at such a price. A customer calls during the afternoon and says “Hi, is this the salon offering the special for the manicure, cut, and color for $50?” What do you do? If you think the answer is to say, “No, our price is $70 for a cut and color without the manicure”, then you would be totally off base. In fact, your answer should be, “We are not technically running that special, but we would be happy to offer you the same service today at just $45, now let me tell you a little bit about our salon. We offer xyz services and abc products, we've been around for xyz years, and regardless of what you're looking for, we can help you look beautiful. Would you like to come in this afternoon or tomorrow morning?”
If you think of the sale from purely a metrics standpoint, then it makes no sense to take a loss on one sale, but let's look at the big picture instead. Saying no to the customer shuts them down, causing them to move on; end of story. But, turning this into an opportunity can have an entirely different effect. Yes, it's true that you break even or even lose a few dollars on this one transaction, but in the process, you are showing a potential customer your level of commitment to their satisfaction, that you can be trusted, and that you want to be who they think of every time they need salon services. When the customer comes in for their appointment and you do a great job on their hair and nails, who do you think they will come back to the next time they have additional beauty needs? How much more money will you make over the course of a year, a decade, a lifetime of dedication from a customer who will likely need repeat services several times a year. Then, tell me again why it would be justified to throw such a potential, long-term relationship away all over losing an initial few dollars for the sake of ‘sales' instead of commitments.