Ice and Eskimos

I’ve written before about the sales mindset. But I’d like to expand on this subject with some additional thoughts. Entrepreneurs are always selling whether it’s raising money, peddling a product or convincing a new team member to come on board. We’ve all heard the adage, “he could sell ice to an eskimo.” This conjures up an image of a slick, fast-talking huckster who cons his “marks” into purchasing something they really don’t need. Obviously this is the antithesis of how we want to be perceived as  entrepreneurs.

I’m trying to expunge the terminology of “selling” from my vocabulary. Why? In my opinion the traditional notion of selling is product-based. In other words I have a product and I’m going to do everything I can to convince you to buy it. What goes unsaid here is, “I’m going to do everything I can to convince you to buy it whether you want it or not.” Maybe this is just my personal bias, but I’ve observed others over the years that act in similar fashion when they get into the sales mode. Instead of “selling to” I’ve moved into a “buying from” mindset. I submit the following:

  • When we sell something to someone else we’re product-focused.
  • When we help someone buy something we’re customer-focused.

The difference in these two approaches is night and day. When we help someone buy, the product takes a back seat. We’re more interested in building a relationship and creating trust with someone else. We’re more interested in understanding exactly what they need. Through this discovery process we may find that our product is not best-suited for this particular individual. But that’s OK because we are helping them buy what they need – not what we want them to have. You may be thinking, “This flies in the face of so many of the selling techniques that are time-tested and proven.” And you may be right. But I’m willing to wager that an entrepreneur who genuinely wants to help people buy what they need is going to win far more often than a salesman who just wants to move product. When relationships take precedence, they can produce unanticipated results. I’ve experienced numerous instances where I determined that what we were helping a customer buy wasn’t right for him or her. But it was clear that the relationship was more important than the sale. And ultimately we received referrals from those customers that did result in someone else buying from us.

When we just have to make the sale, we’re less likely to focus on the customer. We’re desperate to close the deal. One of my colleagues told me about an encounter she had with an individual who had called her to set up an introductory meeting. From the outset he was selling. He made no effort to learn more about her and establish a rapport – much less build a relationship. He made no effort to understand what she needed to purchase. He simply launched into his pitch and barely took a breath. By the end she was worn out listening to him and told me how off-putting the whole encounter had been.

There are some very simple rules that we can follow to ensure that we avoid the “selling to” approach.

  1. Always start the process by asking questions of the customer. This will help to establish a rapport and to determine his or her needs.
  2. Eliminate the terms “sales” and “selling” from our vocabulary.
  3. Genuinely care about the customer and find a way to meet his/her needs even if it involves a product that’s not our own.
  4. Make certain that it’s clear to the customer that it’s his/her best interest that we have at heart and not our own.
  5. Remember the only way to develop long-term satisfied customers is to help them buy what they need. And the endorsement of long-term satisfied customers is worth its weight in gold.

When we maintain our focus on the customer at all times we win. Sometimes this requires us to look past an immediate transaction. But it will always pay big dividends in the end.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Igloo

One thought on “Ice and Eskimos

  1. Excellent article and completely agree. It is so much easier to successfully sell when you make it about the customer, not you.

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