I’ve been a salesperson all my life. I’ve managed and trained sales teams in every state in the U.S. and nearly every province in Canada. I’ve read just about every sales book there is and written one myself. So if you want to sell me something, it will take more than a canned pitch and more than a few old, over-used tricks. Sometimes, I see sellers pull out their bag of tricks to show off for me, the sales trainer. They’ve been told this is what the professionals do, so they figure I’ll be impressed by their mastery of techniques and tricks.
Sometimes, I’m in the buyer’s seat. Sellers usually don’t know my background when they try to use tricks and tactics to sell me something. They don’t even realize I’m evaluating their skills and techniques throughout the duration of our transaction. They are just doing business the way they think they’re supposed to. They think I’ll buy because they’re executing the prescribed steps the way they’ve been told to.
Sometimes, a seller does know me and tries to sell me something using their one-size-fits-all approach. It happened yesterday. A woman I’ve known through church for two years asked me for some sales coaching. She sells for a multi-level marketing company and told me she’d been struggling to meet her next-level goals. She offered to exchange work for coaching, and I agree to meet with her to hear what she had in mind.
Normally, I would be suspicious in this situation. But she told me she’d read and liked my blogs. So I figured she knew what I stand for, and I was curious about how she might be able to help us out around the office.
Within three minutes, I could tell she’d received training in a whole host of outdated tricks and techniques. Instead of talking about what she could do for me, she opened with a soliloquy about the merits of the company and how her life had dramatically improved thanks to the company. She had the patter down pat, smoothly delivering even the most obviously scripted lines (I’d already read them on the company website).
As the soliloquy segued into a sales pitch (cued by her subtle shift from “I” to “you” language), all the hallmarks of the bandwagon technique were apparent. With this technique, sellers describe how people we admire AND people just like us already use the product. In this case, she told me all about her “millionaire clients” (presumably who I’d admire) and our mutual church friends (the lookalikes).
I didn’t bite, and she seemed confused. Up next, the old “woe is me” trick. In hindsight, I saw this is what she also started with when asking for the appointment. You’ve seen this trick. It’s the one used by the magazine subscription sellers who go door-to-door and tell you they need to sell enough magazines to pay tuition for the upcoming semester of college. Her story was a little more personal which was warranted by the situation.
Then the two tactics merged and evolved. She told me how others at church have heard her prayer requests and become members of her pyramid team. This was a subtle attempt at the guilt-you-into-buying trick. At one point, she even told me she knew I had “a big heart” and that’s why she wanted to talk to me.
I’m immune to such nonsense. And I’m not alone. Most buyers have also developed an immunity to hackneyed and obvious sales techniques. That’s why these old school approaches do not work anymore. If you want to be effective, you have two choices.
In order to survive, you could mutate like a virus or bacteria to become resistant to the current antidotes. You’d have to disguise your technique, perhaps blending it with another technique so it seems new and different. To overcome your buyer’s defenses, you’d have to act fast and come on strong with your newly mutated technique. After all, new strains are soon detected and thwarted. A small dose is actually therapeutic, building up the immunity for later attacks.
Or you could strengthen your approach so it is not viewed by buyers as a disease, not something they want to immunized against. We don’t get inoculated to save ourselves from gifts or help or support. So why not adopt a sales approach with those positive associations for buyers?
You can differentiate yourself from other sellers. But first you have to give up the ridiculous idea that sales is trickery, that slick techniques and set-ups and scripts will make the sale for you. You make sales by understanding people’s needs and meeting those needs. It really is that simple.
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