It’s been said that:
- Selling is a numbers game.
- Selling is a process.
- Selling is a dance.
- Selling is a hunt.
- Selling is an exchange of goods and services.
- Selling is the engine of our economy.
- Selling is service.
There are useful takeaways from each of these viewpoints. But none of them get to the real heart of selling. When you strip away the numbers, the processes, the dance, the hunt, the science, the service, and the economic implications, there’s one thing left.
The heart of sales is connecting with people.
With the exception of truly transactional selling, the kind that is automated to the extent that order taking is a mere formality, selling involves making connections with people. The better the connection, the more likely the seller is to appeal to the buyer.
As obvious as that may seem, it is a missing link for so many sellers. Everyone is looking for the silver bullet – the perfect process, the product that practically sells itself, the ideal script, the pushover prospect – but no one sees that the silver bullet has been right here all along. The silver bullet is connectedness.
Wikipedia says that "silver bullet" refers to any straightforward solution that is perceived to have extreme effectiveness. Volumes of research prove the common sense conclusion that people buy from sellers who connect with them. It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that.
But sellers compromise their own effectiveness by trying to create shortcuts or by ignoring the need to genuinely connect. Why? Because we have devalued the importance of connections in selling.
Part of this stems from misunderstanding. Surely you’ve heard by now that relationship selling is dead. This statement has been rampantly shared in social media groups, across the web, and in recently published books. Replacing relationship selling, we’re told, is the new “Challenger Selling.” That term refers to asking questions that make prospects think and are assertive in offering new ideas and solutions.
In my estimation, there is no way to effectively execute Challenger Selling (or any selling) without making a connection with people. In fact, this connection is a deeper one than a superficial Relationship Selling construct where the customer is always right and the seller is there to serve every need.
We also know from research on buyer expectations that buyers say their primary expectation of sellers is trustworthiness. Buyers will buy from people they trust. Trust is based on connections with people. We trust the people who take time to know and understand us. We don’t trust people who seem disinterested, disconnected, or disingenuous due to generic offerings.
What displaces the importance of making real connections? Let me call out a few culprits. This list is by no means complete. It’s meant to give the general idea of what’s in our way.
- Unrealistic expectations regarding the number of new business development calls that sales reps are expected to make. In an effort to achieve the right number, reps smile and dial without personalizing the call. There is no connection so long as sellers make generic pitches.
- Using CRMs in a way that focuses on process rather than people prohibits sellers from making connections. If the CRM prompts assignments to categories based on process steps, there is a red flag that needs to be raised. People don’t want to feel as if they’re being called because their name came up next in a system. To avoid this, reps need to enter information that is unique to each prospect and reveals needs they’ve expressed.
- Prescribing cut-and-paste solutions takes connections out of selling. When a rep memorizes or reads from a script, it’s not about the prospect. It’s generic. One-size-fits-all is not appealing.
- Disinterest on the part of the seller makes it impossible for a genuine connection to be established. If all a sales rep cares about is making a quick sale, chances are that this mindset will be the biggest obstacle to that sale. By contrast, a sales rep who cares about the unique needs of each prospect will make more sales – slowly, but surely.
- The persistent notion that selling is something we do to people, not for people. Sellers who view each sale as their win rather than as a win/win perpetuate this notion. So long as sellers seek to hunt their prey or take down their targets or bag a sale, they will always be missing connections.
Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. When you’ve made purchases, you chose to do business with people who connected with you first. It’s that simple.
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