If you tell my teenaged kids that I uttered these words I will vehemently deny it, but; some rules are made to be broken. Pat Murn, Vice President of Sales at LexisNexis backs me up by saying that "Breaking rules is very effective. Now, if you're just blatantly irresponsible about it, obviously that's not good. But if you're creative, it actually shifts the culture of an organization. That's how people within an organization actually grow, by breaking rules." This is true in sales. In my experience, I often find that exceptional sales professionals do the opposite of what most salespeople do - and often break the rules of traditional selling to achieve success. Here are some examples of sales rules you should be breaking:
1. A salesperson's job is to [hard] sell
Consider this common scenario:
A customer says: "I'm looking for quotes on life insurance, but I'm not ready to buy just yet."
The salesperson responds: "Great. I will be happy to help." and then proceeds to rush the sales process by making manipulative statements such as "You really need to start protecting your family today before something bad happens."
Many salespeople are so busy selling that they don't take the time to actually listen and be helpful. Instead they dominate the conversation by talking about the product/solution, the company, and push all the reasons THEY think why the customer should buy what they are offering. In marked contrast, successful salespeople realize their objectives are to help people, to be a trusted advisor, and to educate and lead people down the path they need to go. This type of consultative approach builds genuine relationships – ultimately leading to customer loyalty, higher win-rates and repeat business.
2. The seller has more knowledge and therefore the upper hand
This rule went out the window right around 1999. Today's buyers are informed and in control. According to KnowledgeTree.com, 54% of B2B buyers begin their purchase process doing independent research and obtaining information from peers, social media and other third party sources. These changes have led to an increase in buyers' expectations, yet noteworthy research from SAP reveals that only 52% of B2B buyers believe that their most recent purchase experience met their expectations, and 91% have increased their expectations of vendors and sales people in the past two years.
Smart salespeople realize that the broad, tactical sales pitches of the past are no longer attractive or effective in closing deals with modern buyers. The key to sales success is creating value, not selling tactics. Innovative companies are turning to sales performance technology that provides valuable buyer insights, just-in-time processes, and a seamless experience so the salespeople can close more deals.
3. Selling is a numbers game
This one possibly predates the Ten Commandments. We've been told for an eternity that selling is a numbers game and it's firmly ingrained in our belief system that the more calls we make, the more successful we will be. Think about how many sales meetings you have attended where management has stated that you need to make X contacts a day, without defining the criteria for who would be the best contacts for prospects. The reasoning behind this thinking is to fill your sales pipeline with a gazillion contacts, which will turn into X number of prospects, opportunities, and in due course, customers.
It's not easy going against tradition, but more and more, I am encountering top salespeople that are pursuing fewer prospects, but of far higher quality. These sellers spend more time on the most valuable prospects and focus their selling efforts on adding value to every single interaction and guiding prospects through the sales cycle.
Related reading: 4 Tips to Boost Sales Performance
Successful salespeople understand that today's buyers are educated and that they choose with whom to do business. They realize that when traditional rules don’t make sense or are bogging down productivity, it’s often a good time to break them.
Can you think of any other old vs. new rules of selling? Please share them in the comments section below.
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