I can think of nothing quite so important as sales. No, I am not some Machiavellian mastermind, nor do I go to bed at night scheming of how to manipulate and strong arm others. Yet these are the images that most often come to mind when one mentions the word or “sales”.
Yes, there are many equally important matters like love, morals, convictions, ethics and beliefs, but sales is the processes by which we identify and engage like-minded individuals who share these other traits.
Have you ever discussed where to have lunch with a friend or a colleague? How about trying to convince a child to take a bath? Any time two or more people need to decide something, a sales process takes place, and the illustrations above are both examples of salesmanship.
Of course, the stakes are higher when it comes to one’s professional life, but no matter whether one is in B2B or B2C industries, and regardless of whether one is selling services or products, there are only three reasons why someone will ever buy anything:
Need: When someone has a genuine desire for the benefit of whatever you happen to be selling. Note the use of wording here; people don’t buy a new smartphone because of its technical features—the speed of its semi-conductors or the chemical make-up of its battery. People buy a smartphone because of the ease of user interface and the ability to talk for a long time without charging. People buy benefits, not technical features, and there needs to be a genuine need before they’ll even consider buying.
Value: This is related to price, but separate and distinct. The measure of value one assigns to what you are selling is tied directly to their propensity to buy—and to buy at a certain price. How often have you settled onto your couch, ready to enjoy a good movie only to realize that you’re hungry? No matter how hungry you are, the value of getting up once comfortable is balanced against the value of a snack. It’s easy to imagine how this translates to buying something from a new or unknown provider, which gets us to our last point.
Trust: This is the third variable that determines whether, how and why people buy, and if someone doesn’t trust you or what you’re selling, it’s unlikely that they’ll buy at any price. Trust is difficult to establish and easy to lose. How you can establish trust will be outlined in just a moment.
The three variables above are necessary, but not sufficient to secure a sale. No matter how strongly someone wants to buy, there needs to be a compelling reason to buy from you.
Credibility: This is summed up by the thought, “I believe that you can do this”, where “this” is defined by the value of the benefits that your service or product can deliver. Credibility might lie at the level of you, personally, your company, your brand and / or your actual offering.
Trust: Yes, we see this variable a second time, and it is as important in the selling process as it is in the buying process. Trust is summed up by the thought, “I believe that you can do this for me.” Trust can be established through a variety of ways, including reputation (a proxy for brand), established by endorsements and / or proof points. The former take place when a trusted resource vouches for you or what you offer; the latter takes place when you have some evidence (an award, a case study, a technical specification) that substantiates the value of what you can do for the customer.
Intimacy: This is the most crucial and often most overlooked variable in the sales process, and it is summed up by the thought—in the mind of the seller—“I understand what your need is, and I can explain how my offering can address it.” It doesn’t matter whether one I selling a friend on the idea of trying a new lunch spot, a professional service, a consumer electronic or a new car. Intimacy is what allows the seller to understand how to map the technical features of his / her offering to the unique needs of a buyer and ultimately make the sale.
Of course, the framework above is not a complete treatise on all things related to buying and selling. There’s a great volume of equally useful sales frameworks and techniques that have been written over the years. There’s also a number of reasons why, even when one follows the framework above, someone might not buy. A buyer may not like you. He / she may be having a bad day. Timing could be off, or might be the victim of bad luck.
Still, the framework above is a great starting point for getting yourself into the mind of the buyer and understanding the dimensions necessary to maximize your chance of success.
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