When I speak about finding a fit between your strengths and the client's needs, I guess I have overlooked one point that I assumed everyone understood. Recently one of my new students said "Our client said that they felt we could be a great fit for their current situation." He excitedly said "Even though we know our competitor offers a better solution, I think we convinced them to buy from us." Oops. Shame on me. The part I left out is that you always need to operate with honesty and integrity.
How Times Have Changed
Many years ago, deceptive practices ran rampant in the sales profession. Salespeople used pressure, misleading tactics, and their own imbalance of information to coerce buyers into deals that the customer would later find were not in their best interest. Two hundred years ago, if something like that happened, you might share the story with your friends the next time you saw them in person. Eighty years ago, you might have even called your friends who had a phone, to share the story. However, you might not be 100 percent certain that you ended up with a bad deal. You might not have had enough facts to confirm your suspicion. But, fast forward to today, and the customer has at least as much information as the salesperson. If you have less than a positive experience, you can share it with the free world before you even leave their sight (or site). In To Sell Is Human, author Dan Pink describes this as a shift from Buyer Beware to Seller Beware. In short, being deceptive today can cost you that customer, and anyone they can reach via social media -- which could be the free world.
Avoid the Adversarial Trap
Customers have had a history of interactions with people pursuing their own selfish interest. This has led to mistrust, and the introduction of dastardly processes that vendors must follow in order to pursue business (RFP anyone?). The mistrust leads to what I call "The Adversarial Trap." This pits buyer against seller. Each side is on a quest to "out-do" the other party. It becomes a game like Battleship -- where one party wins, and one loses... or dies.
Get on the Same Side
Take the role of looking out for the best interest of your client, in combination with your interest. This means that you don't sell them something if you can't deliver results, and you don't agree to something that is not good for your business. The metaphor that Jack Quarles and I use in our upcoming book, Same Side Selling, is assembling a puzzle. If your puzzle pieces and their pieces don't match, then it's not a fit. Once your client sees that you only have an interest in areas where you can deliver extraordinary results, then you can shed the stereotype that has plagued sales and other executives for more than a century. Read this story of how doing this right can really pay off.
It All Starts With Honesty
Those who operate with transparency and integrity reap huge rewards. MemberCar.com delivers high-end used car sales, service, and a concierge experience. As a member, you get a free hand car wash every Saturday. I was about to buy a car from MemberCar when the owner said to me "Ian, I just want you to know that with this car, you could spend $15,000 a year in maintenance." They would not let me make a purchase without ensuring I was fully informed. (I still dream about the car, but appreciate him for looking out for my interests). He expressed relief when I decided not to buy the car. There is no reason for me to buy from anyone else. I would prefer to buy a used car from them then a new car. He has my complete trust. Can your customers say that?
A Great Video to Drive the Point Home
In a recent TEDx talk, Marcus Sheridan does a magnificent job sharing thoughts on "The Honest Economy." Take the time to view the 12 minute video if you have not already done so. It's no wonder it was viewed thousands of times in the first 48 hours.
What stories can you share where honesty or dishonesty changed your view of the other party?