We may have moved into a more digital landscape … but we’re still human!
The elements that have built relationships for centuries are still important, and relationships are what great salespeople focus on.
I have a winning sales strategy that’s based on the simple, human interaction of one person helping another.
The point of being helpful is to have a satisfied customer, and that’s also the goal of every interaction. This is the framework I use to break it down.
Overall vision: Satisfied customer
Mission: Ensure satisfaction
Strategy: Be empathetic
Tactic: Be patient
Goal of every interaction: Satisfied customer
The bottom line is to show up, stop thinking about selling, and start thinking about helping.
Being helpful is the foundation of how I sell: it’s about taking a consultative approach.
Prospects can smell your commission breath if they know you’re only trying to pitch them or sell them. They’ll start to feel like a number or a paycheck, rather than a person.
If you jump into talking about the features and benefits of your product, the person who’s new to the product feels overwhelmed. They’re green to your product. You don’t need to tell them about that yet, before you know anything about their situation.
Instead, you need to be patient and listen so that you can be helpful. When you’re helpful, even in the context of selling, people feel heard, and they tell you more about what they need and what pain points they’re facing. That’s how you get to the bottom of whether their needs align with what you can offer.
What if those needs don’t align? It’s OK! The most helpful thing to do is to tell them, and try to leave every interaction with a positive.
Recently, I realized a few minutes into a conversation with a prospect that it wasn’t the right match. Six or seven minutes in, I stopped the conversation and simply said, “It doesn’t seem like we are aligned in what we are both trying to accomplish.”
If I had not left our meeting at that moment, we would both likely have felt frustrated because we wasted time. So, instead, I was helpful by emphasizing that we can still win together.
I told them I’m open to referrals, asked if they knew anyone who may be more inclined to use our product/service, and told them I would compensate them for their efforts. We ended the conversation with something advantageous for us both.
If you look for it, there’s always an advantage to every conversation. You just have to look for it, and that starts by being helpful.
Here’s how to show up in a helpful way. Be:
Let’s look at each one more closely.
Be ReliableWhen a customer has a problem and can’t reach you, that gap is expensive for them. This is true whether they’re a potential customer who has an ongoing problem they’re not solving because you’re not helping them, or they’re a current customer who isn’t able to use your product in the way you sold them.
Being reliable is how a salesperson minimizes the impact of that gap. It comes back to prioritization, which can be difficult given that salespeople are notorious for pursuing many, many activities every day.
Being reliable looks like joining meetings on time, answering calls and Slack messages as they come in or returning them quickly if answering isn’t possible, and replying to texts and emails within three hours (but ideally within one).
Reliability also means generally showing your customers and potential customers that they are your priority. They reach out to you because they have needs and questions, and being honest instead of guessing when you need time to find an answer you may not have at your fingertips is the winning approach.
When you’re unreliable, you risk not only losing deals, but losing trust.
Being punctual ties closely to being reliable, and it stands as its own topic because there are two schools of thought, particularly now that so many meetings happen digitally.
On one side of the coin, some salespeople will say: get to meetings early. On the other side, some say to get there two to three minutes late and trigger FOMO psychology by saying something like, “So sorry I’m late, I was just closing a deal.”
The idea is that being late because you were closing a deal for someone else will make the person who was waiting for you realize there’s demand for your product.
But what if being late for that reason makes them annoyed that you prioritized someone else? Or makes them doubt you’re telling the truth? Or even makes them leave the meeting before you’ve connected?
I’m firmly on the “show up early” side. Those risks are simply too big, and the benefit of proving again and again that you are reliable is too valuable.
To make sure you stay punctual, let people know at the start of your meeting that you have a hard stop two minutes before the scheduled end, then make sure your follow ups with that person are clear. If you need more time with them, schedule a future meeting right away.
Be Open-mindedEvery individual person you speak to has a different psychology than yours. That’s normal. You’re not talking to yourself!
To be able to help them, you need to keep your mind neutral. You must absorb what’s being told to you and allow your response to be neutral, even if that person has a strong opinion or judgment that you don’t agree with.
Many salespeople are taught to use finesse to combat prospect opinions, But instead of that, try using simple, neutral words, such as “I hear you.”
This type of response helps you remember that the conversation is about business, and It’s not personal. As sellers and storytellers, we need to remain open to other people’s ideas as a way to detach ourselves from the outcome of the conversation.
Here’s why: Being combative translates as being unhelpful. It makes the other person feel that you put your own experiences or ideas over theirs. You show them that your visions don’t align. People want to work with other people who they are aligned with.
When you listen to the other person neutrally and have an open discussion, you can take away their ideas and come back to the table with one solution that works for both of you.
Again, if no solution works for both of you, it’s OK to say so. Then remember to find the benefit you can each still realize.
Be CuriousBeing curious is all about asking questions. When getting to know a prospect, the greatest salespeople ask a lot of questions and speak very little. I’m someone who talks a lot in most situation, but when people see me on a discovery call, they notice I barely speak. I ask profound, highly personalized questions, because that’s what’s truly important.
Why? Discovery is about putting the ball in the other person’s court. There’s no use in pitching products or features when we don’t yet know the other person’s purpose. The only way you’ll ever understand if their purpose is aligned with what you have to offer is to ask them about their purpose and listen.
Here’s one of my favorite questions to ask: What are you trying to accomplish by having this conversation today?
This question can tell me in a few seconds what someone is truly looking for, and it also lets me come back and tell them my purpose is to find out how we align together so we can drive the deal to the finish line if it makes sense for both of our organizations.
Be DependableAre “dependable” and “reliable” different? I think of it like this: being reliable is about doing what you say you’re going to do in the moment, and being dependable is about building business relationships on trust.
The way to become dependable is to be consistently reliable. It’s that simple.
Being dependable means being trustworthy in the long term. As a salesperson, being reliable in the beginning of a relationship isn’t enough. I want prospects to know they’ll be able to depend on me whenever they need assistance, even if they have other contacts at that point.
Dependability comes back full circle to where we started: remembering that we’re all human and we can help each other with our purposes.
Will you try it?
Being helpful as a seller is a way to get to the bottom of whether a prospect is a good fit while honoring both them and you as people.
Are you going to give it a try?
I’d love to hear how it goes! I’m most active on my LinkedIn and am always looking to connect.
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