What do the words selling, or sales, or sales person conjure up for you? Is your first thought negative? Do you shy away from it? Or do you imagine a poor person somewhere in Asia who has to earn a living trying to sell you something you neither need nor wish to be disturbed by, as you eat your dinner?
What if I was to tell you, as I was told today, that ‘everybody lives by selling something’? It took a while to realise just how profound this statement is.
Sue Barrett, of Barrett, is among many other things, a sales expert. She was the guest speaker at a Women’s Network Australia lunch today. ‘Everybody lives by selling something’ is her business slogan.
When I first read it on the screen behind the lectern, it slid away from my eyes, or maybe my eyes slid away from it. The notion of selling causes me anxiety, you see. But after Sue had finished speaking, I reread it and its meaning had been entirely transformed.
The principle of fair exchange and value
It would appear I do sell. All the time. In fact, I am selling now. Writing this post, sending it to you, dispersing it through my social networks, commenting on forums. All that activity is about selling.
I had thought I was creating relationships, building trust, earning the right to have a dialogue, listening, giving you something of value in exchange for an opportunity to be of service to you.
As I understood it from Sue, that is selling.
She started out by explaining that there had been more changes in the last ten years than in the last hundred. She said in the next 100, the changes would equate to the previous 1,000 years.
She posited the theory that we make the same number of decisions in one day, as a person in the 14th century might make in their lifetime.
Our lives and how we live them have become complex. So it figures that our business offers are no longer simple. Just before the presentation, I had been discussing the role of blogging to both inform and educate your community over time, about how you can help. Few businesses can restrict that successfully now to the once trusty old DL flyer.
Sue continued with a brief history of how selling has changed since the end of World War II. Then you produced products and had a monologue with your customer. While product features and then their benefits became a focus in later decades, today we stand “at the centre of a dialogue where you exchange something of value.”
What they are buying today, she explained, is your capability, your experience and your ability to facilitate a service for them.
” We don’t just sell with our heads anymore, we sell with our hearts,” she said.
It was fascinating to hear her describe the buyers’ journey today. She explained that buyers are actually creating their buying journey before they approach you. They have investigated your offer through social media.
In light of this, she asked, “how are you managing your message?” How does your vision and your purpose fundamentally change their lives?
The Yin and Yang of Selling
It was a women’s networking luncheon (which didn’t preclude men), but of the 70 attendees, only one was a man.
Nonetheless, Sue was not pandering to her audience when she described women as excellent sales people. She said the elite performers she had interviewed who were women, all displayed the same attributes: Able to engage in self appraisal, self aware, open to being reflective, good at orchestrating resources, able to facilitate opportunity to do the best for their clients, good at aligning customers and suppliers and capable of consultative problem solving.
Effective selling, she explained is getting a balance between all of that and the more masculine approach to ‘getting out there’.
Finally, she discussed with us what a client might want from us: to deal with a professional, to expect to be helped, to have business acumen, to display conceptual thinking.
In a previous business life, we were exposed to tools to measure team engagement. One of these was a trust monitor. It involved measuring your interactions with others and theirs with yours, on a scale of 0-10, against transparency, inclusivity, competence and authenticity.
As Sue spoke about the need to listen to all your stakeholders, customers, employers, investors, suppliers, prospects, influencers, she went on to say that you have to be genuine, authentic and to connect on a holistic level. Exactly how you would benchmark your interactions with others against the values of the trust monitor.
And before this epiphany, I had not thought that building trust, understanding and empathy were all about selling as it is manifest today.