Don’t Just Sell Products, Solve Problems
When you hear the words “sales” or “salesperson” what comes to mind?
For me, it’s always been a car dealership. Leisurely walking around the rows of cars viewing the huge signs displaying the prices. Out of nowhere pops up a salesman, well dressed, hair slicked back, huge fake smile plastered across his face. The conversation starts out with friendly pleasantries, but quickly turns into pushy and aggressive sales tactics. I have to go on the defensive to ward off the oncoming onslaught, where he’s trying to steer me towards cars I have no legitimate interest in purchasing. It feels like a hockey goalie trying to swat away slap-shots from oncoming forwards.
Or maybe it’s the dozens of generic images that pop up on my Facebook newsfeed daily, trumpeting “work at home opportunities” of “owning your own business” and “being your own boss.” When in reality they’re just another multi-level marketing (pyramid) scheme, trying to sucker me into products I have no need for.
It should come as no surprise, I HATE being sold to. I would assume many other people feel the same way as I do. There’s a reason why the stereotypes of salespeople tend to be negative.
I used to work in sales at a sporting goods store. I disliked most aspects of the job, but one aspect I really enjoyed was the ability to play a role in helping a customer solve a problem. For example, if they needed a treadmill for a specific goal, I felt joy using my knowledge to assist them in making a confident decision.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I was asked to push products I didn’t see value in. We used to sell coverage plans (warranties) on certain products. Sometimes it made sense for the customer, for example on a treadmill that cost a few thousand dollars. Other times, it was utterly ridiculous to sell a $4 warranty on a $12 basketball.
This left me feeling conflicted trying to balance keeping the customer’s best interests at heart, while still performing my job responsibilities at a high level. The store said they cared about the customer experience, but this was evident only when it didn’t have a negative impact on present day margins. The problem with this approach is that you lose out on building long-term relationships with your customers.
I hate being sold to, but I LOVE having my problems solved. There are many occurrences that I can look back on and think of helpful salespeople that assisted in solving my problems. They took the time to listen to my needs, what I was hoping to accomplish with the purchase, and my concerns (price, how long the product would last, warranty, etc.).
We, as buyers, come up against a concept called “loss aversion.” This means people are more worried about being parted with their money than they are in acquiring equivalent gains. We need assurance that what we’re buying will fill a need, and avoid being a waste.
The buying process can be exhausting. There’s time spent researching, determining the right decision, and the money. People don’t want to go through that process more often than necessary. Their goal is to make a purchase that fills a need for as long as possible. Usually the more expensive the purchase, the higher the amount of satisfaction expected. Customers are afraid of being taken advantage of and buying something that doesn’t adequately fill their need.
What does this mean in practice? Sales reps need to connect with customers in a better way. They need to focus on solving problems instead of pushing products. Customers are willing to spend money if they’re confident in the solution they’re getting. I happily spend $10 on Chipotle or $20 on a fresh haircut, because I’m confident in the solution. Those purchases make me feel good, while not regretting a single penny. It’s a tremendous feeling making a purchase that fills our present needs perfectly.
This lesson is applicable in other areas as well. As a writer, my goal is to produce content that resonates with my readers and brings value to them. I want a reader to be able to read a post and receive a takeaway that can better their life. I’m not focused on the numbers, or the popularity, it’s all about bringing value to the people that take the time to read my posts.
The salespeople I’ve connected with most are the ones who made the buying process about me and the problem I was looking to solve. They listened, showed they cared, and catered to those needs rather than pushing their own agenda. It helped me avoid having to go on the defensive and gave me a much more positive experience. The stereotypes were stripped away, along with my hockey gear.