Tellin’ Ain’t Selling

“How not to talk yourself out of sales”

Have you ever NOT bought something because you just couldn’t get comfortable doing business with a salesperson who seemed to be trying way too hard to get a sale? One of those needy representatives who talked too much, thinking if they cover every objectionable subject matter that you certainly must buy? You know the one with the “I really need a sale” post-it on their forehead? Have you experienced that sales pro (using the word loosely) who talks so long that you become disengaged because NOBODY has an attention span that long? What about Mr. or Mrs. “I’d love for you to hear how well I play,” who gives the customer a mini-concert instead of showing the benefits of the instrument? Or the “demo on steroids” salesperson who back in the old days still made a decent living because there was so much piano interest and disposable income?

As a sales trainer, I’ve seen a lot. I’m not naive enough to think I’ve seen it all but man I’ve seen a lot of well-meaning sales associates who couldn’t get out of their own way in order to have a decent closing ratio. I’ve seen a salesperson have a prospect ready to buy, but because they didn’t shut up and take the order, they lost the sale. Instead of taking the order, the salesperson breached a new subject which gave the customer an objection they hadn’t thought of before… then they lost the sale. It is a God-awful, painful thing to see!

What’s my point? Well, like I’ve mentioned before (and have even named an article as such), “Fundamentals are never obsolete.” Tellin’ ain’t selling! This includes the new digitally driven culture we live in.

The name of the game is interaction. Interaction is best served through conversion, or capturing the lead, which involves deepening digital dialogue. There is always a healthy balance to be achieved in the sales process. Whether it is face to face or strictly digital communications, the salesperson must give a measure of respect to the prospect while you tell them the information they need. You must tactically control the flow of the interaction and information given. If you are like some of the sales representatives who have “diarrhea of the mouth,” you are bound to turn a lot of folks off. OR if you subscribe to the “give them all the info they need to make a decision up front” theory, you will give them the opportunity to not need you at all (trust me I see it all the time with poor online marketing). You can give them the opportunity to make a decision on their own without the involvement of a salesperson.

I know there is a temptation to drink the “let’s sell all stuff online ” Kool-Aid for some marketers, and for many, many items I believe e-commerce is the ticket. But come on, man! A fine piano? This is a slippery slope when the industry begins conditioning the consumer to buy fine pianos (all of which have their own personality, touch, and sound) online and take the salesperson out of the loop as the concierge. Remember, we are selling music. We sell what a thing does for the buyer, not the thing itself. If you suck too much of the human element out of the process, it becomes a sterile, logistic process with a chasm between the sale and art. Keep in mind the captcha safety phrase: I am not a robot. Don’t sell like the customer is one, either. Your goal is not to become an order taker but a concierge. Order takers don’t rise to the level of selling luxury items.

Here’s a not so humble opinion: we should use technology to get people to raise their hands and identify their interest, but use creative people skills (executed many times through technology) to follow up the leads and generate excitement. It’s this excitement which leads to the best selling circumstance. People still by and large buy on emotion and back it up with logic.

The old school fundamental “communicate concisely and effectively” is one I learned years ago in the billboard business. You only have a matter of seconds to get your point across! This principle is true in today’s instant gratification Internet culture as well. The best way to build a landing page is to optimize it for conversion. The conversion is the primary function of your page. Afterward, you turn the salesperson lose to discuss the details with the interested party. Tellin’ ain’t selling: don’t give the prospects so much information they don’t need you! Tell the story and enough of the pertinent information to be informative, but don’t talk (or print or post) yourself out of a new friend. We need dialogue to position ourselves as subject matter experts! Trust an old ad guy on this: the secret is to get your initial point across as powerfully and succinctly as possible. Fill in the blanks by becoming a friend, and you will be successful when selling a luxury item such as a piano.

Though the selling time frame, or gestation period, is often shortened due to technology, the opposite effect can also manifest itself with many prospects. When prospects learn information without engaging a salesperson, the discovery period of the sales process is more convoluted and often longer than ever before. Many prospects will think, “Wow, there is a lot to this decision. This will take some digging!” Thus, they take discovery to a new level. This means that a sales pro must find new, informative and creative ways to grow a relationship over time. We call this “lead nurturing” and it is the advantage you must seize over your competitor. Lead nurturing is being a concierge; simply stated and worth repeating, the company with the most friends wins!

Are automated responses cool? Do we need to be tuned into the digital proclivities of the new buyers in the new landscape? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! “Automation is liberation” is a new school cliché I’ve heard my younger partner Joey say many times. I know that we are both excited about that freedom which allows us to spend our time on things less logistical in nature. But read on: automation can be a double-edged sword if depended upon to perform functions only humans can perform most effectively.

Allow me to wax philosophical. Father Kibby at our church offered great advice a couple years back that can be applied not only to faith-based circumstances but also solid sales principles (forgive me Father if I steal a lick from you here). His simple message that day boiled down to one key statement: “Let’s keep the main thing the main thing!” That is what being concise and conversion minded digital marketing is: keeping the main thing the main thing. GET THE LEAD!!!!!! After you get the lead, treat it accordingly. Qualify, disqualify, nurture, and, when the elements are right, close the sale! If you never have the lead to work all that information you disseminated too soon amounted to nothing. Just look at your empty hand and wish you had held back until the time was right.

Another important item to consider is that if you concentrate on the disclaimer, minutia, and (I hate this old term) bells and whistles, you miss the point! Nothing happens if you choke out the lead by sharing too much too early.

Our job at Prospects International is to GATHER THE PIANO INTEREST LEADS so sales pros can do their work. We use every innovation we can find, create, or plagiarize to serve up the most qualified leads known to the industry and we do it all in the spirit of keeping the “main thing the main thing!” If you are talking too much and not listening to the needs of your prospects, whether “digitally” or “face to face,” you are missing the old proverbial boat and, once again, not keeping the main thing the main thing.

I take sincere issue with those who print exact prices instead of price ranges on their website in hopes that someone will come in and buy the used upright for $5,045. This method takes the entire consultation out of the consultative sales flow and reduces the sales person to the position of being an order taker. There is nothing wrong with being an order taker if you work at Amazon or Sweetwater, but selling pianos can’t be reduced to this business model and still be successful. Technology has and will displace many positions but it is my sincere conviction that it will always take a person to sell a fine musical instrument.

We recently had a request to look into the possibility of creating automated responses for the many questions that come up in a digital exchange. It’s not undoable but would be a monumental task to code a response for the lion’s share of reoccurring questions and objections. We didn’t go down that road for one HUGE reason. Even if we could take this out of the salesperson’s hands, it would be a mistake. A human can detect attitudes and form a bond that coded and written characters can’t. Someone can make a friend. Why is that human interaction so critical? I’ve said it before : THE COMPANY WITH THE MOST FREINDS WINS!

In the end, it’s all about relationships. THAT is the most profitable way to use digital innovations. The main purpose is facilitating new friendship possibilities because that’s how fine pianos are sold best. Please remember that your best friends allow you to speak and have feelings, unlike the salesperson who never listens. It never hurts to remember to shut up and allow the prospect the ability to express themselves. Dominating prospects verbally is counterproductive because the potential client can’t even remember all the questions you never let them voice!

The top performers in every industry know not only how to talk but, more importantly, they know how to listen so that what they say is relevant to their mission. Force feeding doesn’t work. Today’s consumers are too educated and, even if they think they know more than they do, the prospects still need you to shepherd them towards the best purchasing decision. Even if they haven’t figured that out yet. You must gain the position of being the trusted advisor before you can advise them best. Their perception is their reality. This means you must break it to them gently that they may not have ALL the information they need to make a truly informed decision. This also means you need to put your “best friend” hat on as much as you put your “I’m the big bad specialist” hat on. A healthy sales process is chock full of interaction and guess what? A laugh or two along the way doesn’t hurt. Remember this old fundamental: “nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.”

Remember, tellin’ ain’t selling. Don’t expect technology to make friends for you. It simply provides relationships for you to develop. The true tool will always be your congeniality. Neither the technology nor the marketing company (us) can ever sell pianos as well as you can. So don’t forget to listen and call us anytime. We will listen, not just talk. Our best ideas come from our clients because we know for a fact that tellin’ ain’t selling.

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