Do You Know What People Buy?

I was being interviewed a while back for a magazine article and the writer asked me a question that I had to think hard about before answering. 

 

She asked in all my years of working with professional salespeople what surprised me the most. 

 

I couldn’t boil it down to one thing. There are two. One is that in all my time in sales and sales training I’m surprised by how many salespeople are unprepared to respond to customer objections. Even objections they hear over and over again like the price objection. Each time it comes up it’s like the first time they have ever heard it. A sales professional should have a thoughtful, well prepared response that speaks to value.  Instead many salespeople stammer and stutter and basically begin the negotiations process. 

 

They will not receive full price in return for the full value they offer. 

 

The other biggest surprise in all my years of working with salespeople is also the reason salespeople hear the price objection so often. The second surprise is that the vast majority of salespeople have no idea what they are selling. 

 

Charles Revson was the founder of the cosmetics giant Revlon. He was once asked what business he was in. He said that “in the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.”

 

If you understand his answer then you might be a successful professional salesperson. If you don’t understand his answer then your success in sales will always be limited. You’ll also hear a whole lot of price objections. Your customers will want a reduced price regardless of whether or not your product is the least expensive in the market. 

 

Charles Revson understood that no one buys cosmetics because they want to spend hours a week applying chemicals to their body. They buy what the cosmetics do for them…which is make them more attractive in the HOPE of attracting the attention of other people….maybe even that special someone.

 

No one buys a drill, they buy the hole it makes. No one buys a book, they buy the adventure or information contained within it’s pages. No one buys a picture frame, they buy a place to display their precious memories of events and loved ones who make their life matter. 

 

No one buys your product because they want the product, they buy it because they want what they can get from the product.

 

The vast majority of salespeople do not fully know what their customers want from the products they sell. The professional salespeople who do understand what their customers want discovered that information by asking questions. The type of questions that less successful salespeople didn’t ask. They didn’t ask because they were lazy or they didn’t have the courage to ask or they just didn’t care enough to ask. 


Salespeople who don’t know what their customers are buying have no way of knowing how to present their products to people who want them. That is very surprising to me and it’s most certainly not a recipe for sales success.

 

 

The Costliest Mistake in Selling

Many salespeople and sales executives, especially sales executives, believe that the costliest mistake in selling is losing the sale. That’s not quite accurate; the bigger mistake in selling is taking a long time to lose a sale that you should not have lost. I‘d say the costliest mistake in selling is learning nothing from the experience. 

 

A professional salesperson should never feel good about a losing an opportunity to help a customer. But even the most honest and professional salespeople will sometimes lose a sale. What makes them so successful is that they rarely if ever lose a sale they could have earned. 

 

The average sales cycle across all industries is changing and much of it now happens out of the site of the salesperson. Most customers have done at least some research online before reaching out to a salesperson. In business to business selling many of the purchasing decisions are becoming more complicated. They are driven not by price alone but by brand, service, timing and tax considerations as well. That takes much of the decision away from a single buyer and leads to more “committee” type decisions. That takes longer.

 

There are lots of challenges with a longer sales cycle. There are usually more people involved. There are more objections to overcome. Second chances are provided to competitors. The good news is that most of those challenges can be overcome by effective information gathering. The longer the sales cycle, the more influence required to earn the business. Influence in sales comes directly from information. 

 

Do you influence your prospect’s and customer’s decisions or stand on the sidelines and observe from a distance? Are you in the deal, making a difference for your customer, your organization and yourself? Do you have the information needed to do that?

 

Are you selling products and services or showing them? To really sell requires influence. That can only come from taking the time to understand your customer’s true wants and needs and most importantly, why the need exists. 

 

You should have no problem with a longer sales cycle, so long as it leads to a sale. Your challenge today is that it can take just as much time and effort to lose a sale as it does to earn the business. 

 

When you invest your time with a customer make sure it counts. Ask the tough questions and get the information that leads to influence and the sale.


Don’t commit a too common mistake in selling, using your time to watch a competitor take away your business and your income.