How to Sell More

I’ve been involved in sales training a long time. I’ve been selling even longer than that. I suppose that would be obvious that someone should actually be in sales before they start teaching others how to sell. But it shouldn’t be obvious. There are many people and companies around that offer sales training that have little or no sales experience. What they actually offer is sales theory, not professional selling skills training. 

 

Sometimes they offer “people skills” or “soft skills” but those are very different than actual sales training.

 

My suggestion is that you never accept a single word of advice on how to sell from someone who has never sold. If they have not experienced first hand the incredible high of earning a challenging prospects trust and their business along with it, then they don’t know enough about sales to teach you a thing. 

 

If they have never felt the utter hopelessness of losing a sale they know they should have had then they don’t understand the psychology of professional selling and they should offer training on how to be a fraud instead.

 

So, now that I have that out of my system I have another suggestion if you want to sell more….stop trying so hard to sell. Instead start helping your customers and prospects buy more. 

 

The difference between selling and helping people buy is not just words. When you help people buy rather than trying to sell them something everything changes. Your approach changes. The questions you ask customers change. How you advocate your product or service changes. 

 

How the customer perceives you changes. 

 

Salespeople who sell ask questions to determine if they might be able to convince the customer to buy their product. Salespeople who help customers buy ask questions to see if their product will really help the customer. 

 

Salespeople who sell are prepared to negotiate a price lower than they want. Salespeople who help customers buy know they are far less likely to be asked to negotiate the price. The customer sees the value in the product AND the sales professional representing it. 

 

Salespeople who sell see every question as a potential objection. Salespeople who help customers buy see every objection as an opportunity. 

 

Salespeople who sell work hard for their sales. Salespeople who help customers buy work incredibly hard too yet often feel as if they are hardly working. 

 

Salespeople who sell manage customer transactions. Salespeople who help customers buy manage customer relationships. 

 

Salespeople who sell can make a lot of money. Salespeople who help customers buy make more…and they have a heck of a lot more fun doing it. 

 

If you’re not sure which type of salesperson you are I have a question for you that might help. Can you say, with great specificity, exactly how your product or service helped your last five customers reach one of their goals or objectives?


If you can’t answer that, with specifics, then you might be doing too much selling and not enough helping. Think about that before your next sales call.

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.

 

 

No, Sales Don’t Fix Everything

Sometimes I’m at a loss for words. I know frequent readers of this blog may find that hard to believe but sometimes I am so flummoxed by something I hear that I don’t know how to respond.

 

I recently had one of those conversations when the subject of selling came up. I pretty much despise discounting of any kind. If a company has built value into their products and services then they should be able to sell that value to customers. The purchase price of that product should reflect the value that was built into it. 

 

In a perfect world that’s the way it would always be. But the last time I checked the world wasn’t perfect. 

 

So salespeople, even at times very good, well trained salespeople will be forced to offer a discounted price to earn the business of a customer. That happens for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest is a competitor pricing their inferior products well below the price of the superior product. Then they sometimes deceive the customers into believing the products are nearly identical. 

 

They in effect commoditize the product and tell the customers “it’s all the same so why pay more.” It’s not exactly ethical but if you don’t have a lot of mirrors around and you don’t need much sleep at night it works.

 

The skill of the salesperson must match the quality of the product. If not then the customer may not have the opportunity to compare the products on a level playing field. 

 

That’s what first attracted me to sales training. Companies with high value products need salespeople who are skilled at showing that value to customers and prospects. 

 

Without highly skilled and professionally trained salespeople the companies that sell products with high value will leave their customers and prospects vulnerable to the offers and “deals” on inferior products put forth by their competitors. 

 

The customer loses in that scenario. They may not realize it at first and truthfully some may never realize it but they lose all the same. But the high value company loses as well. If they can not receive fair value in return for the value they offer then they will fail as a business. The failure may come quickly or it may take a while but the end result will be the same. 

 

If your business is selling high value products and services then you must be compensated fairly for those products and services. That requires a well trained and professional sales force.

 

This is a bit of an aside but if you’re training your salespeople today in the same way you were 10 or 15 years ago then you are only partially training your salespeople. The marketplace is far more chaotic today then it’s ever been before. There is more information available to customers and prospects (much of it misinformation) than ever. There are more ways to purchase something than was imaginable only 5 years ago. Sales has changed and your sales training needs to change as well.

 

Which brings me back (finally) to the point of this post. In a conversation with someone who should know better, who in fact MUST know better, they used that oft stated cliche “well, sales fixes a lot of ills.” 

 

I immediately corrected them and said “no, sales HIDES a lot of ills.” The problems are merely disguised for a time. If too many of those sales are heavily discounted then you have a problem.  If you are a high value company you have two choices: stop selling high value products or go out of business. 

 

Businesses don’t succeed because of an impressive top line. Businesses succeed when their bottom line is reflective of the value they sell into the marketplace. 

 

What truly flummoxed me was this person’s disagreement with that statement. They insisted that if you were selling enough you would be successful regardless of your profit margins. 

 

For emphasis they repeated, “it’s all about sales and only sales.” 

 

That is almost scary! I wonder how many people in business feel profits are optional? I never considered there would be people in a for profit business that felt that way. Now I’m wondering if I‘ve discovered the cause of a whole lot of business failures. 

 

Sales are not what keep a business going. Profitable sales are what keep a business going. If you don’t know that, if you don’t live that, then you won’t be in business very long.

 

Just so we’re clear, profit isn’t the only thing a business should make. They hopefully make a real difference in the lives and businesses of their customers. They do that by providing them with high quality products and services. But if they hope to do that consistently, for the long haul, they MUST make a profit. 


Because no no matter how much we may want it to be so… sales do not fix everything. 

Price and Value Are Not the Same

My Grandfather used to say “Price without quality is waste.” What he meant by that of course was that getting a good price on a bad or wrong product was not a good deal.

 

He ran a small grocery store for nearly 50 years. He started when all grocery stores were small and it was his philosophy on price vs value that allowed him to survive when the “corner stores” were being devoured by the Supermarkets. 

 

He knew that “price” was simply what people paid and that “value” was what they received in return. When people were convinced that there was additional value to be had they would willingly pay an additional price. 

 

Good organizations and great salespeople know that same thing. They do not sell on price, they instead sell the value that their product or service offers their customer. 

 

To be sure there are some people who buy almost solely on price. Most often these buyers won’t be tempted by value because they are relatively short-term thinkers. A common refrain is “I can buy two of these for what I’d pay for one of those.” That could be true but what they fail to see is that the “one” will perhaps last 4 times longer than the “two.” 

 

But here’s another reason so many people seem to buy on price: poor salespeople cause them to make that mistake. 

 

Poor salespeople do not have the ability to communicate the value their product provides the customer. When a poor salesperson, or more likely, a poorly prepared salesperson hears their price is too high they immediately begin thinking they need to discount their price to earn the business. What they don’t understand is that they aren’t “earning” anything by accepting less for their product or service, they are merely buying a sale. 

 

When a salesperson buys a sale it’s likely everybody loses. The salesperson and their company obviously loses; they have built value into the product and they are not receiving the money they need to sustain that value. 

 

But here’s a surprise; the customer likely loses too. They lose because the product or service that they want will eventually go away. If it doesn’t go away the service that came with it will decline and they will really need the service because the value and quality in that product will almost certainly decrease over time. 

 

When I was just a kid I’d be at the Farmer’s Market at 4:00am on Saturday morning with my Grandfather to hand select only the finest, freshest fruits and vegetables that our customers would buy later that day. 

 

I suppose that most people don’t remember those days but when I walk into the produce area of my local supermarket today all I see is the stuff we wouldn’t touch back then. Today if you want truly high quality fruits and vegetables you either go to a speciality market or you go directly to the Farmer’s Market yourself…and you pay more, especially at the specialty markets,…because you see value in the quality. 

 

It turns out, price without quality IS waste, maybe not a complete waste but you’re certainly not getting what you pay for.

 

If you’re a salesperson today then learn the difference between price and value. Understand that you’re doing your customer a disservice by not explaining the value your product or service provides to them.

 

They may feel lucky getting a good price today but the sting of poor quality far outlasts that lucky feeling. 


Your customers, and most every bit of research supports this, your customers would rather pay a fair price for true quality than receive a low price on an inferior product. When you understand that absolute fact then you understand what you need to know to actually earn a customer’s business.

What Are You Selling?

In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope. – Charles Revson

Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon Cosmetics, was not a well liked man. 

He was so offensive in fact that vendors often refused to do business with him. But in spite of his personality he still managed to build a multi-billion dollar cosmetic empire.

That’s because he knew what he was selling – and it wasn’t cosmetics.

His quote above said it all. His ads sold hope by using most of the ad’s space on images of beautiful movie stars and glamorous models. The add copy made bigly promises of instant beauty with nearly no effort. He understood that nobody really wanted cosmetics, what they wanted was the beauty. So that’s what he sold.

I remember one of my first sales managers telling me that the best salespeople sell verbs, not nouns. When it became obvious that I didn’t understand what he meant he clarified it by saying they don’t sell the steak, they sell the sizzle.

Through the years I’ve come to understand that the best salespeople don’t sell their product, they sell what their product can do for a prospect. 

The challenge here is really two-fold. First you have to be selling a product that benefits someone. Then you have to find that someone it benefits and show them how it helps them.

By the way, if you are trying to sell a product without benefits then you need to find another product. If your product is the equivalent of an artificial appendix then it may work great but finding a market for it will be nearly impossible.

If you want to sell more next year then don’t sell what you’re selling, sell what people are buying. Don’t sell what your product is, sell what it does and most importantly sell “why” it does it.

Develop the mindset of helping your customer, not just making the sale. The very best sales professionals know that the more they help the more they sell. The very best sales professionals are passionate and enthusiastic about how their product or service helps a customer and they pass that enthusiasm to their prospects.

Just remember, people will seldom actually buy your product, they will buy what it does….for them.