Are You Helping Your Customers?

I have long believed…and taught, that the best way to succeed in sales is by helping your customers achieve their goals and objectives. My mind is pretty well made up on this point and I can’t imagine what anyone could say to change it.

But many have tried. Some of those who have tried tell me that sales is about separating a prospect from their money as quickly and efficiently as possible. That is most definitely NOT what professional selling is about.

Others have told me that sales is about making a lot of money. That is not true either even though making a lot of money is one of the two primary reasons many people go into sales. The fact is, making a lot of money is what happens when you help a lot of people achieve their goals and objectives.

Sales is ALL about helping customers. I suppose I should add a qualifier to that…PROFESSIONAL SALES is all about helping customers. Product peddlers pride themselves on being able to “unload” any product on anyone and they will use any trick to do it. They will do most anything for a buck. They give professional salespeople a bad name.

Professional salespeople have only one trick up their sleeve and it’s really no trick at all. It’s called asking effective questions. So effective that sometimes it helps a customer understand that there is a solution to a problem that they didn’t know existed.

If those professional salespeople discover that their product or service does not help a prospect they won’t attempt to turn that prospect into a customer by selling them something they won’t benefit from.

If you’re wondering how close you are to helping your customers ask yourself a question first. That question is this: what are the goals and objectives of my top ten prospects or current customers?

I start with the top ten because if you don’t know those then it’s most unlikely you will know others.

If you can’t answer that question it’s likely because you’ve never directly asked your prospects what their goals and objectives are. If that’s the case you have the ability to correct that situation immediately…just ask.

Your prospects and customers may not have an immediate answer for you. It’s a question that may catch them off guard. That’s because so few salespeople straight up ask. You can actually change the perception of a prospect by asking, and that change will most definitely be in the right direction.

So, are you helping your customers? You’ll find it very difficult to help anyone achieve their goals if you don’t even know what they are. So find out. Just ask, it’s the only trick you’ll ever need.

The Newest Competitor for Sales

A tough new competitor has just re-entered the sales game. This competitor has invaded almost every industry. Whatever you’re selling this competitor is lurking under the surface of every sales opportunity. Sometimes they are not even under the surface, they are sitting boldly on top of YOUR sales opportunity.

This competitor is particularly nasty too. They aren’t even interested in stealing business for themselves. The only thing they want to do is wreck the deal for everyone. They want the salesperson to go away empty handed. Worse, they want to leave the customer empty handed and with no help too.

The name of this competitor is NO! No has a twin sister who has entered the fray as well. Her name is Not Now. If you’re newer to sales you may not be familiar with these formidable competitors. But if you’re not careful they can be much tougher than the competitors you normally face.

The competitor named No and his sister Not Yet are always around but they thrive in uncertain times. They last entered the profession of selling in 2008 and 2009. They were pervasive enough to end the sales careers of many unprepared and unprofessional salespeople. The bad news is that many sales are being lost to No and Not Yet in the current business environment. The good news is that a great many of those lost sales are not truly lost, they are merely delayed.

It is vital that sales professionals understand that while No and Not Yet can slow a sale down they can’t stop it completely.

As effective as No and Not Yet can seem they are readily defeated by replacing the unknowns of today with the information that customers will need tomorrow.

The best salespeople seldom lose a deal to No in uncertain times and they never lose a sale to Not Yet. Product peddlers float to the sidelines when No and Not Yet enter the game. Professional Salespeople hold their ground and expose No and Not Yet as imposters who only want the worst for customers.

Information erases the unknown. If No and Not Yet try to get between you and the customers you’re trying to help STAY IN THE GAME. Provide your customers with the best information you can. Industry information, product information, problem-solving information and whatever advice you can offer based on your own expertise.

Don’t float away from your customers and leave them alone in the vastness of the current unknowns. They may not remember exactly what you’ve done for them in the presence of No and Not Yet but they will certainly remember how you made them feel.

Make them feel like more than a customer. Make them feel as if they matter as a person because in fact they do. Sales right now is far more about helping people than it is about closing a deal. That’s actually always true but it is vital right now.

It’s likely you’re not spending as freely as you were a month ago. Neither are your customers. But one day your own unknowns will be gone and you’ll feel safer spending again. That too will be the same for your customers.

If you can stay with your customers in the presence of No and Not Yet today then your customers will be there for you tomorrow when No and Not Yet have faded away until the next time of uncertainty.

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.

Are You a Salesperson Who is Easy to Beat?

Salespeople who sell on price are easy to beat because another salesperson can just lower their price a little more. 

 

If you allow competitive salespeople to make your product only about price then that will be the determining factor for your customer. 

 

Let me say this as clearly as I can… Professional Salespeople DO NOT sell on price. 

 

They know that price is merely one factor in a buyer’s decision making process. It makes no difference if it is an individual buyer, a corporate buyer, a municipal or governmental buyer, price is very very seldom the only consideration. 

 

People pay a certain price for a product or service in the hope that they receive value in return. 

 

Value is an interesting word because it has about as many definitions as there are people on earth. “Value” means something different to people based on their expectations, their past experiences, their lifestyle and their needs. 

 

Professional salespeople ask questions, often many questions, to determine exactly what value means to each of their customers. Then they work tirelessly to be sure their customers receive that value. 

 

Every person reading this, including unprofessional salespeople who believe that most people really do buy on price, have paid more for a particular product because they saw or expected additional value unavailable in a cheaper product. 

 

They considered the price but decided to spend more because they saw the potential to receive more in return. That “more” that they saw the potential to receive is value. 

 

The only way to discover what value means to your customers is to ask. Ask each one. Ask again and again because the definition of “value” changes over time. 

 

If you’re not asking value based questions then it’s a safe bet you’re selling, or attempting to sell, on price. That makes you easy to beat. 


Stop selling your product, sell the value it provides to your customer instead. 

An Audit for Sales Success

I’ve never met anyone who completed their taxes and then said “I hope I get audited.” We all know audits are bad things, someone checking up on us or worse, trying to catch us cheating. Even if you did everything by the rules audits are still a royal pain. But audits do indeed serve a purpose – they let us know how we did or maybe how we are doing right now.

 

My grandfather always used to tell me that an honest person doesn’t mind being checked. I would add to that bit of wisdom that the most successful people check themselves.

 

Here is a short audit for sales professionals. The results (if answered honestly) will help you understand the areas you may want to work on to ensure your continued success. Keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers. Just score yourself 1 to 10 in each of the areas and then develop a plan to increase your score before you conduct the next audit. Here we go:

 

  • Your goals are clear, written down and you review them daily.
  • You have a reasonable product or service. You can understand why your target market would buy it.
  • You have a repeatable sales process proven to work in your industry.
  • You know how many people in your specific target market you need to speak with to get a sale. (You know your batting average)
  • You have a sufficient amount of people who look like your “ideal customer” in a target list that makes you reasonably sure you can make your number, month after month.
  • You know the specific task motives, maybe even a few personal motives of your target customers, and you know that your product or service can match them.
  • You have a general interest statement that works, reliably, to get people to say, “Tell me more.”
  • You have a set of information gathering questions that you ask to find out if someone needs, wants and can afford what you sell.
  • You spend most of your day (four to six hours) in selling and marketing activities.
  • You work from a daily, weekly and monthly plan and are reasonably organized and efficient.
  • You don’t work more than 50 – 55 hours a week.
  • You do what you say you will do for prospects, customers and your employer. (You MUST be honest here cause if you’re lying to yourself you’ll never reach your potential.)

So how did you do? If you answered honestly you now have some areas to work on as you continue to grow yourself and your business. 


If you didn’t answer honestly then no amount of effort will lead to success…. but at least you learned why your struggling

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.

Are You a Pitcher or a Professional?

Okay, so let me begin by acknowledging that I’m likely to offend some long-time salespeople. There will be other people who think that “it’s just a word” so what does it matter. 

 

To the first group I’d say get over it, if you’re that easily offended then your success in sales will always be limited. To the second group I’d say if you think “it’s just a word” then think also of all the times “just a word” changed your attitude, changed your thinking, and maybe changed your level of success. Words matter!

 

The word I’m writing about today is “pitch.” 

 

A pitch might be the legal delivery of a baseball by a pitcher. It could be the slope of a roof. Sometimes it’s the quality of a sound governed by the rate of vibrations producing it. My personal favorite use of the word pitch is a high approach shot onto a golf green. 

 

But a “pitch” is never never never a professional sales presentation. Now, before some salespeople, and even some sales trainers, tell me that pitch is only a word let me stop you before you begin. It’s not just a word, it’s a huge word. 

 

It’s huge because it plays an important role in determining your mindset as a salesperson. Your actions tend to follow your words and your thoughts. When you say you’re giving a pitch, or even think it, then everything you say and do around your prospect or customer will be affected….and not in a good way.

 

Salespeople, at least professional salespeople, need to stay focused on what’s important. The only thing that really matters to professional salespeople is their customer. Professional salespeople don’t make a pitch to a prospect; they craft a presentation based on their customer’s needs. 

 

Professional salespeople make recommendations based on information. The information comes from customers as a result of a thorough discovery process. 

 

Sales isn’t a game where you make a pitch and hope the prospect takes it. It is not a game where you try to pitch something past a customer. You don’t need to “pitch” anything because if you’re a professional salesperson you don’t play games with a customer. You don’t think of a sale as a “win” for yourself. The only win in professional selling is making sure the customer gets what they need.

 

Do not kid yourself. If you’re not thinking in terms of helping a customer or prospect reach a goal or an objective then you’re not thinking like a professional salesperson. 

 

Thinking in terms of “making a pitch” puts a salesperson in the wrong frame of mind. It diminishes the importance of what a professional salesperson does. Peddlers and average salespeople make pitches. Professional salespeople make formal, professional, and meaningful presentations. 


So ditch the pitch and be the professional salesperson your prospects and customers deserve.