Manipulative Selling

There are quite a few definitions of manipulation. The one that closely fits some, likely too many, selling situations is: to change by artful or unfair means for one’s own benefit or purpose.

    

In research conducted a number of years ago, 312 of the top one percent of salespeople were studied to determine how the most highly successful sales professionals sell. Of that group, 263(84%) used little or no manipulation and 49(16%) were highly manipulative. None in the top one percent group fit into an in-between “somewhat manipulative” category.

     

The salespeople were also rated on their inclination to tell the entire truth. The non-manipulators almost always tell their prospects the whole truth about the negatives and the positives of their products. The manipulators usually tell only the positives, and often embellish those truths. Yet, both groups appear to be equally successful, at least when measured only by the number of sales earned. 

     

The main difference between the two groups is emotional. Most of the non-manipulators work considerably less than their manipulative counterparts. They’re much happier in their work and seem to be mostly free of stress. Customers seem to treat the non-manipulators with a higher level of trust and respect. Non-manipulators are also seldom if ever lied to by a prospect or customer.

     

Also studied were a group of 400 of the remaining 99 percent of all salespeople, the “average” salespeople. Using the same criteria, about 72% were classified as very manipulative, 19% as somewhat manipulative and about 9% as non-manipulative.

     

It seems clear that the only way to earn more money selling and enjoy doing it is through open, honest business relationships with customers. People unfortunately can and do make a living selling dishonestly but it wears on them over time. 

 

I hope it comes as no surprise that honesty pays. It pays both financially and emotionally.  It pays off both short term and long. Manipulative selling may help a few salespeople make some cash but it does not help them make a life. 

 

So which would you prefer? A good income and less than desirable life or a good income and a enjoyable life to spend it on?


The choice, as always, is yours to make.

Obsolete Salespeople

I heard a speaker several years ago say that in the not too distant future the sales profession wouldn’t exist. He said that everything, absolutely everything would be purchased online with no human interaction.

 

I thought that was one of those attention grabbing throw-away lines that speakers sometimes use to get the attention of their audience. (Not that I would ever do that) But he was serious, he really believed what he was saying. 

 

At the time I was certain he was wrong, in fact I thought it was a downright stupid thing to say. I’m not so sure anymore. Research shows that the Centennial Generation (that’s the generation just entering the workforce) would prefer as little contact with a person as possible when buying something.

 

Have you seen those commercials where you buy the car online and then go pick it up at a car vending machine? (I don’t know what else you would call it) That company was built for the Centennial Generation. 

 

There was a time when I couldn’t have imagined anyone buying a car without seeing and test driving it. Now I can easily imagine car dealers only existing to repair cars bought somewhere else. 

 

I still can’t believe that the sales profession will ever completely go away. But I can certainly foresee the day when there are far fewer people selling than there are today. That day is likely less than 10 years away and if you still want to be selling in 10 years then you had best start making some changes right now.

 

There are lots of very lazy salespeople around today. They are basically order takers who are unprepared, unaware of their customer’s needs, and unlikely to ever overcome an objection by proving the value of what they are selling. 

 

The good news is that they will be the first salespeople to leave the field of selling. The ones who remain will need to be professionals of the highest caliber. They personally will need to provide value to customers. They will be highly paid and much sought after professionals.

 

Think about this, if you can get everything you need, pricing information, product knowledge and customer support online then why would you need a salesperson mucking up the transaction? 

 

If you’re going to be in sales 10 years (or less) in the future you MUST add tangible benefits that a customer or prospect can’t get any other way. 

 

The question to ask yourself today is “what do I bring to the table?” 

 

Can you, with a high level of specificity state why someone should buy a particular product or service from you? I’m not asking why they should buy it from the company you work for, I’m asking why buy it from YOU as opposed to some other salesperson. 


This may sound harsh but if you can’t answer that question then you should plan on a career other than sales in the near future. Alexa, Siri or some other form of Artificial Intelligence will have taken your place.

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.

882 Hours to Succeed

I remember several years ago a player on the Minnesota Timberwolves was quoted as saying that “you can’t really expect someone to give a 100% effort for 48 minutes of each game for all 82 regular season games.” 

 

Well…I kind of expected it. Especially considering he was making around $20 million dollars a year. But I did get his point, it’s hard to go full out all the time. No one can be at peak performance all the time. Too much “stuff” gets in the way. 

 

But here’s the thing, very successful people find a way to keep that “stuff” to a minimum. 

 

If you’re a professional salesperson as of May 28, 2019 you have only 882 selling hours, or what I call “money hours”  remaining this year. 882 hours to make or break your year. Here’s how I got to the 882 number. Depending on your industry, depending on how many vacation days you take, depending on what you consider holidays and depending how many money hours you have in a day your number may vary but not by much. 

 

By my calculations there are approximately 147 selling days left in 2019 as of May 28th. 

 

Money hours are the hours that you can be face-to-face selling to customers and prospects. You can work 12 hour days but if you’re in a business to business selling role then it is unlikely you have more then 6 hours a day to actually be face-to-face with the people who make the purchase decisions for your product or service. Which of the 24 hours you have in a day are your money hours will vary by industry but 6 hours is the limit if you are a highly productive professional. 

 

That gets you to the 882 number. 

 

If you’re reading this during your money hours then you have less!

 

How you use your 882 hours will determine your level of success. A trip to the post office during money hours is incredibly expensive. It matters little who picks up the check for that lunch with your old friend, if that lunch is during your 882 hours it could cost you a small fortune. 

 

I get that dropping the kids off at school and getting that last hug before you start your day is a priceless gift. I just want you to understand it’s cost in terms of money hours if you’re doing it during your 882 hours. It’s a choice I hope you’re blessed enough to be able to make, I also hope it’s a well informed choice for you.

 

If you’re knocking off for the day at noon for an afternoon of golf that’s a choice too. If you happen to win 20 bucks from your golfing buddies you may want to hold off on celebrating. If that round of golf was happening during your 882 money hours it might be the most expensive round of golf you’ll ever play. 

 

As of May 28th there are 5208 hours left in the year but only 882 of them are money hours. That’s less than 20% of your remaining 2019 hours. How will you invest those hours? Will you let “stuff” get in the way of your success? Will you accept the false “fact” that you can’t be at the top of your game for every one of those 882 hours? 


Or will you do what top performing professionals do and develop a plan to maximize your use of those 882 hours? I strongly encourage you to develop your plan as soon as possible and here’s one final suggestion, don’t use money hours to do it.


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.

 

 

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. 

You Gotta Make The Call – Part Two

This is Part Two of a two-part post on prospecting for new business by Cold Calling new accounts. I  hate to call these types of contacts cold calls because if they are completely cold then you’re handicapping yourself unnecessarily. A better description would be Prospective Account calls but that doesn’t have the same ring to it. 

 

Just so we all understand and are on the same page we’ll use the better known “Cold Call” for now. In this post we will focus on cold calling in person.

 

I was reading the local newspaper on my iPad the other day and was startled to see a headline exclaiming that a salesperson had been shot dead while prospecting for new business. Apparently he was asking a receptionist if he could speak with the owner of the business and the receptionist pulled out a gun and shot him on the spot. 

 

Now that’s what I call a cold call!

 

Okay, so I didn’t really see that headline the other day. In fact I’ve never seen a headline like that. I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen a headline about a salesperson being shot by a receptionist while prospecting for business either. 

 

And yet there were undoubtedly salespeople reading that paragraph and saying to themselves, “I knew it.” They knew cold calling could get them killed. At least that’s the way it appears when you watch most, yes most, people who make their living selling. You would think walking into a business that hasn’t done business with them in the past was as dangerous as walking into a war zone. 

 

I guess in the world of sales that’s called “call reluctance.” I think that’s being way too kind. It’s fear, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of looking or sounding stupid. 

 

It is fear of hearing NO from someone who either doesn’t like your product or has never heard of it. But guess what? Selling is not about going around collecting orders from people you know and people who are already sold on whatever it is you’re selling. 

 

Selling is converting someone with a neutral or negative attitude about you, your products or service into a positive one. Selling means interacting with people you might not otherwise go near. Selling means overcoming whatever fears make you insecure when introducing yourself to people you’ve never met before. 

 

Cold calling by definition is reaching out to people you’ve never met before. It’s no mystery why less successful salespeople hate it, they hate it because they fear it. It’s why so many salespeople go to networking events and only talk to people they already know.

 

In years past cold calls were truly cold. You called people by picking their names out of a phone book or you showed up at a business that “looked” like they might be a prospect. It burned a lot of time but a whole lot of salespeople did it exactly like that. 

 

Today, a cold call is far from cold. Or at least it should be. As I mentioned in my last post if you’re not doing research on prospects before you contact them you’re wasting their time and yours. 

 

You should never walk into a business and ask for the person who buys….whatever you’re selling. You should know their name. You should know it because you found it during your online research or from a referral source. 

 

You should have some idea if they are a likely prospect and more importantly, why they may benefit from your product. If your research or referral indicates they may benefit from your product only then do you make the call.

 

But…just showing up expecting anyone to drop what they are doing to talk to you is the height of arrogance, at least in my opinion. I used to tell the receptionist in my office that one of her most important jobs was shielding me from drop in salespeople. 

 

So don’t drop in…drop off. I strongly recommend a two-step approach to cold calling in person. The first step is to simply drop off “correspondence” for the person you believe to be a prospect. The word “correspondence” is key. Literature, brochures, information, etc. are all words that mere product peddlers would use. 

 

A day or two after you’ve dropped of your correspondence make a follow up call to your prospect. If the receptionist answers let her know that you were there the other day and you’re following up on some correspondence with (insert name here). When the prospect answers introduce yourself and let them know you are following up on your correspondence. Ask if they have any questions. 

 

At this point a number of things can happen. They may have questions or they may not have even seen it. If they have questions your call is not at all cold anymore. Your only task now is to interest them further. If they haven’t seen the correspondence then give an explanation on what the correspondence was and offer to resend it. 

 

When you follow up a day or two later you can simply tell the receptionist that you’re following up on some correspondence that (insert name here) requested. 

 

The two-step drop off approach requires more effort, it also greatly improves results. This is another example of sales being the lowest paying easiest job or one of the highest paying challenging jobs in the world. 


The good news is you get to decide which one it will be for you.