Recently, there was a boat show at a dock near our home and I decided to pop in and take a look at what’s new and exciting. It’s fun to amble down the dock and look at the many options, from motorboats to sailing boats and everything in between.
As one would expect, each boat had at least one rep aboard with a friendly smile and some product flyers. The shocker? Not a single one of these reps actually had good sales skills.
The motor boats on display were mid-range models, watercraft that an average middle to high income family can afford. Not yachts for the ultra rich, but not cheap little dinghies either. The rough price range for most models was somewhere in the upper tens to upper hundreds of thousands of dollars.
From a sales perspective, boats like this might seem on the surface to be a simple, transactional sale. But the price of a boat in this range is not something that the average family will drop without a fair amount of consideration. And in most families, both spouses are likely to have an impact on the sale, not to mention there may be children and extended family with influence.
For that reason, I would classify this level of sale as a moderately complex sale. With that in mind, I expected the sales teams to have a fair amount of training, experience, and skill in having a value-based sales conversation and managing a simple sales process.
I expected wrong.
Every single time I went on board one of the boats, the salesperson was friendly and put on a smile. They said “hi, how are you,” and engaged in idle chit chat. So far, so good. Then every single one of them did one of two things:
In order to engage further with them, I had to ask them questions. Who designed this boat, what’s good about it, what makes it better than the other boats on the dock?.
All of them went directly into the product pitch. What the boat could do, what it could not do. Its engine specs and technical features. One of them even jumped straight to telling me I’d better buy soon because the price is going up next year.
One of the plagues of the sales industry is that we make too many assumptions.
What not one of them did was ask me questions. They didn’t want to know why I was there, if I already had a boat, if I had a family, what I planned to do with a boat, or any other qualifying questions. And not a single needs-analysis or stakeholder discovery question.
Only one of them even asked me for my contact information.
Considering that I wasn’t even there to buy a boat, and since I didn’t want to receive more spam email, I declined to provide it.
If you’re cringing because you’ve seen these bad sales tactics within your own industry, good. At least you’re aware of them. One of the plagues of the sales industry is that we make too many assumptions, and it short circuits our ability to discover what we need to discover in order to be effective at sales.
As I talk about in my book, assumptions are deadly to sales. Salespeople need to know how to dig deeper, past the assumptions, and address real customer needs and wants in a way that customers understand, and communicate that value effectively.
Imagine a salesperson who asked me all those questions, who discovered that I already have a boat but am dissatisfied with it in a few ways. Who learned that my wife and children would be part of the decision-making process. Who uncovered the specific ways that we’re dissatisfied and the things that would make a boat a better investment for us. Imagine that this salesperson also led me through a discovery process in which I came to understand that some of my needs would be better met by one of their models.
Imagine that they have a trade-in program so that we could upgrade from our old boat for an achievable price. Imagine that they asked me to bring the rest of my family by so they can see for themselves. And imagine that they followed up to schedule a time for all of us to gather.
They might just have sold me a boat.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
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