How can you have win-win in competitive selling?

Last week I attended an excellent presentation by Michael Schiffner of Collective Intelligence – where he demonstrated a very interesting exercise that not only showed the directive power of verbal pre-conditioning, but which effectively rammed home the common error many in sales make – almost constantly. The fact that it got the audience to its feet and energised was an added bonus. I won’t tell you what he did, but I will encourage you to catch his act if you get the opportunity (I’ll certainly use it in some of my classes).

Michael has also contributed to a recent publication that I would recommend to all in sales and sales management – and in particular to those who manage sales management! “Emerging Trends In Professional Selling Vol 1” by Paul Sparks is an excellent compendium of innovative thinking and practice in selling – and Michael’s chapter on “Building High Performance Sales Teams” is both insightful and very well written – and as far as I’m concerned, bang on target.

Anyway, one of the points Michael stressed in his presentation was that sales aren’t made by ‘selling’ anymore; they are made by ‘assisting the customer to buy’. This was music to my ears because I have fervently believed this for most of my career (a long time) – but had often felt ‘wrong’ – at least in the beginning – when espousing this against the absolute torrent of opinion to the opposite. I can’t remember the last time I had to “close” a deal – customers just buy from me, presumably because they want to – I also try to make it easy for them, and to make them as enthusiastic as I am for the idea I’m selling. Yet much of the sales training material available today still focuses on stuff such as ‘closing technique’ – where the sales person behaves more like a barrister, trying to logically corral the customer into an inescapable ‘Yes’. That approach automatically sets the customer as combatant – someone you, the salesperson, have to beat. This effectively precludes the possibility of win-win!

Published by Malcolm Duffield

Malcolm Duffield provides advanced high-level sales coaching, ‘basic sales training’ and sales training for pre-sales and post-sales engineering staff. In ways markedly different to the typical classroom lecture approach. Like the game of ‘Go’ – selling is strategically complex, nuanced and more dependent on intuition than process. Sales – process alone is no guarantee of success because customers are humans, are fiendishly complex, intuitive and need to be met on their terms. Humans need to interact rather than merely transact. They have many needs, wants and aspirations – not all clearly stated. Having a proposal that is a good fit to the stated need is a start. Having a price that’s in the ball park will also help – but what will invariably make the difference between success and failure will be our ability to understand, connect with and provide value to the customer as a person. Focused primarily on IT sales, where solution and value, but above all human connection through respect, integrity and empathy, have to be brought together to win high-value deals - it would appear that other 'capital acquisitions' benefit from a similar approach. I have 30 years experience in such sales, and know what works and what doesn't work.