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!