What is The Act of Selling?
Is “sales through service” cliché, or the route toward becoming a trusted source?
What is the act of selling? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is “to give up (property) to another for something of value (such as money).” I would argue that there is much more to selling that is often overlooked.
In our industry, it is rare to only focus on the act of selling an item when engaged with a customer. The customer interaction is a much more lengthy and delicate exchange than simply trying to sell an item to someone. It is not about the products that you have for sale, and it is not about the profit that may be made; it is the connection that builds trust and respect that inevitably results in one entity doing business with another. The true art of selling is learning to master the interaction between you and the customer.
Think about your motivators. Is it always price related? Imagine that two competing sellers have the same product for sale at the same price. What are the determining factors that make you want to purchase from one over the other? A lot of things are instantly considered to come up with the answer.
Here are some of the more common factors to be analyzed:
- Proximity. How far do I have to go to get to the seller, or how long will it take to be delivered?
- Reputation. Which sellers have a better reputation, better reviews, and more experience?
- Added value. What other value does the seller provide?
- Quality. They may be the same items, but are they in the same condition?
- Extra fees. Delivery charges, taxes, and other fees make a difference.
These are just a few examples of factors that can affect the decision to buy from one seller over another.
Selling yourself to your customers
Let’s take this one step further. How do you sell yourself to your customers? If you stop to think about it, selling yourself and your capabilities to your customers is something that you do daily. The best way to sell yourself to your customer is to prove that you have their best interest at the core of your interactions with them. This does not mean bragging about what you can offer outside of products and services. Selling yourself is often accomplished through your actions, not your words. Once you have sold yourself to your customers, selling products and services to them becomes much easier.
Typical “cold call” sales efforts can sometimes feel almost like an adversarial interaction. The seller must prove the value of what they are selling to the customer. The customer must quantify, clarify, and often object, to find out more about the product and the seller so that they can gauge their interest in buying. This is tiresome for both parties. There is often not enough time to establish enough of a rapport that allows for trust to build. The old adage of “coming across like a used car salesman” describes this scenario.
Fortunately for us, our industry is filled with compassionate people that are looking out for the well-being of pets and pet owners alike. It will resonate if we can prove to these compassionate customers that we are looking out for them. The best way to sell yourself to your customer is through your actions. Demonstrate a genuine interest in what is best for them and their business. Figure out how to align yourself with their purpose. From there, you can start to offer suggestions that may make their purpose easier to attain.
Finding the common ground is the start of showing that you are focused on their goals and not just selling to them. Proving that you have their best interest at heart is clearly demonstrated by what you are recommending and the reason why you are recommending it to them. If you merely present things you think will make sense to them, they may still be guarded. But when you present something that you are confident will help your customer, and explain how it will help them, they may realize that you understand their business, interests, goals, etc.
This simple act takes the conversation in a whole new direction. It also allows you to get closer to your customer. They will often react to your reasoning with their thoughts on what you are offering. They may even tell you why they think it is essential. Even if they disagree, try to get them to tell you why they do not agree. Ask questions. Show them that you genuinely want to understand. Doing this will teach you more than you knew when you started the conversation. You can then use this new information to deepen the connection over time. Putting the customer first and showing that you put them first is the best way to sell yourself to your customers.
Now imagine the same scenario of two sellers selling the same product for the same price. Who will you buy from? If you have a relationship with one of the sellers and not the other, the answer becomes easier. In fact, some of the factors discussed earlier may not even come into play. The fact that there is established trust is sometimes enough.
Sell yourself by providing the best service that you can to your customers. Work to establish trust during your interactions. Focusing on what is best for the customer, and letting them know that their best interest is your focus, will get you out of a sales situation and into a conversation with someone that views you as a trusted resource. When you get to this level of interaction, the list of deciding factors becomes less relevant to your customers. You become the trusted partner that all other competitors must sell against.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/sturti