When you hear the word ‘sell’, what are your thoughts?

If you’re like many in the 21st century, the word ‘sell’ or ‘salesman’ has almost become taboo. To verify this, just look at the job titles we see today for most sales professionals:

  • Consultant
  • Product Assistant
  • Product Manager
  • Product Expert
  • Customer Designer
  • Customer Product Specialist
  • Blah, blah, blah

 I appear to be in the minority when it comes to the way I view the words ‘sell’ and ‘salesman’. In fact, it really, really bugs me that so many supposed ‘sales professionals’ shirk from telling people what they actually do (hence silly job titles). And because they have this mentality—this idea that they aren’t really in sales but are rather ‘customer consultants’ (or whatever cheesy title you can name), they inadvertently commit ‘sales suicide’ because of their subconscious negativity towards their very own profession.

What’s the Purpose of Your Profession?

I was reminded of this at a recent Sales/Marketing/ Web 2.0 seminar I taught to professionals in the pool and spa industry. The problem that many of the business owners I spoke to at his event have is that when they set appointments to meet with people in their home, they make it out to sound like they are ‘just coming out to show them their pools and discuss with the homeowner their options’. Frankly put, this paradigm is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, which is why I raised many an eyebrow when I explained to these business owners how my company goes about the sales process.

Education First

Selling, whether in a home, at an office, or in a retail store starts with education. In 2010, this is called Sales and Marketing 2.0. We’ve discussed this topic more than any other on The Sales Lion, yet its importance will never get enough attention. The reason for this is because when a customer, before they even speak with a sales person, is thoroughly educated on the product by that sales person’s company (website), then the chances of the sale go up drastically.

For example, just the other day I went on a sales appointment at a beautiful farm located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. After meeting for a little over an hour the homeowner gave me a deposit and  explained his reasons for making such a quick decision. This is what he said:

“Over the last 45 days or so, it has snowed about 50 inches here on the farm. During this time, I’ve haven’t really been able to go anywhere so I’ve watched just about every dag-gum video you’ve ever made about swimming pools.”

His statement gave us both a laugh but this man is the perfect example of what I call an informed, Web 2.0 customer. But the fact that he was so thoroughly educated on our product, and me, before I ever came out to his house is just the foundation for the success of the sale. The other half is that I told him, just as I tell everyone, this simple statement before I came out.

“I’m glad you’ve done so much research sir on our website. The reason why we go to such lengths in making sure you are informed regarding our products before we ever even come to your home is because when I actually do come out to your house I’m there to spend less time teaching you and more time finding out exactly what is going to fit you and your family’s needs for years to come. Once we find out what those needs are, I’m going to give you my best price on everything for you at that time. I do things this way because it’s important for you to understand that when I come out there it’s my goal to earn your business at that time. In other words, I’m there to sell you a pool.”

Can you now see why so many eyebrows raise when I teach this to other sales professionals?

I see this as the most honest, straighforward, effective sales approach in the market today. It’s honest because in reality, what customer doesn’t know the true goal of a sales person? Truth is, everybody knows the sales person’s intent yet no one talks about it. This just make no sense to me at all.

Set the Tone

Think about this analogy for a second. What’s the difference between a class where a teacher says, “Class, today we’ll be talking about George Washington” versus “Class, today we’ll be talking about George Washington and then at the end of the class we’ll be having a pop-quiz on what was covered.”

Now you tell me, which of the two classes is going to pay more attention, take more notes, and be more involved in the discussion? Of course the class that knows it has a test coming that day.

Customers, when told by the sales person that it’s their goal to earn the customer’s business that day, tend to act just like students in a classroom setting. Simply put, they pay more attention and do what’s necessary to make sure they are as informed as possible. Let me give you another example of how such a statement works.

The Things Customers Will Say

A while back I had a sales appointment a few hours from my home with a husband and wife. When I set the appointment up with them on the phone, I made it very clear that the purpose of my visit was to earn their business that night. And after meeting with them for a couple hours in their home, I finally gave them the total price for their project and this is how the rest of the conversation unfolded:

Husband: This all looks pretty good Marcus. Would it be OK if we let you know tomorrow?

(I sat there pensively)

Wife: (Turning to husband) Honey, this young man didn’t drive all the way here for you to tell him something tomorrow.

(I continued to just sit there)

Husband(looking a little baffled): You’re right dear, let me go get the checkbook.

Obviously, I was happy to make the sale on this occasion but I was even happier to see how my honesty on the phone, and the fact that I had set expectations, led to the immediate sale.

A New Paradigm

When I teach this principle to others, they often fear that telling a customer that it’s your goal to earn their business and sell them something might end up turning the customer off. I agree that such a concern is valid, but only when the sales professional has not taken the time to properly ensure the client is educated, nor have they thoroughly, by asking proper questions, defined the wants and needs of the customer.

Just the other day, I was speaking on the phone with one of the readers of the blog and we talked about this very subject. The day after we discussed this ‘new sales paradigm’ the individual called me, ecstatic that  he had been able to use this honest and bold technique and the surprising success that came with such honesty.

But when it comes down to it, this post is really about being proud of what you do. Be proud of the fact that you sell, market, and teach your consumers better than anyone else. Make no apologies for wanting and being the best. And if you don’t think that such a paradigm change will work for you, I just ask that you give it a chance and the change that will be wrought in your sales and marketing identity will take a quantum leap forward.

What are your thoughts on this ‘honest’ sales approach? Do you have struggles or triumphs regarding this topic? As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

6 thoughts on “Is the Word ‘Sell’ a Bad Word in Sales 2.0 Vernacular?

  1. Hello Marcus.

    Great article. As usual you present an interesting point.
    One that I both agree and disagree with.

    I think it is very important to our selves that we understand that we are salesmen, we aren’t their to just present our solution and then cross our fingers. We are there to sell.

    If you believe anything else, you shouldn’t be in the sales industry.
    You will probably make a lot of friends as the kindest salesman on the block, but that is about it, you sadly won’t make many deals.

    But, the reason it has become taboo to call ourselves salesmen is because it has become taboo to the people we are selling to. No one really wants to talk to a salesman as all we then think about is “He/she is going to try and steal my money. Well, I won’t let them!”

    I usually present myself as a consultant. Everyone loves consultants as their job is to help people. If your customers see you as a consultant, I find that they are more inclined to listen to what you have to purpose.

    Thanks again for the article, I look forward to reading more!

    Looking To Business

    • Daniel, thanks so much for stopping by my friend. I’m glad you commented here because it’s a topic that’s quite worthy of debate, and I know I’m in the minority here with some of my thoughts. I would agree that no one wants to talk to a salesman, but I would change the phrase to ‘dishonest’ or ‘misleading’ salesman. In other words, people don’t like it when a sales guy acts like they are not trying to sell them anything when in reality they are attempting to manipulate them into a sale. It is my strong belief that if we are absolutely honest and frank as sales professionals, this approach will actually help the prospect/customer trust the sales guy because in the end, honestly always pays off. But again, your points are very valid Daniel and well said. Thanks buddy.
      .-= Marcus Sheridan´s last blog ..Is the Word ‘Sell’ a Bad Word in Sales 2.0 Vernacular? =-.

  2. I love your article, Marcus! I’m an “Inbound Marketing Specialist” otherwise known as Salesperson. The sales process is an exploration to see if your products/services can help the prospective customer meet their business goals. If they can’t, then it’s not a fit. I think your transparency and your intent to help people comes across loud and clear, and this is a huge reason why your business is so successful.

    • Kristen! So great to see you on here and thanks for commenting. I think you mention a key– transparency and clarity of intent– consumers really like and appreciate that quality in a sales professional. :-)

  3. hi Marc, I totally agree with you. Today’s consumer is much more educated than earlier. And because of some ‘dishonest’ or ‘misleading’ salesmen, the term “Sales” has become a taboo.
    However soon “Consultant” word would also be. Today if a consultant (read Salesman) calls me, I know in my mind that he wants to sell something and then I keep guessing what would it be and his chances of making to a meeting are also bleak.
    Today Sales word is taboo, tomorrow consulting would be… Instead of creating another words – synonyms of Sales, we should all sell what we really think is worth selling. This will make the products and services better, and in turn Salesmen and consumer happy.
    A bad product with a star salesman does not do any good to the product or the salesman. The world needs change, enough of dishonesty and faking. Thanks for enlightening and making world a better place to live in. Happy Selling!!!

    • You bring up great points Santosh. Someone that calls them-self a ‘consultant’ is typically a cloaked sales person and everyone knows it. Why be embarrassed or misleading about who you really are?? It makes no sense to me.

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