Given the proliferation of information — and access to it — is today’s consumer better prepared than ever before to buy a car, choose a restaurant or find a new dentist?  In fact, with the availability of social rating services — e.g. Angie’s list, Yelp, etc. — is there truly any need (or, an opportunity) to ‘sell’ anymore?

The Background
I have a friend who’s been in sales all his life.  Recently, due to some changes in his industry and company he found himself ‘out looking’ for a ‘new thing in a new ring’ as he put it.

That lead him to work with an old friend who owns several auto dealerships.  Yes, my friend decided to add ‘sold cars’ to his long and fairly successful resume.  But, based on his recent experience, I’m not sure how long that’s going to be. 

“Bill, it’s Hell. We get people coming in (the dealership) who know what they want and what it costs us to put their dream vehicle on the road as well as I do.  They even know what the ‘car mats’ or ‘upgrade package’ costs the dealership.  Even worse, when they come in they view a salesperson as an ‘order taker’ whom they ‘negotiate’ with by saying if I don’t give them the price they want, they’ll walk and talk to a competitor who will.  It’s terrible.”

Does It Have To Be That Way?
I agree that today’s consumer has more information about most things they’re seeking buy than ever before.  And, I believe that’s a good thing. But that does NOT make selling irrelevant.  Far from it

Perhaps . . .
If whatever you do or offer is considered a ‘commodity’ by your prospect, then God help you because the ONLY basis for differentiation becomes ‘price’. And because information is so prolific,  you may not need to ‘sell’ as much as ‘tell’ someone what your fee or price is and hope (which is always a poor strategy) that you win the bidding war more often than not.

Perhaps, NOT . . .
It’s difficult to differentiate a tangible product outside of price. If you’re looking for a new car or TV or PC or . . . then it’s true that you can do much, on your own, to assess your needs, learn your options and find a price for a solution that you’ll want.

But if you’re providing a service, selling more than telling . . . is a very viable strategy.  Especially if you know how to reframe the conversation.

“Find The Flaw . . . Start The Thaw”
When a prospect, armed with knowledge and a certain ‘coolness’ (or, hubris — you choose!) begins the buyer-seller ‘dance’, you want to ask a question that helps your prospect discover that maybe they don’t know everything about the purchase they intended to make.  You don’t need to do anything more than plant the seed of doubt that what someone thinks they want may not be what they truly need.

The sooner you can plant a seed of doubt, the sooner you’ll find a basis — other than price — to get your prospect to have a ‘real’ conversation with you.

An insurance agent may hear, “What’s it cost to insure a new _________?”.  That question suggests a buyer who appears to believe that ‘all policies are the same’ and she’s ‘shopping’ for the best price to get one.  That’s the moment-of-truth.

One agent I know asks, “Before I give you a quote, may I ask if you own a giraffe?”  That interrupts the pattern of her prospect!  It also forces the prospect to ask, ‘Why?”.  That invites a conversation about how many factors other than the car help her determine the best alignment of company, coverage and cost for her clients.

That also creates an experience that demonstrates how she is both different from and better to work with than all the other agents who don’t know how or care to get out of the ‘commodity’ mentality.  See how that works?

That’s how you can move the conversation from, “What’s your price?” to one that’s better at helping both you and your prospect explore what’s driving them to want some ‘thing’ you offer and what, in spite of any previous research they’ve done, is really the best option (from you) to satisfy their need.

KEY POINT:
Asking questions, sooner vs. later, engages your prospect in a real conversation and avoids the ‘commodity-penalty-box’.

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