Consultative Selling

Consultative selling has been around since the 1970’s and refers to the technique a sales person uses to discover the needs, trends and opinions of a prospect. This type of sales training is immensely under-valued. Sales is not about having the gift-of-gab or that mega-watt smile. It is a consistently applied approach to understanding and applying the method to locate potential clients, discovering their needs and delivering products or services to satisfy their needs.

If I’m in the market to buy a car, I’m disappointed when the sales person lamely shows me the cool nets in the trunk space that will hold my groceries. Really? This is all you got? Why wouldn’t they ask if I will be toting children and if safety is a concern. (safety stats) Why wouldn’t they ask if I would like to resell a car often or keep it till the wheels fall off? (resale value versus repair costs) What if my budget needs to consider the costs of insuring a 2-door versus a 4-door. (the rising costs of insurance) These are the things that matter. I know the new car will smell good and drive well. I might want to know the interest rates they are offering. I might observe how easy it is to get in and out of the showroom and their respect of my time.

I’ve never understood the notion that as a sales person I have to sneak information past a “salesperson filter.” This is where the sales process is misunderstood. Somewhere along the line buyers began to believe that sales people would somehow make them buy something they didn’t want or need. It would be of great value to consumers and buyers to act completely opposite and be open-minded to probing questions. You might find what you are looking for faster or perhaps even find a better alternative if you are open about what you need. We may discover together that I’m not a good fit for your company, but I might be able to direct you to vendors that can assist you. You might not know the answers to my questions, but I can help you track your stats to determine the best way to buy. Didn’t know your mailer could have been produced for less money just by altering the size? Maybe you thought I was being nosy. Nope, just trying to figure out how I can help you…not sell you.

Looking for a job…

When was the last time you tried to sell yourself?

The typical preparation would be to prepare your résumé, get your profile out in the social media channels, contact your current relationships for introductions and prepare to contact and interview with prospective employers.

You can only put so much information on a résumé, your education, work history, accomplishments, maybe some personal information. Then, if you’re fortunate enough to land a personal interview, you only have a short amount of time to impress the interviewer. But, most-likely, a prospective employer will only scan your résumé, and if nothing interesting catches their attention, you’re filed away with the myriad of other job seekers. You become just another piece of paper in a file…but you know you’re much more than that piece of paper. You know you have so much to offer and you could fit in well and make a difference. You can solve problems ~ you know you’d be an asset to the company. You just know it…but how do you convince that one person of that?

Being educated, accomplished, likeable or interesting isn’t always enough. You can have the skill set the job requires, but then, maybe you didn’t graduate from the right school, or you’re wearing an outfit that’s too conservative or perhaps too sophisticated. How would you know? You can research the company in earnest before your interview and think you know enough about the company, their culture and what they’re looking for, but your first challenge is to impress the interviewer.

Searching for a job is challenging, humbling and at times, scary. There is a fine line between selling yourself and bragging, and then you have the challenge of asking the right questions to provide the information the interviewer needs to make a scrutinized decision. But, when a job search stretches on, especially in down-turns in the economy and you become frustrated, you certainly can’t come across as pushy or desperate to a prospective employer.

Here’s where I’m going with this blog.

Professional sales people sell themselves everyday…that is their job. We manage current client expectations while at the same time searching for new opportunities to keep our manufacturing plants open, and not only ourselves employed, but our co-workers employed. Our résumé might be our equipment list…not a complete example of what we can do for a client, but a form of introduction non-the-less. We are active in the social media channels but those mediums work only if clients are searching for us. Nobody has unlimited time to wait to be discovered, not the person looking to be employed, or the salesperson looking for work. It’s good to have those channels covered, but the reality is sales people must be more pro-active.

So, if I’m (interesting/knowledgeable/funny/?) enough on the telephone or on paper without sounding like I’m selling or pushy or desperate, I might get an appointment. But, if I don’t nail the client’s need on the head, on what sometimes is my only opportunity, I must continue to find another person who will take the time to see me. If you’ve ever looked for a job, you know how difficult it is to get an interview AND land a job. There is not a rep here at Ussery Printing who I would classify as slick. As a group we are veterans of this industry but still bumble our words on occasion and sometimes don’t get our message across. We’re human, complicated and sometimes fragile….but we’re also resilient, positive and we know we can solve problems ~ we know we would be an asset to your company…we just know it.

Why’d you have to be so Mean?

I’ll put it right out there…I dated a bit before getting married. I dated all kinds of guys because I was still discovering what I liked or valued most in men. There were lots of dates where the guys were nice enough, but we didn’t have much in common, so there wasn’t a second date.

Sales appointments are kinda like first dates. You really don’t know if you’re going to like the person you’re meeting. In dating or business, you can’t count on being liked or valued; however, good manners simply require you to be respectful of a person, regardless if there will be another date or meeting.

I had an appointment yesterday with a young woman who was adversarial and confrontational and I have no idea why. She was unhappy with everything I brought to the appointment and told me so over and over again, even though I spent over an hour researching and pulling samples I thought she would like. For this I apologized and asked to meet again, which lead to another series of insults and posturing that indicated I must be stupid. The third attack was her assessment of on-line printers versus printers (like me) who, just happened to be sitting in her office with the intention of trying to help her. She made it clear to me at the end of our meeting that I was of no value to her.

I could only surmise after leaving her office, that she must be going through printers as I imagine she goes through dates. If her lack of any respect towards me was based on the fact that I could be replaced with a dozen other vendors, well, good luck to her then. I imagine she will run out of options someday, both personally and professionally.

Choices…

I was just reading the responses to a discussion titled, “How do you choose your supplier of printing consumables?” The responses ranged from the obvious issues concerning quality and pricing, making sure the supplier is capable of the work, reputable, and of course, the ever important relationship.

Years ago we solicited bids to finish out a driveway and add a carport. We choose our supplier based on his knowledge and recommendations to our project. His company was capable and reputable, and his pricing was in-line with our budget. He did what he said he was going to do and did a great job on the driveway and carport. We ended up with a quality product, within our budget (not the cheapest), finished on-time and we were completely satisfied. The relationship developed during the project because we were treated fairly and with respect.

We’re considering another project and thought about getting another bid, but then decided…why? We like this company, this man, his work. Why would I not reward him by working with him again?

Kia’s Question…

How do you negotiate with your printing suppliers?

Kia was looking for funny stories but ended up with a rather frustrated group of printers and print producers. Her take on the conversation was meant to be satirical, but satire can be offensive to some people. Satire is risky in that, if it makes you uncomfortable, there might be a smidgen of truth to the story.

I’m careful in printstories to try to relate stories that don’t offend. During my 30 years of printing there are many conversations that I’d rather not repeat. Sometimes the misinformation a novice brings to the table does make you want to smack your head against the wall. But that is actually an opportunity if you’re up for the challenge. And, there it is, sometimes as sales people we are not. We sometimes get tired of the people who are in positions where you think their knowledge base would allow them to at least spec a job. Lately, I’ve worked with designers who can’t even tell me how many pages are in their catalog. Or, a print buyer who comes to look at a job on press and states, “when will you people learn to print in RGB?”

As a seasoned rep, I ask questions to determine the production knowledge level of the person I’m working with. Long ago, I gave up believing in the title of the person. I just can’t trust those words. I need to know going into a negotiation how much of my time and effort is required to work on a project with this person and the level of difficulty in the job itself.

The art of negotiating? It is, at its best, when the buyer and the seller respect each other and have empathy for each person’s position. Management is putting pressure on the buyer to bring in the best price. The seller is trying to make a fair living and a fair profit to stay in business. The problems in negotiating occur when respect or empathy are missing…on either side of that table.

Insanity ~

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is thinking you can do the same things over and over and then expect a different result. Let’s think about this.

What to lose weight in the new year? Of course you do. But realize you can’t lose weight if you keep eating, drinking and exercising the same as before. Something has to change.

What to have more stamina, become more toned and flexible? Well, you have to move your body differently someway, somehow, or nothing much will change.

Want to be better at your job, increase your sales, or find satisfaction at work? Then, you can’t behave the same way you did last year.

What are you willing to change to make 2012 different from 2011?

Communicate ~

I was at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and the clerk told me they couldn’t locate it. She then looked behind me and said “next.” I moved to the side for a moment, frozen, not really knowing what to do. As I stood there my face became red and I felt the embarrassment of being dismissed so I left the store and drove home. I was too frustrated to talk to anyone in management, I was speechless.

Ten minutes later my phone rang and the pharmacist said they had located my prescription. I shared my experience with being dismissed and the pharmacist then shared with me that they had everyone looking for the prescription when I was there and they couldn’t figure out why I had left the store. Wouldn’t that have been good information for the clerk to share with me?

There are various ways to communicate, and they include not only verbal and written communication but also subtle eye contact and body language. Usually the communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender. What have you left unsaid lately?