A lesson from the sales doctor
Nothing is what it used to be—not society, not technology, not business. As entrepreneurs, we are in the dawn of a new era, where old thoughts and practices are constantly being replaced by bigger, better, and more innovative ones. You can see it happening everywhere, in every industry, in almost every part of the world. And it couldn’t be more obvious than in the world of sales.
Sure, the practice of buying and selling is literally ancient, but it is also an art that requires constant reinvention. Why? Because things and people change. And when they do, we better stop and think about how our sales techniques are going to change along with them. Otherwise, we won’t succeed.
That’s easy to say, but is it easy to do? The answer is yes—if we are willing to shift our mentality into the 21st century. To make this work, we have to shake things up with a new approach. Do an about-face, if you will. We need to consider what’s been done before and then do something else—maybe even the opposite. That is the definition of innovation and the meaning behind the tattered phrase “thinking outside the box.”
If your mind feels blank, don’t worry. There are ways to force yourself into thinking differently, one of which involves temporarily assuming a new career altogether—say, a doctor. The famous Greek physician and philosopher once said, “Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love Humanity.” Strangely, this quote works just as well if applied to the business world. “Wherever the art of sales is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” This wise saying simply means human beings sit at the core of our sales job. Not reputation, not profit—but people.
Treating your patients—ahem, clients
More specifically, the key to a good sales pitch is to lose the pitch altogether. It’s no longer possible to strong-arm customers into action through grand speeches and presentations—modern people are simply too smart and too well-informed for that. Plus, that worn out method is not a long-term solution for customer satisfaction or retention because it ignores the essential question at hand—What does your customer need and why?
As salespeople in today’s world, we need to understand that pain is the number one reason salespeople have jobs. Prospects seeking goods and services are trying to solve some sort of “painful” problem in their personal or professional lives, and you have the opportunity to help them. Yes, you also have the opportunity to sell them something, but that is not the primary focus. The priority here is to assess and treat, just like a medical professional would. Cool, calm, and collected, you must begin the process of cultivating your sales techniques.
Let’s go granular and consider just the sales approach. If we were to view our process in the same unbiased way doctors views their patients, we may find the art of sales becomes simpler—and considerably more effective.
Remember, at the core of a sale is a “painful” need, right? The client needs what you have, even if they don’t realize it yet. And a patient needs medical treatment from a doctor, even if they don’t know exactly what ails them.
When viewed this way, your sales technique becomes a more methodical, almost detached process that, oddly enough, brings you closer to the client—or patient, as the case may be.
Listen & Observe
This should always be the first step in the larger sales process. Sure, it’s important to tell the client what you have and why it’s so great—but first, ask the right questions and listen. Take in all the symptoms they are facing, the problems they are experiencing, and the “pains” they are suffering—then you can formulate a proper (and effective) response.
What does your client appear to need most? What are their business-related symptoms? As you begin to understand the customer better, you will find it also becomes easier to visualize their areas of need and how you can fill them.
Experts say people learn the most through observation, not argument or interaction. That means, as a salesperson, you need to learn as much as you can about a prospect. Give yourself time to slowwww down, think, and prepare to offer a solution.
Here’s your time to shine! And it’s also your time to talk, so ask questions, find out more about your customer’s situation, and fill in all the blank areas of your understanding. Once you have loaded your mind with that knowledge, you can begin to sketch out a mental picture of what the client needs to remedy their pain.
This is also the time to empathize with what your “patient” is feeling and offer them some understanding. Remind them, you are on their side. Even if they don’t make a purchase right away, they will be grateful for the opportunity to share their thoughts or frustrations. And as a result, they may very well return to you in the future with another, possibly bigger, sales opportunity.
Hopefully by now, you have listened and established a well-meaning connection with the customer, which means you can speak about their needs with some authority. As the sales representative, it’s your job to understand the symptoms of their pain. So, if you are doing your job well, it should be pretty easy to “treat” their situation with some practical solutions. This is the point where your industry knowledge, product expertise, and empathy for your prospect’s situation will become invaluable.
A good physician always checks in on patients, even when they seem to be doing well. As part of the larger service, it reminds people that you care. Their health—or rather, their experience with your product—is important enough to warrant some communication on your part.
Sometimes these follow-ups will be short and sweet, but other times you may find customers have lingering questions or concerns. And on a good day, they may even want to hear more about other solutions you can offer. This touch point is just one more opportunity to present yourself and your products in a helpful way.
Never hang up your stethoscope
We all know making a big sale is the ultimate goal, but it can’t be number one on your list. Imagine if doctors everywhere plowed through their medical diagnosis just so they could start billing? Well, the world would be a pretty unhealthy place.
Even if this aggressive approach did work, which it doesn’t, it often leads to unhappy customers and sick patients who were never heard or treated correctly in the first place. And we all know, this leads to poor connections, loss of revenue, and even the death of your business—as well as your patients.
A sales process is just that—a process. So, take your time and really assess the needs of your client and where your product fits into that equation. Every prospective customer you meet is unique, which means your approach must be as well. All you need to do is think like a doctor.
§ Be methodical
§ Be factual
§ Be thorough
§ Be compassionate
§ Be effective
Don’t let developing a more modern sales technique feel like a daunting challenge. Instead, take a tip from the one of the oldest professions in the world and let your sale “make itself” by relaxing into this time-proven process of “treating” the customer right. No matter what industry you are in, both you and your customers will feel better in the end.