Selling Techniques: Forget What You Sell

selling techniques

Learning Selling Techniques With An African Proverb

“To a man with an ax,” says an old African proverb, “everything looks like a tree.” A corollary observation might be: “If you’ve got an ax in your hand, all you notice is trees.” That’s fine if your customer’s problem is trees that need chopping. But what If it’s something else? Approaching him with an ax might not be your best strategy. So what are the best selling techniques?

There is a tendency for salespeople investigating an opportunity to focus first, and often exclusively, on problems they know their company is specifically equipped to solve. A wireless communications company rep will look for problems in the customer’s existing wireless setup. A food service company rep will investigate that same customer’s cafeteria operation. This sounds reasonable.

To some degree, all salespeople are specialists. It makes intuitive sense to concentrate on problem areas where we have expertise. But honing in exclusively on those areas tends to pull you into “pitchman” mode. It pulls your attention away from areas of your customer’s business that may be of more concern to him or her. Sometimes, these areas can seem unrelated to the solutions you offer. This type of specialization limits the value that you can bring to the customer.

Yet many sales professionals are devoted to this strategy. Eager to ax their product line, they ask a simple question. “What problem does the customer have that I am good at solving?” Then they take it upon themselves to locate the problem that their solution is best designed to fix.

selling techniques

Ending in Disaster

This is a classic error in focusing on what we believe are the customer’s problems. We do this because we are carrying an ax. There is only one scenario in which it does not end in disaster.

Sometimes, the problem with your selling techniques is that your solution is designed to fix is the correct one. It’s the problem keeping the customer up at night. It’s the very thing that he is focused on as he puts out fires and grows his business. Only in that scenario, does the customer open the door and say, “Fantastic! It’s the axman.”

Rarely, it happens. However, it’s not something you can count on. Most of the time, when you approach a customer with a pre-arranged solution (your trusty ax), you’ll find that:

  1. The customer doesn’t have the problem you’re ready to fix.
  2. He has the problem, but he doesn’t understand its importance.
  3. The customer sees the problem as an important symptom. However, you and your trusty ax aren’t designed to fix it.

Selling Techniques 101: Put Away Your Ax

That’s right. Try to forget, at least for the moment, what you sell. Specifically, the question has to be, “What are the customer’s biggest problems?” Focus on the driving concerns of the buyer without regard to your products or services. When you do, lights go on, doors open and possibilities explode. You will be able to see the vast forest beyond the trees. Moreover, you’ll find that doing so dramatically expands your opportunity to impact your customers in ways you may have never imagined.

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