Professional sales people instinctively know that to be effective they must focus on the needs of their prospects, customers, or clients and not on their product or service. This is often referred to as needs-satisfaction selling. Sales Professionals have been trained to place their client’s interests first by asking questions using a needs analysis and to finalize the sale only when the customer perceives that their needs will be satisfied. Often referred to as a “consultative selling method”, it has been the engine of professional selling since the 1970’s when it was first introduced by Xerox as Professional Selling Skills.
There have been hundreds of books written about selling. A quick Google search on ‘Books About Sales’ brings up about 202 million entries. Their authors include highly respected sales experts like Neil Rackham, Robert Miller, Stephen Herman, Brian Tracy, Jeffrey Gitomer, Art Sobczak, Anthony Iannarino, and Tony Alessandra. If you understand and apply what you learn from any of these authors, you will gain insight into how you can increase your sales success.
I recently read The Outward Mindset©, subtitled “seeing beyond outselves”, produced by The Arbinger Institute. Arbinger helps people and organizations achieve breakthrough results through a profound change in mindset. In my view, they have a vital message that business professionals, parents, clergy-people, educators and social workers must read. It is an extremely practical, simple, and meaningful approach to leadership at any level. It does not focus on sales, sales training, or sales technique. And that’s why every person who engages in any aspect of sales or customer service should read The Outward Mindset.
The Exciting Future of Sales depends on sales professionals who can collaborate and communicate with others by having an outward mindset. They must be able to change the way they see and regard their own connections with and obligations to others. It is simply a matter of learning to see beyond yourself. It elevates the consultative sales approach to a new level of effectiveness. Here is an example of how an outward mindset can apply to a salesperson who wants to help a cleint:
John has a meeting scheduled with his client, Adam, whose company has unexpectedly told him that he cannot renew contracts unless they have been reviewed by senior management. Adam has lost his authority to renew contracts without approval. Clearly, Adam feels his judgement and professionalism are being threatened and has concluded that his job is on the line. Adam tells John about his inability to approve John’s renewal and that he wants a completely new proposal that justifies why he should renew his contract with John.
Now John feels threatened because he thinks Adam feels that he has been price gouging him or thinks that John takes his business for granted. John wants to react quickly, but what he really needs to do is to think with an open mindset. He needs to ask himself what it must feel like to be Adam. Adam is clearly threatened by this new procedure. How can he help Adam gain the confidence of senior management to convince them that he is professional and competent? How might he help Adam ensure senior management that he is acting in the best interests of the company with every contract he renews.
Having an open mindset like this might be difficult for a sales person who has always won business by dropping the price at the first sign of resistance. Or he or she might have been trained that they need to establish a better ‘relationship’ with their customers and interpret that to mean they should entertain their clients, take them to football games, or to lunch and dinner more often.
With an outward mindset, John decides that he can help Adam learn how to negotiate better with his boss and with upper management because Adam has never had to do that before. And, John knows of a negotiation seminar he can invite Adam to attend with him. He is focused on helping Adam regain his confidence.
Addressing the question, “what must it be like to be Adam,” is far different than having a closed mindset that will cause John to want to make deals, delay the deadline for the decision, or figure out how to manipulate Adam to do what he wants Adam to do.
Sales professionals face an exciting future when they realize that the mark of a professional sales person is not tied to his or her ego and their need to be the best. It is understanding that professional selling is not about selling; it is about helping the buyer succeed.
An Outward Mindset can guide you into an enhanced understanding of professional selling today and in the future. It should be recommended reading for all sales, marketing, and customer service leaders and their teams.
Harrison Greene is the founder of Unique Selling Systems, focused on helping senior sales management prepare their sales people for the exciting future of sales. He is the author of The Exciting Future of Sales blog.