The problem with traditional sales programs

Today I got a call from someone trying to sell me his professional services.

He began the call with a line I had heard dozens of times, “Mr. Neitlich, the purpose of this call is to determine if there is a fit for us to work together. Could I ask that at the end of the call you tell me whether it makes sense to keep talking or not?”

It’s a reasonable request, but it is also a standard selling technique called the “up-front contract.” David Sandler popularized this approach in his now ubiquitous sales training system.

The problem with this kind of scripted approach is obvious: This professional immediately labeled himself as a salesperson. By using scripted formulas, he became a vendor, not someone who could ever be an authentic, trusted advisor to me.

Most sales training programs suffer from this problem of inauthenticity, even tackiness. The double-reverse close, scale-of-one-to-ten technique, and dozens of other obvious attempts to close the sale all come across as superficial and even desperate.

Highly-educated, sophisticated professionals need a different approach. Most importantly, they need to focus more on business development than on traditional sales. They need to educate their target market about the problems they can solve, and build credibility and trust over time. That way, done right, prospects see their value and come to them.

When this happens, everything changes. You no longer have to sell. You don’t have to pitch your services or chase prospects. Your prospects are already qualified (for the most part),¬† and so you can have a natural conversation to determine if it makes sense to work together or not. If so, great! If not, maybe the prospect can refer you to someone.

Of course, there are some conversations you can and should have to move the discussion forward and ensure that your prospects make a decision in an appropriate time frame. But these conversations don’t need to be scripted or formulaic. They can be natural.

In conclusion: You don’t need to sell. Not at all.

You do need to get visible in your marketplace as the go-to, credible professional who can solve important problems. Once you do, everything falls into place naturally.

If you are a sophisticated professional who serves as a trusted advisor to your clients, please say “so long” to traditional sales programs.

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