sell. don’t beg.

One of the analogies I probably wear out is comparing bad salespeople to the kids selling ads for school yearbooks.

At several times in my career, I was in charge of the marketing for local small businesses. In each job, I would get a call (sometimes a visit) each year from a member of the local middle or high school yearbook staff. The exchange would normally go something like this:

Me: Hello
Them: (mumble) Wanna buy a yearbook ad?
Me: No
Them: Bye

Aside from the fact that yearbook ads are not marketing (they’re donations), I may have entertained the idea of buying “an ad” if the kid had prepared SOME sort of sales presentation that focused on my marketing needs. You know, something like: the ad will be seen by parents who are your customers, people will see these ads in 20 years, etc.  Anything in additon to just asking.

These days I hear lots of salespeople say, “I asked them if they wanted to buy _____ and they said no.”  

If your sales pitch is just asking, you’re missing alot of potential sales.
(There’s also the problem of salespeople who just talk to the customer and never ASK for the sale — but that’s another post)

If you’re just asking people to buy, then you’re not a salesperson. You’re a beggar. It’s a small distinction, but an important one.

Most of this problem (and most sales problems) can be traced back to the salesperson’s motivation. Are they wanting to make a sale or are they trying to solve the customer’s problem?

People just trying to make a sale do make a few (the yearbook always has ads in it) — but problem solvers are always successful salespeople.

Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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4 comments on “sell. don’t beg.
  1. Mark says:

    Finding a client that will take advice about their advertising is very very rare. They know it all. (Especially someone with “marketing” in their title.)
    Name a salesperson who solves needs and works on commission. Unless they inherited an established client list, (father/kid insurance comes to mind) they will starve.
    But maybe the order-takers should be allowed to starve and let the true problem-solvers make more than the CEO.
    All salespeople should be paid a salary that will give them a comfortable lifestyle. Salespeople only “sell” until they reach that level anyway.

    • I’m not saying the salesperson should offer advice (there’s another pet peeve — ad salespeople with the title “marketing consultant”)

      I’m saying the salesperson will be more successful if the client knows (or at least thinks) that the salesperson is there for more than just shaking them down to reach that month’s sales goal.

      The reason those people with marketing in their title won’t take advice is that the salespeople have trained them to be on guard by continuously trying to sell irrelevant products/services that don’t meet their needs.

      When a salesperson does take the time (and it does take time) to build a relationship with the client, that’s when this process works. When the salesperson takes the time to learn a little about the business and the buyer and only presents products/services that make sense to buy instead of mass faxing (this dates my local media buying days) whatever this month’s sales promotion is.

      Sales are nothing more than relationships. If the inherited list is there or the salesperson works to create it, the sale is really made with the relationship. The bulk of a successful salesperson’s sales will be made off the people they have built relationships with — and who feel (real or not) that the salesperson is helping to solve their problems.

  2. Tim Holmes says:

    i whole-heartedly agree with you. and it is also important to remain loyal to your customer base!

  3. learn to catch a fish… don’t ask for a fish…this is true.. salesman should have dignity and trade mark… customers buy your product because he likes it and he needs your product.. not because he find you pity and hopeless