Telling is not Selling
I know you have heard that before, and probably understand it at some level. I’ve heard plenty of people use that phrase, and then in the next breath say, “sell the benefits not the features” – which shows that they truly do not have a full understanding of the concept. I think it might be helpful to try to comprehend this advice it at a deeper level.
First, let me tell you about a lesson I learned a long time ago. I was doing a lot of consulting work with a psychiatrist. He was a true Freudian psychiatrist: the ones who explore the problems going back to childhood. The process normally takes years and is generally very painful, while the results are marginal at best. At dinner one evening, I asked the doctor how long it took for him to accurately determine what was wrong with the patient and what needed to change in order for the patient to ease their pain. You might be surprised, but he said within two to four visits, he knew exactly what was bothering the patient and the changes the patient needed to make. My next question was, “Well why don’t you just point out what they need to do and save everyone a lot of time, money and suffering?” His answer was quite simple, “It does not do any good for me to know what they need to do. Unless they discover what they need to do, they are not going to do it. They simply will not believe or accept what I say.”
That is a very valuable lesson and you would do well to contemplate it. The same principal applies to sales. If you point out that your product, service, or method is the perfect solution to the customers’ problems, do you think the prospect will buy? It may shock you, but they will not. Nine times out of ten, they won’t accept your conclusion. They may understand what you say. They may even say they agree with what you say. But they will not act on it.
This is so important that it is worth repeating. If I provide you with some information there is a natural inclination to doubt what I say, unless you have a high degree of trust in me. You may not totally disagree, but just a slight doubt is all it takes: when there is doubt, there is no sale. Even when there is a high degree of trust, it is much more powerful for the prospects, clients, or customers to come to their own conclusion. They always have total faith in their own conclusion. You don’t have to convince them; after all, they made up their own minds.
So what is a salesperson to do? You must let them discover for themselves that your product or service is the solution they seek. And the question is, how do you do that? You don’t tell them. You simply ask them questions that will make them aware of the need for your product or service. If you ask the right questions and your product fills the need, they must come to that conclusion. Most salespeople go astray in telling the prospect they have the solution. This tactic does not work. Naturally some people will buy; if you talk to enough prospects, someone will always buy from you. But you did not sell them.
Your presentations need to be designed to bring up questions in the mind of the prospect – questions that will force them to think about their problem and seek a solution.
In my consulting and coaching work, I often see what the client needs to do and what is holding them back. Do I tell them? Rarely. If I tell them, it is my conclusion. They have no conviction that it will really solve the problem. I look for ways to get them to approach the problem from a different angle. And in most cases, they eventually arrive at the solution. Then they will move with conviction to implement it. If I tried to talk them into implementing the solution before they realized what needed to be done, any attempt to implement it would have been half-hearted and would not have worked.
So please understand that if you really want to sell someone, refrain from telling them. Ask powerful questions that move the prospect towards the discovery that your product or service is the best solution. Then let them draw their own conclusions.
Your attitude must be to help them make the best decision possible for THEM. If the best choice for them is to do something else, tell them. They will respect you and you will respect yourself. Always work from the perspective of helping the prospect find the best solution. When the best solution is your product or service, then is when you have the win/win situation. And that should always be your major concern.