We frequently have conversations with prospective clients who come to us and say, “Can you teach us how to sell”? The answer is yes; there are a range of things we can teach that assist people in developing the soft skills that are associated with sales – particularly communications skills. Why sell, though? What about marketing?
However, as soon as possible I try to shift the conversation to what is far more important, and that is marketing. Sales and selling are old concepts and by themselves are really not worthwhile. Selling is basically convincing or coaxing a buyer into buying a product or service and this is a risky approach. Companies that sell are companies that overproduce something they need to get rid of. Or, they have a product or service that people won’t return to buy more of and may even complain to others about. This is because selling is all about the product or service, rather than about the buyer.
If you really want to be successful, you need to stop selling and begin marketing. Marketing is a much more modern concept that in fact has only been around since the 1950’s. When you are marketing, you are no longer trying to find the right buyers or customers for what you are selling. Rather, you are working to find the right products and services for your customers – for what they truly need. If you market well, you are actually selling superior value than your competitors. You have found what your clients really need.
Business and Understanding Client Needs
Today I received a web inquiry through our website. As usual, the request was very specific. In this case, a firm is looking for an expert coach to come in and facilitate its annual “seminar” they call it, in 2018. In 2018, they want someone to come in and do a day of business coaching with a focus on the theme of “trust.” This could be a very interesting engagement. However, as usual, I start with the assumption that the potential client has something in mind that they think they want, but it actually may not be what they truly need.
Our firm will respond tomorrow with a series of questions. Of course I can go and “sell” a day of business coaching and talk about trust – that is simple. But, if I want to market well, I need to understand the buyer. I need to know a whole bunch of things like:
- Why is the theme of “trust” important at this time?
- What is the history in the company of these “seminars?” Why do they take place, for whom and what are the outcomes you hope for?
- Why have you chosen this approach and what other kinds of events, interventions etc. have you tried in the past
- There are many more questions which I won’t list here….
The point is, I can sell, or I can market. To market, as a professional executive and business coach, part of my job is to develop a deep understanding of what my clients really need. There is a major difference, and my best clients are businesses who have figured this out or are well underway in the process of figuring out how to provide their clients with meaningful and lasting value that they will ultimately want more of and tell others about.
- Consider – are you focused more on your needs of converting your products and services into cash, or are you ore focused on satisfying the needs of your buyers?
- Review your primary product and service offerings. How can they be improved to focus more on your buyer’s needs?
- Develop a strategy and a capacity to get to know your buyers and understand what they truly need. Move beyond immediately jumping at what they think they want when they first contact you or buy just one of your products.
- Focus intentionally on developing a culture of marketing, and stop merely selling. The result will be much less work for you, much happier customers and much larger profits – simple as that.