The Light Touch of Selling

The Light Touch of Selling

In pop culture, salespeople are often portrayed as unscrupulous, money-hungry manipulators. Of course, this is not only offensive; it’s also patently false for professional sellers! However, one lesson of the pandemic is that hard-sell techniques will not work. In uncertain times, buyers cannot be bullied or cajoled into spending money on things they don’t need. Instead, today’s buyers are looking for safe, viable solutions that provide flexibility and security. As a result, sellers must trust their softer impulses. This starts with understanding buyers need more than products, and value supersedes price. Here are several ways sellers can employ the lighter touch needed in the modern sales environment:  

Buyers Seek Comfort

In a time of unceasing updates and ever-changing guidance, buyers seek comfort. The salesperson who is a constant presence, providing sage wisdom and a steady hand, will secure the sale when buyers are ready. Of course, this doesn’t mean standing around, waiting for the tides to turn, or raising a boombox outside a window. Instead, sellers should do the following:

  • Monitor the news, industry publications, and social media to understand projected forecasts
  • Proactively seek the trends developing within the buyer’s industry
  • Understand the opinions of experts and industry leaders
  • Use tact when explaining; don’t overexplain, salesplain, or any other negative splain

In addition to accumulating as much knowledge as they can, sellers must illustrate the short- and long-term benefits for the buyer’s business. In challenging times, there’s no substitute for a salesperson serving as a trusted partner and advisor to help buyers succeed.

Position Yourself as a Problem Solver

More than merely telling the truth, honesty means providing context and valuing the buyer’s needs over your own. Sure, you can present a short-term solution that solves an immediate problem. When it works, the client will be happy. However, if you presented the solution as more than a stopgap, you have not been honest. An honest salesperson does the following:

  • Explains when a solution is a temporary fix, a way to stop the bleeding, so you can perform the surgery to save the patient
  • Shows how the solution mitigates the consequences of the supply chain crisis but does not address their larger distribution issues
  • Illustrates when and how you can implement further measures to solve their long-term supply and distribution concerns

At its most basic level, honesty depends on how a salesperson sees their job. If the solution fixes a problem, you have made a sale. While this may show as a win in your performance assessment, the greater reward is the client understanding your dedication to a series of wins fulfills a promise and secures their loyalty.

Strive to Build Trust

There’s a reason countless movies feature a salesperson who implores their clients to simply “Trust me” or asks, “Would I lie to you?” These rhetorical devices are relics of the bygone era of the hard sell, utilized to manufacture trust that hasn’t been earned. It invites the client to suspend disbelief until the seller proves untrustworthy. This is the opposite of trust. Instead, sellers should demonstrate trust by following these tips:

  • Tell the truth
  • Strive to overdeliver
  • Keep your promises
  • Always be present

Though it’s a cliché that trust is earned, it’s cliché for a reason: It’s true. Trust is built from a seller’s every email, phone call, and engagement with the client, whether checking in, presenting a solution, or following up.

Understand the Buyer’s Position

A staple of great salespeople from the dawn of selling, the ability to express empathy is more important today than ever. Of course, this does not come naturally to all sellers. However, rather than an innate trait some have, and others do not, expressing empathy is a skill sellers can develop. Though this is business, make it personal by doing the following:

  • Share stories that show you understand the buyer’s feelings and emotions
  • Keep eye contact to express interest and attention
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable
  • Use body language, such as leaning in, like you’re sharing a confidence

Whether in person or virtual, a seller’s ability to express empathy creates a bond. Rather than a weakness, it’s an expression of confidence. It’s taking your business deal to another level, showing that you’re a partner. You understand the buyer’s position because you have walked in their shoes. More than anything, you will work together to find solutions.

Compete on Value, Not Price

In the days of selling’s past, salespeople would state their price and make grand pronouncements about final offers and one-time deals. While this might have worked if your product was the only game in town, today’s buyers have the internet. Of course, price is still an important consideration. However, buyers are equally interested in service, convenience, and achieving the best value. Get beyond price and provide value by considering these tips:

  • Know your products well
  • Understand your competition’s products equally well
  • Study service agreements for nuances and differences
  • Appreciate the subtleties of warranties, both your own and those of a third party

Most B2C customers know there’s often a minor price difference between major retailers. Likewise, today’s B2B buyers understand the lowest price can come with the biggest headaches. While price is often the greatest consideration for a one-time sale, savvy sellers know adding value builds relationships and repeat business.

If the negative stereotype of unscrupulous salespeople is centered on insincerity to achieve a one-time sale, today’s sellers know to build relationships. Of course, this takes work, and it requires a certain intimacy and comfort. However, when it’s genuine, buyers and sellers build a rapport. This increases communication and allows the two parties to work as partners. Far from the one-time sale, these relationships can often be as personally rewarding as they are professionally. Today, with all the challenges, changes, and uncertainty we face, buyers and sellers have more to gain by working together to achieve their goals. And it all starts with the lighter touch of a personal connection.