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Death of a Salesman


I had an unexpected encounter with a salesman. One I hadn't had the pleasure to meet in a long long time. He is an experienced businessman and I got in touch with him as part of my learning development. I didn’t realise that he would be trying to sell me a consultancy instead. His sales pitch followed a perfectly symmetrical logic. First demonstrate your interest in your client (better if there is a personal connection), learn about them, express your concerns pointing at the mistakes and then explain how you could help them with your expertise (without mentioning costs, potentially a scary topic). Finally manage the client’s expectations explaining that success will take time.

Now take a moment to recall your last positive client or customer experience. If you were to describe it, you would probably remember that your sales person made you feel comfortable: they were quite certainly knowledgable and patiently answered all your questions. If it was a particularly pleasant experience it may even have been a mutual understanding like they were “speaking your language”: you felt cared for.

What was off in my salesman’s pitch? If you are selling something or yourself (and most of the time that is the same thing) you will be successful only if you demonstrate authentic interest in your audience; see the person first and then your potential gain.

Although everybody seems to be acquainted with the expression "the customer comes first" only few understand what it really stands for. Learn who your clients are and come prepared to the conversation. By listening attentively you will be able to get a deeper insight into what they really need.

Most certainly it is better not to use an inflated language that doesn't match the situation. Things like “I have been looking forward to be talking to you all week” will ring false, even if you are a very good actor, and make your client suspicious.

Undermining your client’s accomplishments even if only by demonstrating “concern” for their performance might be counterproductive. On the contrary complimenting them on where they are and suggesting how you could help them to achieve even more will make them more receptive and open to hear what you can offer. Above all never be complacent and always listen carefully to check for signs that you still have the trust of your client and make sure you readjust the sense of direction at any time if necessary. If you don't get the sale through immediately, bow out gracefully giving them space and time to think. I don't know if I would have bought the package my salesman was offering but at least I would have trusted his expertise and maybe I would have recommended him. Unfortunately, this salesman is dead. Long live the salesmen.

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