Knowing When NOT to SellBy: Ron Sathoff
Before entering the world of marketing, I spent many years as a college instructor. One of the most important lessons that I ever learned about teaching was the fact that saying "I don't know" as a response to a student question wasn't necessarily a bad thing -- in fact, the truthfulness of the answer did more to build my credibility with my students than any lame, improvised, off-the-cuff answer could.
Of course, I also realized that you have to follow up that "I don't know" with a firm "but I'll find out for you." In other words, when I didn't know the exact answer, I would make sure to do my research to see what I COULD offer the student in the form of an answer.
I believe this principle also holds true for sales. As a salesperson, you have to remember that you are selling yourself as much as you are selling a product, especially if you are looking for any kind of return sales or long-term relationships with your customers.
That means that you should be truthful with your clients and customers, even if means that you might not make the immediate sale. For instance, there have been times where clients have asked me, "Do you think a press release would be effective?" In many of these cases, the answer is "Yes" and I will tell them so. However, there are also cases where a press release wasn't appropriate, and even though it meant losing the sale, I made sure to let them know that they wouldn't get the results they were looking for and that I wouldn't recommend it.
Of course, you have to remember to add the equivalent of a "but I'll find out" statement. In the case of sales, this is usually in the form of "but here is something else that I think would work for you." Just make sure that you are being truthful here as well -- otherwise you're doing nothing more than bait-and-switch! My point here is simple: Show the customers that you are interested in making sure they are satisfied, rather than just being interested in the sale.
The result? Your customers will be grateful for being told the truth, and even though they might not buy now, they know who to go to when they have another project that needs to be done. You'll probably get some good word-of-mouth advertising too!
It may seem counter-productive, but knowing when not to sell to your customer can be a great way to create an image that will eventually lead to more sales. If you are in your business for the long run, creating a reputation for honesty, caring, and personal attention will do more than any "hard sell" could ever achieve.
© Copyright 2001, Ron Sathoff
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