In this our next in this series on the biggest mistakes you can make today in B2B sales, we’re going to talk about hard selling—you know, that pushy, insistent, “wear-‘em-down-till-they-buy” approach from years gone by.
Or, rather, we’re not going to talk about it. For in today’s sales world, it doesn’t work at all. Today it’s soft skills that are more important than ever, and becoming increasingly so as time goes by. Soft skills are defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
There is a difference, though, between soft skills and political correctness. I’m not advocating being politically incorrect, necessarily, but total political correctness often comes across as not authentic. We all have opinions about everything in life. Buyers are looking for sellers with honesty, integrity, and authenticity, and value these qualities far more than simply “being correct.”
Who wants someone that is always “correct”? Last weekend I was with my son in a Microsoft store and encountered the little robot that is now in their stores. At first, it looks unbelievable, down to its human-like movements. From a computerized automaton, I expect perfection and total correctness. If a human were behaving that way, though, it would come across to me as awkward. It wouldn’t be authentic, and salespeople must be authentic.
The type of approach I’m talking about with soft skills is that of being socially intelligent.
Social intelligence is what we’re talking about when we talk about Network Selling. It means looking to the buyer for their interest, and always taking into account what would be best for them.
If the buyer leans either hard-left or hard-right, a seller being “politically correct” would mean behavior different than that of social intelligence. Someone being politically correct would do everything not to intimidate, and to avoid anything potentially offensive. The socially intelligent seller would acknowledge the buyer’s viewpoint without losing their own position.
This is possible—you can be empathetic without losing your position. If the buyer asks for your opinion, you can voice it in a non-offensive way. It’s more important to be genuine than to be artificial for the sake of a sale—the buyer will most likely detect it, and being artificial could very well lose you that sale.
I strongly believe that selling in today’s world must be done from a standpoint of authenticity. If the world has moved into a place where one only has a position of left or right, and if you’re on the left you can never do business with someone on the right, we’re going to be running out of business very soon.
As discussed in my first article in this series, there is no replacing a real relationship—and today it’s more important than ever.
To build a real relationship, it takes soft skills, that Network Selling social intelligence mindset we were discussing earlier. Operating with such a mindset means that your buyer is going to end up winning. If you really do it right as a seller, your buyer is also going to recommend you—and in today’s digital selling environment, recommendations are the vital currency.
A long-term relationship, forged over time and with trust, is what any buyer is looking for. A buyer will ask others what kind of relationships they have had, that has really worked for them and that they have appreciated. The recommendations that the buyer gets back come out of such relationships, and will likely lead to more of them.
In this respect, we’re going a bit backward in time, back to the strong, forged relationships we’ve always appreciated. You only find them through friends or close business associates that you trust. When you hear, “Oh, yes, they’re a great company, a great vendor. They’re trustworthy, fast, reliable, and with fair pricing,” you’re likely to go in with a degree of trust yourself.
We’ve all been there when it comes to our personal lives—for work on our homes, for example, we’ll only trust strong recommendations from those that have had work done and have had a great experience. In fact, most of us have come to depend on it.
Another example, even more intimate, is that of our bodies and our health. When we need someone in that area—a doctor, physical therapist or other caregivers—you totally depend on referrals.
Building a Network
Today, everything is geared around referrals. A great salesperson builds their network on them. That’s the value a competent salesperson brings, no matter what company they work for.
For example, I originally came from Vienna, Austria and built my original businesses there. I regularly go back there, and when I do, I can call on any number of people with whom I’ve built strong relationships over the years.
Such relationships aren’t necessarily friendships. There is a difference between business relationships and friendships. I don’t necessarily want to be friends with every customer—hang out with them, go golfing, have dinner, invite them to my home. But I do want to have stable relationships and mutual trust.
Not Through Social Media
In our last article we talked about social media profiles, and even the number of totally fake profiles out there. That’s why social media is eventually going to become, in the B2B space, less important. Real relationships don’t exist there. A real relationship means that someone listens to you, someone understands you, someone identifies the problems you have, and deals with you with empathy and respect, resulting in a win-win for both seller and buyer.
I always say that a good deal—a real win-win—only comes about when both sides hurt a little bit. Why? If one side hurts too much, it will negatively impact the relationship in the future. If the seller feels they’re losing money, they’ll try and make it up in future sales. A buyer paying too much will do everything possible to gain it back somewhere up the line.
A good deal is a kind that formerly took place in the Middle Eastern bazaars. It ended with the sharing of a tea or coffee. Both sides were happy.
I remember a guy I knew in the old days, who sold in Eastern Europe. In his day creating relationships involved prospect dinners and a fair amount of drinking. He actually used to carry little bottles with him as gifts.
I’m not suggesting we go back to this at all. It’s different today—it’s all done with soft skills. Today people are touched by intelligence, and by your response to their issues.
And that is how we make our way into the future.