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A simple selling mistake

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A couple of years ago when I edited a small business magazine, a bloke sold himself to me over the phone, convincing me with the worn out catch line, “Have I got a story for you!”.

History has conditioned me to feign an instant attack of the trots or the arrival of a very quiet, yet important visitor, to end such phone calls, but this day Janos Pogany got to first base.

And when I read his story and message, I realised he was going to steal home base with this great piece of advice for not only sellers of goods and services, but for anyone who is trying to sell themselves to anyone.

In his article, Pogany admitted like many in sales that he had been to more training seminars than Pavarotti had had dinners, but one crucial piece of advice was seemingly always left off the menu and that was ‘what not to do’. He believed the preoccupation with the positive meant many trainers neglected the negative.

Pogany recounted the story of the sale he blew. The customer wanted to advertise in a magazine but needed to be pushed over the line. This could be likened to someone who has a browsing but interested customer in a shop or to a potential employer when you're on the shortlist of candidates.

Analysing his self-confessed mistakes, the trouble began with his first-up failure to not discover what the potential buyer wanted.

He kept giving out what he wanted to do for him instead of finding out what the customer actually wanted.

He tried to impress and was hell bent on influencing him to his way of thinking. And by not knowing what the person wanted exactly he was offering lots but, given his final losing result, not anything the customer was after.

The litany of mistakes he made went on and on. It was probably the longest list of failed selling strategies I had ever seen, but the crux of his problem was simple – you've gotta listen.

Pogany summed up what he learnt from his journey of failure this way: “What seems an obvious ‘benefit’ to the salesperson may be seen only as a ‘feature’ to the customer.”

The conclusion is obvious – when you are trying to sell, which I believe is one of the toughest jobs in the world for most of us – put in a mammoth effort into listening.

What you hear will help you understand the needs of your customer, your boss, your employee and even your loved ones. It might also help husbands win an argument with their wives, but I would not put any money on that.

Published on: Thursday, October 08, 2009

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