Nobody likes being sold to. Customers don’t like being lied to. One size does indeed not fit all. Why am I saying this? After 15 years in sales and having learned the hard way, these are three standards I like to adhere to. Consult (listen & understand), tell the truth (honesty and integrity) and be solution focused. Do not sell the customer what YOU want them to have.

Having worked in advertising sales for many years, we were drilled in getting in, getting the sale and getting out and moving onto the next prospect. Sometimes 5-6 appointments a day. A case of volume over quality. Now I look back, I have to question if that was the best approach to take? Did I really take time to get to know my customer, listen to their issues? Where they wanted to take the business, what obstacles lay in their way and once I had this information, did I take time to play devil’s advocate and question Mr Customer on what would happen if they didn’t achieve their goals?

These are all important considerations to plan for actually before meeting with customers. In my experience, it really pays to do your desk research. Who are the decision makers and influencers in the business, what LinkedIn connections to you have in common, what issues is their industry facing? Once armed with this information, its onto the next stage and often getting past the Rottweiler, ahem..Gatekeeper. It pays to tell the truth and be persistent here, as is having empathy for the potential volume of ‘sales calls’ that DMs have to field on a daily basis. Try a different approach, to use a widely used phrase, “sell the sizzle, not the sausage”. Before I get on the phone or meet with a customer my intention is to visualise a goal, of what I want to achieve from the call, or sales meeting, whether its an appointment, pitch or proposal.

Once with your customer, be prepared to listen and not talk over your prospect, ask challenging questions, truly listen and try to understand their issues, take salient notes (as no one is a memory expert) and this will show Mr Customer that you are listening and is a great way of building rapport. If I do not know the answer to something Mr Customer has asked, I will be honest and will attempt to find the answer for them at a later stage. There is little point in lying to Mr Customer, as this will invariably come back to bite you at some stage. If you can’t help them, tell them.

I see little point in coming up with a solution right away as, if you walk a mile in your customer’s shoes, how would it look like to you if after having discussed your issues, Mr Slick Salesman, just happened to have the solution for you right then in his toolkit, as if by magic! Take away invaluable information the customer has given you, consider what options they have and make the appropriate recommendations to them, give them several options, in a proposal or follow up presentation. Again, this will show your prospect that you have truly understood their position, you most importantly you have built rapport, trust and credibility. This will go a long way to achieving your ultimate goal of winning a long-term customer who loves your company, your products and services.

However, what do I know? I’m still learning. I make mistakes. With each phone call, pitch or presentation, I am still learning something different, that I will take to my next call and hopefully suitably impress. Listen, understand, be honest and be solution focused. Something we could all learn in all areas of our life.