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  • Writer's pictureVikrant Vartak

3 Myths in Selling




All entrepreneurs are salespeople. Selling is elemental to so many critical aspects of entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you need to evangelize your company all through your journey. This includes pitching your value proposition to prospects & customers more often than not. Selling is involved when you are motivating your team to buy into your vision. You may need to pitch for funds. I am sure you have seen poor, hapless entrepreneurs on Shark Tank fail, because they were unable to sell their enterprise to the sharks as an attractive investment opportunity?!


According to Dun & Bradstreet, the number one reason for business failure is lack of sales. The number one reason for business success is abundant sales. Your effectiveness is going to determine which of these it is going to be.


Having said this, sales – the most critical function – suffers from some age-hold myths. Let’s do some myth-busting!


Complete Article


All entrepreneurs are salespeople. Selling is elemental to so many critical aspects of entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you need to evangelize your company all through your journey. This includes pitching your value proposition to prospects & customers more often than not. Selling is involved when you are motivating your team to buy into your vision. You may need to pitch for funds. I am sure you have seen poor, hapless entrepreneurs on Shark Tank fail, because they were unable to sell their enterprise to the sharks as an attractive investment opportunity?!


According to Dun & Bradstreet, the number one reason for business failure is lack of sales. The number one reason for business success is abundant sales. Your effectiveness is going to determine which of these it is going to be.


Having said this, sales – the most critical function – suffers from some age-hold myths. Let’s do some myth-busting!


Myth 01: You need to SELL, SELL & SELL

Myth-buster: The best way to sell is not to sell!


In the month of Apr-20, soon after our nationwide lockdown started, suddenly there were zoom meetings invites all over. One such zoom meeting invite was from a consulting firm who had arranged a session on a very obvious topic – “how to tackle covid?” Unfortunately, the session was very weak, lacking any meaningful content. Of course, it was not hard to realize that it was arranged not to ‘help & advice’ as positioned, but as a sales pitch. So far so good. Unfortunately, what followed was a harrowing experience. One of their key objectives obviously was data collection. Since I had provided my email, mobile#, and basic company details, for the next month or two, I kept receiving follow-up calls from different people representing the consulting firm. Initial few times, I patiently responded and explained that I do not see any need for their service. Unfortunately, they kept pushing. When it started getting out of hand, I had to be curt. Now, I shudder at the name and thought of this organization. In my mind, the image of this organization and that of its representatives stands tarnished forever.


I would like to highlight three dangerous trends.


a) The ‘Selling’ Obsession: None would disagree that COVID times have been extremely tough for the business world. The sales for most of us are at an all time low. It may have become extremely difficult to meet our expenses and our EMI obligations. Needless to say, what we all need is to push sales.


However, are we overselling? I would say, a big emphatic YES! This was true for many even before the pandemic. However, the extreme distress brought in by the pandemic has added to the desperation manifold. Right since our first lockdown, I see so many entrepreneurs who never engaged in active & aggressive promotion so far, intensely resorting to the same – through social media or otherwise. While I doubt if such overselling really yields fruit, it does cause a lot of damage.


The objective of our outreach should only be to sensitize our prospects to our presence and to our ability to help them if required; NOTHING MORE. It is important to understand that people do not like to be ‘sold’ anything. They like ‘to be helped’ to make intelligent buying decisions. They do not want to feel for a minute that they are being persuaded or ‘manipulated’ into doing something that may be contrary to their best interests. Good salespeople are always aware that their job is to help, not pressure. I sincerely believe in the adage, “The best way to sell is not to sell."


b) Social Media Abuse: Social media is the most ubiquitous, accessible & inexpensive medium available to entrepreneurs. This also makes social media the most abused medium too!


Was social media invented to promote sales, or was it invented to be a digital equivalent of our age old social platforms? Would we sit with our friends or family members in our living room and keep doing just one thing relentlessly – PUSH SALES?!


As business owners we all want to convert potential leads into paying customers. But we can't ruthlessly keep forcing our social media contacts into our sales funnel! 'Over' selling and 'only' selling soon leads to people ignoring you on social media - even worst 'unfollowing' you.


It’s important that you find a balance between value-rich & engaging content, and content that’s intended to promote your product, service, or brand. As a general rule, sticking with a ratio of 80% engaging and 20% promotional content is playing it safe.


Many of you would have heard of The Wallpaper Effect. Imagine that you are waiting in a large reception area of a hotel. If you are later asked to explain what kind of wallpaper was present on the large wall facing you, many of us might ask, “Oh, was there a wall paper? I never noticed one.” Just because an object is large doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone will pay attention to it! Too much promotion renders the entire effort futile. Each one of us is exposed to too much volume and variety of messages on the social media (or any media). Our mind tends to tune all promotional messages out. Only when a post is unusual do we pay any attention to it at all.


c) Product-Attribute Fixation: Most businesses and particularly SMEs are obsessed by product attributes and functional benefits. This is called product-attribute fixation. They just keep going gaga over their product and the wonders that it can do.


People typically look at their business environment through the lens of their internal products and services. They look at what they make, and try to figure out how they can sell more of it. It is important to understand the difference between what we make and what people need – which often turn out to be different!


Customers are not buying the features that your amazing product/service has, but the benefits it offers. Customers are not interested in your products but the ‘products of the product’ (i.e. the benefits). Benefits from the same product/service vary for different customers.



Myth 02: You need to be a glib talker to be a good salesperson

Myth-buster: Top salespeople practice 70/30 rule. They dominate the listening.


A couple of years back, I had visited the World Trade Center@Kharadi-Pune to consider buying a property there. I met the salesperson who was a young, handsome, well built, and well dressed (in blazer of course) North Indian with excellent command over English. For the next one hour, he told me everything: history & geography of the developer, the company’s greatness, EVERYTHING about ALL the prestigious projects that the developer did, and blah blah blah. After one hour, I was completely exhausted and somehow made excuses to conclude the meeting! In fact the product was fantastic. It was a 6000 sft bare shell office at an amazing price – INR 6000 per sft (in just a few years the price more than doubled!). Unfortunately I was so tired and saturated that I just wanted the meeting to end. When I analyzed the meeting, I realized the following.


1) The young, dynamic, GLIB salesperson had done 90-95% of the talking!

2) We (or rather HE) had devoted less than 10% of our time to WTC as a project. Of course, he didn’t have time to delve on my requirements! That was possibly not so relevant.


Needless to say, there was no second meeting. Neither did he follow up.


May be, it was not the salesperson’s mistake. Many salespeople have been brought up saying that they need to be glib talkers and need to do a lot of talking. Nothing can be further from the truth. Only poor salespeople dominate the talking, whereas top salespeople dominate the listening.


Contrary to the common belief, top salespeople practice 70/30 rule. They talk and ask questions 30% or less of the time while they listen intently to their customers 70% or more of the time.


Research suggests that as many as 75% of top salespeople are defined as introvert on psychological tests. They are low-key, easygoing, and other-centered. They are interested in the thoughts & feelings of others and are comfortable sitting & listening to prospects. They would rather listen than talk in a sales situation.


Listening is called ‘white magic’. It exerts an almost magical effect on human relationships. It causes people to relax and open up. When a salesperson is an excellent listener, prospects and customers feel comfortable and secure in his/her presence. They buy more readily, and more often.


Let me put up a strong case for listening.


a) Talking does not build trust; listening does. Listening lowers resistance. It reduces tension and defensiveness on the part of the prospect. It diminishes the natural nervousness customers have in dealing with any salesperson. The more you listen to a prospect, the more comfortable and relaxed the prospect feels, and the more open he/she becomes to considering your offer seriously. After all, “Rapt attention is the highest form of flattery”.


b) The 90/10 rule applies - 90% of the buying decision will come to hang on 10% of the actual benefits that the prospect anticipates. Your job is to find that critical 10%; that one special feature that is more important to your prospect than all of the other features put together. If you do not make the customer talk for most of the time through your skillful questioning, how will you unearth this ‘critical 10%’?!


c) The Law of Duality applies in many purchase decisions which states that, “There are always two reasons for doing anything; the reason that sounds good and the real reason.


The reason that sounds good is the practical, logical, bottom-line reason that any intelligent, rational, calculating human being could agree with. People have an intense desire to appear to others to be doing the correct thing. The entire sales conversation revolves around the reasons that sound good.


However, it’s the ‘real reason’ that usually triggers the purchase decision. The real reason is psychological and emotional in nature. It could even sound or seem irrational but it is the driving force nonetheless.


Your first job in the sale process is to determine both the reasons for buying, and then show the prospect that both reasons are provided for. The sale hangs on your ability to accomplish this.


Unfortunately, if you are not asking the right questions and not listening earnestly to your prospect’s response, you will never grasp the real reason.



Myth 03: You need to be a powerful communicator DOMINATING the discussion

The myth-buster: The power of POWERLESS COMMUNICATION is far too higher!


Two and half years back, I began my car hunt. I visited Audi, BMW, Mercedez, and Jaguar dealerships. No wonder I got to meet the best of salespeople in the industry. Of course, akin to my WTC experience, I again met those ‘typical’ salespeople, though very smart and well trained. Almost all of them did what they have been trained to do – a lot of bombastic talk and effort to dominate!


When I visited Audi, I met a very simple, unassuming salesperson. Since he didn’t have that typical profile, I was initially skeptic. However, the next half an hour turned out to be an excellent sales pitch – he asked the right questions, listened intently, shared product knowledge only to the extent needed, identified what precisely I was looking for, and pitched exactly the benefits (‘benefits’, and not ‘features’ or ‘functions’) that I was seeking. No wonder the deal was done. I wrote a positive feedback for him to Audi-Pune CEO, we are still associated, and he still takes good care of me whenever I need any service.


Research suggests that there are two fundamental paths to influence: dominance and prestige. When we establish dominance, we gain influence because others see us as strong, powerful, and authoritative. When we earn prestige, we become influential because others respect and admire us.


The conventional, aggressive, dominating salesperson specializes in powerful communication. They speak forcefully, raise their voices to assert their authority, express certainty to project confidence, promote their accomplishments, and sell with conviction and pride. They display strength by spreading their arms in dominant poses, raising their eyebrows in challenge, and commanding as much physical space as possible. In their quest for influence, they set the tone and control the conversation by sending powerful verbal and nonverbal signals. All this helps them gain dominance.


But is that the most sustainable path to influence? When our audiences are skeptical, the more we try to dominate them, the more they resist. Even with a receptive audience, dominance is a zero-sum game: the more power and authority I have, the less you have. Conversely, prestige isn't a zero-sum; there's no limit to the amount of respect and admiration that we can dole out. This means that prestige usually has more lasting value.


The opposite of a conventional powerful communication style is powerless communication. Powerless communicators tend to speak less assertively, expressing plenty of doubt, and relying heavily on advice from others. They talk in ways that signal vulnerability, revealing their weaknesses, and making use of disclaimers, hedges, and hesitations.


Powerless communication style proves surprisingly effective in building prestige. Because they value the perspectives and interests of others, these powerless communicators are more inclined towards asking questions than offering answers, talking tentatively than boldly, admitting their weaknesses than displaying their strengths, and seeking advice than imposing their views on others. They are much more comfortable expressing vulnerability: they're interested in helping others, not gaining power over them, so they're not afraid of exposing chinks in their armor. By making themselves vulnerable, they actually build prestige.


However, there is a small twist. Expressing vulnerability is only effective if the prospects receive other signals establishing the salesperson's competence. If the desired competence is seen by the prospect, such experts appear human and approachable, instead of superior and distant. As a result we like them and feel a strong connection, thus addressing the ‘fear of failure’ that we feel as buyers.


On the closing


These are the three top-of-mind myths that I could think of. I would be glad to add more to the list as and when I can think of them. Kindly feel free to suggest and provide feedback.

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Vartak Heritage, 100 Ft D.P.Road,

Near Mhatre Bridge, Opp Gharkul Lawns,

Vartak Baug, Erandwane, Pune-411052

vikrant.vartak@thesenate.in

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