Lessons from the Sales Coach

Excerpt from “The Sales Coach” by Michael Patterson.

Sally is a long-time employee who recently found out her bank was initiating a sales culture. Sally always considered sales to be about pushing product, and knew she was going to hate the new culture. Sally was assigned a sales coach named Dave. Together, they met each day for a week, as Sally learned how sales is really about building relationships and solving problems.

“The biggest mistake salespeople make is treating all customers like their needs are the same,” Dave explained to Sally. “Even worse, we treat them like their needs are the same as our needs. Customers have different interests, goals, and expectations. What is important to one person may not be important to another. There are different reasons that drive customers to do business with any company, and a bank is no different. This brings us to my third rule of sales:

Focus on Whats Important to the Customer,
Not Whats Important to You

“I once received a phone call from an insurance company trying to get me to switch homeowner’s coverage. Their entire sales pitch focused on how much cheaper their premiums were compared to what I currently was paying. The person on the other end of the phone thought the most important thing to me was saving money. Now I’m sure a lot of people would be interested in saving as much money as they could on insurance, and I like to save money as much as the next person. But a few years ago, there was a really bad storm, which knocked down a lot of trees in the area. One fell on my roof and another on my neighbor’s across the street. When I called my insurance agent, she was really helpful. The tree was cut down, the roof repaired, and the check received in no time. It took my neighbor almost three times as long to get his situation rectified after countless calls to his insurance company. I know I may pay a little more for my insurance, but the peace of mind is worth it. When a salesperson is more focused on his or her needs instead of the customer’s, a sales opportunity is lost before it even begins. You need to understand what direction the customer is coming from and how they got there to determine which direction they need to go.”

Dave asked Sally to take out a blank piece of paper, draw a compass, and label the four points N, S, E, and W.

“The letter N stands for Needs. These are bare-minimum, non-negotiable. Your customers can’t function without them. Needs are almost never products; they are issues or concerns that are addressed by certain products. A customer has bills, and needs a way to pay them. A checking account provides a solution to that need. An individual has a cold and needs to get better, so he or she goes to a pharmacy to buy cold medicine.”

“The letter W stands for Wants. These are the customer’s goals, aspirations, and dreams. A customer wants a new pool in the backyard or to take a cruise. Wants are different from needs; be careful not to confuse the two. While both are important, they are quite different. I need transportation to get to work or to go other places. There isn’t any public transportation I can rely on, so I need a car. But I don’t need a brand-new car, and I definitely don’t need a luxury car. That type of car is a want, not a need.”

“Some businesses sell more needs than wants. Banks are typically a business that sells needs-based products and services. Most people don’t want a checking accounting; they need a way to pay their bills. Other businesses sell needs-based products, as well, such as a pharmacies and gas stations.”

“Some businesses sell mainly want-based products and services. These businesses deal with discretionary-spending items such as jewelry, artwork, vacations, and entertainment. Some businesses offer a combination of both. The grocery store is a great example of this. Everyone needs food to survive, and the grocery store sells food. But it also sells want-based foods such as snacks, desserts, and ready-made meals. Have you ever seen employees offering free samples at the grocery store? They are almost always for want types of products. That’s why they say you should never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, Sally!”

Sally took frantic notes as Dave described the difference between needs and wants. She had never really thought about it until today’s conversation.

“The E stands for Emotions. Customers make buying decisions based on emotions all the time, some bad and some good. Emotions cloud your judgment and you end up spending more than you wanted or needed to spend. Emotions also can prevent a sale from happening. When people make a big purchase, often they are worried about spending too much money.”

“The S stands for Sacrifices. What is it your customers are willing to sacrifice in order to attain their needs and wants? Investing is all about sacrifice. Some people will sacrifice income because they need the safety of an insured savings account. Other people are willing to sacrifice security because they want high returns. Outside of banking, many people are willing to pay for convenience. Tell me, Sally, if you needed to pick up a gallon of milk, would you be more likely to stop at a convenience store on the way home, knowing you are going to pay an extra dollar or so, or would you save the money and go to the big grocery store further down the road?”

“I would pay the extra money at the convenience store,” rationalized Sally, “because it’s much more convenient than parking my car, walking through the grocery store, and waiting in line.”

“Exactly,” said Dave. “In this case, you are willing to sacrifice money for convenience. But maybe someone else couldn’t afford the extra money and thought it was better to go to the grocery store. That person is willing to sacrifice their time to save money. Or maybe next time, you have some free time to kill. The point is, people are willing to make some sacrifices for wants and needs, but those sacrifices change from person to person, and may even change for the same person depending on the situation.”

“People come from different starting points and all end up someplace different. They travel in different cars and take different routes. But they all have a destination in mind, a goal. Sales are like that, Sally. It’s our job to assist customers on their journey to reach their goal. We don’t know where they’re going and we don’t know where they came from unless we find out. That’s why we need to learn the customer compass. I can’t give everyone on the road the same directions, because it’s not going to take everyone where they want to be. That’s why I said earlier that salespeople often make a big mistake by assuming customers share the same needs and wants. They end up trying to sell the same products and services to the same customers. They don’t know to understand what brought the customers in and where they’re going. Have you ever gone into that big sporting goods store in the mall?”

“Yes, I have,” replied Sally. “My son plays baseball for his high school. We go to that store a lot.”

“Have you ever noticed how each time you go in, they always tell you that socks are on sale, two packs for $10?”

“Yes!” said Sally. “Every time I purchase something, or if we’re just looking around in the aisles, someone is trying to sell us socks. Socks may make sense if we’re buying new sneakers, but why would I be interested in socks if we’re buying a new baseball glove?”

“Exactly,” replied Dave. “The salespeople there are pushing product. No matter what you come in for, they’re going to talk to you about socks. It doesn’t take a really astute customer to realize he or she is being ‘sold,’ and that will start to turn off the customers to other sales. You see, Sally, customers don’t mind that you are selling, they just don’t want to be sold.

Sally nodded her head in agreement. “This is the main reason why I was always hesitant to sell.” But now Sally couldn’t wait. With a coach like Dave, maybe she could learn to like the new sales culture.

Excerpt from “The Sales Coach” by Michael Patterson. For more information, visit www.mikepat.com/the-sales-coach

Michael Patterson is a speaker, trainer, and author, who has been developing managers and employees to reach their fullest potential since 2000. Patterson relies on his extensive experience to incorporate personal stories into his presentations. His use of analogies helps bridge the gap between what participants already know and understand, and the message he is conveying. Visit him at his Website, www.mikepat.com

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