A colleague of mine, Shawn Sandy, has a tagline for her firm, The Selling Agency: “We Coach Humans How to Sell to Other Humans.” Damn! That tagline is so brilliantly simple, yet packs a powerful punch. I wish I had come up with it. But it also got me to thinking about the “human” things that ultimately help salespeople differentiate themselves from the competition: being likable, getting specific, and seeing the bigger picture.
1. Be Likable
We’ve all have heard that people tend to buy from people they like. While that can be true, typically, people like them because they can help them reach their professional or personal goals. They take the time to truly understand each and every key stakeholder so they can help them achieve the key things they want to in the best possible, and most risk-free, way.
2. Get Specific on Goals
To “sell to other humans,” you need to understand specifically what each and every “human” is trying to accomplish. The perspective may change at different levels of the organization. The higher up you go in an organization, the more likely stakeholders have a bit of a longer-term view – maybe two to five years. They care about things like:
- Improving revenue from X to Y by a certain date
- Reducing cost by X by a certain date
- Boosting Net Promoter Scores from X to Y by a certain date
- Increasing Earnings per Share from X to Y by a certain date
The more specific you get in understanding what customers are trying to do and link that to stakeholders up and down the organization, the more can look through their lens and ultimately help fulfill their major initiatives.
You Sell to Other Humans, Not Robots
I still see so many salespeople talk in “generic speak” when they sell to other humans. They’re not robots, so don’t treat them like they are. Here are a few examples of what I mean by generic speak when identifying goals:
- Be more efficient and effective
- Reduce expenses
- Improve margins
- Improve access to data
- Streamline processes
While these are goals people are trying to meet, they’re just not specific enough. They do nothing to differentiate you from your competition. Sure, humans care about doing all of the above. However, there is typically a current state and the desired state, and a timeline attached to that desired state. If you know this information, then you have the ability to set yourself apart from your competition.
3. See the Bigger Picture
People who report to senior stakeholders are all part of a bigger picture to help the executives accomplish these business goals. So, as you’re talking to others in the organization, it’s always critical to understand what the executives are trying to accomplish, by when, what their risk tolerance is, etc. This is the best way to understand where they are putting their time, money and resources – and how this all ties to the overall longer term executive goal or priority.
If people truly buy from those they like, then get them to like you. Think of any cocktail party or conference you’ve attended and asked someone questions. People love to talk about themselves. Do the same in sales. Ask a lot of questions and get them talking. Ensure that, when they speak in generic terms, you further qualify their answers to understand what it means to them, how it affects them, how it helps them get to one of their goals, and how it links to a priority at the executive level. How do to sell to other humans and differentiate yourself?
Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter