Sales techniques require context

Sales Techniques Require Context

I’ve been in business for myself since 1986, which means that every dollar I’ve earned since then has come as a direct result of selling something to someone.

Since that time I’ve read literally hundreds of books, listened to endless hours of audio training, first on cassette tapes, later on CDs and more recently on digital media. Some of it has been fantastic, some of it has been terrible and not surprisingly, much of it has been average (hence the term.)

One common thread I’ve noticed after consuming all that content over the years is the huge focus on techniques when it comes to sales and marketing training:

  • Techniques for getting noticed
  • Techniques for getting past the gatekeeper
  • Techniques for establishing rapport
  • Techniques for closing sales

It’s satisfying to learn techniques, because they provide instant gratification. We can often put a technique to work immediately and begin to see some results from it. But without a framework or a context for those techniques, our approach can quickly deteriorate into a collection of clichés and closes that can come across as highly manipulative.

One of the first sales techniques I learned was the “alternate of choice close,” which is designed to give prospects a choice between one option and another, rather than a choice between buying or not buying. For example, if I’m selling iPhones, rather than saying, “would you like to buy this iPhone,” I could say, “do you prefer the black or the red?” Or “would you like to put that on your Visa or MasterCard?”

The technique by itself is simple enough and will often help to close those who were planning to go ahead with the purchase anyway.  However, if the person is not yet sold on the purchase, a technique like this may come across as manipulative. Also, this approach has been around for so long now that some people spot it right away and may become suspicious, even when it’s actually just being used to determine the buyers preferences.

So context is key.

And what is context?  Context is the sales process that surrounds the purchase.  Without an effective sales process — a context, if you will — even the very best sales techniques can do more harm than good.

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