Tim Huffaker 2017

A salesperson, who sells someone something they don’t need, should be taken behind the proverbial old barn and horsewhipped.  The same goes for a salesperson who is unable to persuade someone to buy something they really do need because the prospect will end up buying something they don’t need from someone else.

Salespeople should be trusted advisors of goods and services just as the physician is a trusted advisor for someone’s health, and as a financial consultant and CPA are trusted advisors for someone’s wealth, just as an attorney is a trusted advisor for someone’s personal and business affairs, and as a minister is a trusted advisor for someone’s spiritual affairs.  These advisors are professionals in their various fields of expertise, and people are drawn to them because they can be trusted.  All of these professionals operate under a code of ethics which provides the confidence that they will act and perform their duties properly.

As an advisor for the purchase of goods and services, salespeople ultimately have more involvement in the wellbeing of a person’s life than all of the other professionals combined.  Yet, how many salespeople take their profession as seriously as the physician, the financial consultant, the CPA, the attorney or the minister.  They all study their profession for years in colleges and universities, many with advanced degrees followed by internships and additional preparation.  As a salesperson, what are you doing to become a professional in your industry?  What are you doing to prepare yourself to be the trusted advisor and ensure the prospect buys the right product or service to solve their problem?

Become a student of your product or service.  Learn all you can about how it is made, how it works, what it can do and how it can solve various problems.  Know your product, and when you reach the point of not being able to know any more, find out who does know more and use them as a resource.  Many years ago when I was working in the steel industry, my boss, the senior vice president of sales, gave me a book to study.  Within the pages of this book was all the knowledge anyone would need to understand the technical aspects of the steel industry.  The book was titled, The Making, Shaping and Treating of Steel.  In essence, it was the equivalent of a PhD in metallurgy.  I read and studied the book in addition to many other companion books during my years as a salesperson in the steel industry.  However, there were always things I didn’t know, but I knew who did and I used them to reinforce my own knowledge.  I discovered that knowledge applied was power, and power allowed me to solve problems that others were unable to discern. 

Understand your customers, their industries and markets.  If you worked for them, you would be their most successful salesperson.  Knowing your customer allows you to know their needs, and provide them with the right solutions.  You are not just selling a product or a service; you are solving problems and meeting their needs.  The only way to know your customers is to walk in their shoes.  Spend time with them and get into their heads.  Understand the hows and whys of their business.  During my sales career, I have worked with hundreds of companies in almost as many industries.  I learned their business, their products, their industry and markets; now I’m a good salesperson. I would have been a top salesperson for any of the companies I consulted with, because I spent the time to learn the relationship between products, needs and solutions.  With regards to business, if you don’t know your customer even better than they know themselves, you haven’t prepared yourself well enough to become their trusted advisor, and you will never be able to provide the service they are looking for–the solutions to their problems!