Selling hard or easy is a function of the product, market (prospects), competition, timing. It also depends upon our approach to sales. My background is in selling technology and food products to businesses and consumers. So following text is a generalization in the context of my experience across these sales horizons. Our sales approach depends upon our inner voice, level of knowledge, and our personal development.
Lack of Knowledge
We are humans, and our minds are almost always highly occupied by the thoughts of 'What's in it for me"? It's quite natural to think that way though it self-sabotages the sales conversation.
"WIIFM attitude makes us paint a picture of how life will be right after the deal is closed with the prospect"
This WIIFM noise begins to invade an otherwise great conversation. The picture painted in our head emotionally attaches us to the outcome of the sales conversation. The moment the sales conversation becomes emotionally attached, it becomes a problematic sale; a sale without due regard to the customer concern.
We can't do away with WIIFM, that's part of who we are as human. However, to make selling a better experience, we must practice "What's in it for customer" (WIIFC). Let's allow the mind to dive into painting the WIIFM picture, and once we are through with it, we must put time into WIIFC. Thinking from customer's point of view unlocks innovative ways to move the sales conversation. Most often, when we are in the sales role, we aren't listening to the prospect closely enough. WIIFC helps us train the mind to appreciate the customer's point of view. Spending 10 mins on WIIFC questions is a good idea. Questions like, why is customer going to buy this, why now and why from me? WIIFC thinking helps us be emotionally disconnected from the sales conversation. Being emotionally detached helps us overcome the fears to ask difficult questions to the customer right in the beginning.
The single reason why we may not earn the right to make an appropriate sales case is that we may not have done enough homework.
We are part of the knowledge economy. Customers today expect the salespeople to have superior knowledge about the buyer's domain. Customers expect to hear something new, and when they hear it from you, they like you. Not being adequately aware of the domain makes sales conversation difficult, your credibility is likely at risk.
Knowing the product inside out is a no-brainer; however, it is worth mentioning. Commoditized selling is history today. The buyers are looking for significant value adds. You 'don't know which benefit matters the most for the customer in advance. Our job is to bridge the gap between the benefit they value and features from the product that get them those benefits, impromptu. Not knowing the product makes selling ineffective.
Not knowing your prospect's business in enough depth could make the sales proposition shallow. Also, not knowing much about the prospect and her aspirations can make the sales conversation quite unempathetic. It is okay not to know these aspects in advance, but it is a crime in sales to not enquire about those during the sales conversation.
If we are unable to answer our prospects on their questions about a competing product or provider, we have a deal-breaker. This is especially true in case you are looking to replace an incumbent. Buyers love to be educated on the shortfalls of competing products, and they would do that with every competing product. Competition is not just another product or company.
"Competition is anything that gets the focal job done for the prospect"
As they say, no business development can happen without appropriate personal development. Trying hard in sales makes things super tricky. As a seller, you are supposed to create an anxious buyer and not become anxious yourself. Trying hard makes us anxious, and pushes us to make mistakes. The seed for "trying hard" is in getting emotionally-attached to the outcomes of sales process.
Objections are questions asked by the prospects during the process of evaluating a proposition. No one can know everything. While in the sales role, we tend to assume that I must know everything on the mother-earth – this is the opposite side of lacking knowledge. Most often the prospects need to reach the stage of clarity, and hence they ask questions. These questions are more of a self-clarifying behavior of prospects. The role of the salesperson is to facilitate them to move to clarity. For real objections, if you know the answer then illustrate so that they can understand in minimum words.
"Let's not make it occult. Occult doesn't sell"
Objections where you need more data-points, it is better to respond to the prospect post necessary homework.
Getting to know people
Sales professionals from the industrial era, up until the mid-90s preach about relationship-driven sales. Relationship driven sales mean the relationships that are built in the process of selling and those last beyond the sale. Most salespeople tend to believe the other way round, "Relationships developed to make a sale." When we force ourselves on our prospects to build an unsolicited relationship, we are an intruder into their personal space. Salespeople tending to ask personal questions to buyers out of context, kill the sale in the first few meetings. Getting to know people doesn't need asking direct questions or intruding. Knowing people is about observing them. How does prospect react, respond, speak and what kind of questions prospect is asking, gives us a better sense of them as individuals.
"Getting to know the people starts with getting to know yourself better"
Yes, sir we shall do that!
In sales, I have seen that we are more likely to model those annoying salespeople who would talk more and deliver less. Buyers hate them but we find them easier to copy and remember. These salespeople are habitual in overpromising. They look at deals as a transaction with prospects that ends in order receipt or agreement signing. They 'don't take responsibility for projects failed due to overpromising, but they would blame everyone else on the team. Overpromising might look to make sales quicker, but it's one time sales and not recurring. More importantly, you lose a credible humanly connection with buyers. Overpromising is an epidemic that can quickly take over your personal and family relationships when you overpromise them as well. So it is always better to promise less or just what we can deliver.
But, I can’t say No?
The most challenging part of the sales process is saying no to the prospect.
"If you are in the sales profession by chance and not by choice, "saying no" could be extremely difficult for you"
I remember one of the previous organizations where I worked the team took up a project just because the lead came in from the board level connect. What they needed was not what this company could deliver. The project had to be shut down in 4 months. It would have been graceful to deny the project before even it started instead of blowing off the credibility. Saying Yes can fetch the sale quickly, but it will be short-lived, and it closes doors for further chances of selling to same people or company.
I have elaborated some of my observations on what made selling difficult for me. Hope you could locate the ones among these that are making sales difficult in your environment. I feel the most crucial step is to identify, accept, and overcome what is making selling stressful for us. Learning sales is a continuous process. I am open to learning what in your experience, are some of the other factors that make selling difficult.