Like many people who graduate with a degree in sociology, my first official job after university was in sales.
Our potential clients always had tons of what salespeople call objections, or some might even say excuses. I was taught, like every professional salesperson, that one of the first rules in sales is to "overcome objections." And to do it through some preplanned set of phrases. It never felt right.
Every time I "overcame" an objection, it felt bad. It felt wrong. I was helping the clients, but often before they knew or wanted to be helped. They were saying no, and I was trying to get them to say yes. So it always felt a little off.
To get better or find clarity at least, I purchased a book on how to overcome objections and was reading it in some random hotel lobby when a future mentor, Victor Antonio, saw me and said: "You might find some good things in there, but all of what they are teaching you is reactionary, adversarial, and competitive. Competition like that doesn't win business. Just like sweetness instead of vinegar, giving someone what they want is best. Partnerships driven by trust create the best business outcomes."
This one conversation changed my entire perspective. Selling is not something you do to someone, it something you do with someone. Sales should be collaborative. The best sales conversations are based on a mutual desire to solve a problem.
When all stakeholders are working toward the same objective, the old way of selling can finally be forgotten.
Sales and selling shouldn't be competitive or manipulative.
Selling is usually competitive, though. Some people love and thrive on the competition. Competition is wrong when the competition is with your client, the industry, or your colleagues. Competition against your best self, well, is needed.
You do not need to overcome objections; you need to solve problems.
You do not need to attack the market; you need to build relationships.
You do not need to capture deals; you need to create solutions together.
So I asked my mentor what to do. Victor, who is now a top sales trainer and whose YouTube videos are the most watched sales training videos globally, said: "Get to know the client. Once you know your client well enough, bring up all of their potential issues and show them how they can overcome each of their challenges. Be a human and just discuss together."
Basically, just be proactive and care. Don't rely on manipulative techniques. Just be human.
Once you begin to care enough, you can align your goals, and that is when truly productive discussions can start.
When you know your client and have aligned goals, selling becomes a mutually beneficial discussion.
To get to know your client, you must be curious enough to care. Anthony Iannarino, the best-selling author who also writes one of the most popular sales blogs of all time, teaches that "it's about caring enough to create value for customers. If you get that part right, selling is easy."
Caring is the starting point of relationships. When you sell, build relationships first. Not a best-friend relationship, but a working together toward a common goal relationship.
When you care about your client, you do whatever it takes to get to know them and their situation. Once you know them, then you can be proactive. You can add value and truly start selling by helping and serving.
Open dialogue and discussion are always going to win over canned sales pitches.
When you have discussions that match the current and future goals of your client, those challenges become solvable. They are not seen as obstacles, but rather as points along the road map that you provide.
Selling is about relationships that drive solutions, and solving problems together is the ultimate relationship builder.
A sure way to cement relationships is to be working toward solving a common problem, a common challenge. When you struggle through a difficult situation with a client, you earn trust. As you strive together, you connect.
When you are fully aligned with your client, you know that no matter what challenges are presented, you will work together to "overcome" all obstacles. Your goal should be to solve as many problems together as you can. If you can solve real problems, you can sell.
Selling is about helping. Selling is about serving. If not, you are doing it wrong.
As I started focusing on the client and worked on discussing their challenges, my entire sales career improved. I developed better relationships, and you will too.