A few weeks ago I was walking through Home Depot looking for light bulbs when I incidentally locked eyes with a gentleman carrying a clipboard, dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and tie. Immediately, my salesman radar went up. Frantically, I looked for a place to escape, but it was already too late.
Salesman: “Excuse me ma’am, do you know about our latest air-conditioning services?”
I didn’t want to be rude, so I responded “no, not yet,” and quickly started pretending to browse for sandpaper. I knew my body language demonstrated that I did not want to engage in the conversation, but the salesman proceeded to hit me with his hard-n-fast sales pitch.
It was obvious I wasn’t going to get out of this one easy, so I turned to him and said, “I’m not interested in any services at this time, Sir, but thank you for taking the time to inform me.” At which point I turned around and walked away – no – ran away!
Now, I believe this is a poor selling strategy for Home Depot for several reasons. First of all, it’s the worst kind of interruption-selling one could engage in. Obviously, I’m in the store shopping. Now is not the time to try to sell me something I’m not looking for.
But that fact aside, it got me thinking about how averse we’ve become too hard sales tactics. They simply don’t work anymore. And more often than not, they leave potential customers with a negative experience. So why do businesses do it when there is a much better way to sell and market your products and services?
Never “Sell” Again
Effective selling isn’t really “selling” anymore. Effective selling is effective teaching.
For some people selling comes naturally. For others it’s a skill they acquire over time. But by and large, most people don’t enjoy having to sell something to someone who doesn’t already want what they are offering. Combating customer objections, and manipulating customer emotions, is no longer a necessary practice and selling – IF, you embrace the idea that teaching sells.
When you strive to educate your target market about your products and services in a way that appeals to their intellectual, emotional, physical, psychological, and even spiritual desires you remove the need to create an interest in your product or service.
By teaching your target market how (and why) your products and services benefit them, while also teaching them how to maximize those benefits, you build instant credibility, reliability, and likability.
Implement This “Selling” Strategy through Marketing
Selling by teaching has never been easier to implement. Instead of cold calling prospects (trying to convince them that you have what they want and need) you can attract your prospects to your business by providing them with educational marketing materials. This strategy is most commonly observed in online marketing.
For example, most businesses with an online presence use e-mail marketing to provide their target market with valuable and educational content in an effort to convert a cold prospect into a friendly customer.
Another method for implementing this educational based selling is through business blogging. Although less intimate than e-mail marketing, using your blog articles to teach your ideal customers is another way to implement this strategy.
To use this education based selling strategy effectively, you must accomplish several things. First, you must provide educational materials that relate to your products and services that your target market is genuinely interested in. The best way to determine what should be talking about is by doing keyword research. When you know what your target market is looking for as it relates to your products and services, you also know what to talk about.
Second, you must communicate in a personable yet professional tone. People do not engage with companies. They engage with other people. So even though you are using educational subject matter to sell to your customers, you still want to talk to them in a manner that fosters trust and likability. Avoid using phrases like “we,” (unless you’re a two person business) or “at our company.” Instead, opt for making your communications more personal and focused on your target market.
Third, you must use a call to action and provide your target market with offers in these educational materials. Although your materials will be educational in nature, you will still need to integrate offers and a strong call to action. Your target market is not going to click the “buy” button, pick up the phone, or schedule an appointment unless you ask them to. Just because you are trying to inform your customer does not mean that you do not need to ask for the sale. It’s this component that makes the entire process education based selling.
Why this is Win-Win
Personally, I find educative selling a win–win strategy. Not only does it enable me to build stronger relationships with my customers, but it enables me to become an authority in my field by being the number one resource for my products and services in the eyes of my target market. Plus, because your target market is seeking this information from YOU, they are open to receiving offers from you.
I believe if Home Depot would invest their time and money in setting up a display booth where they gave away sample products in exchange for e-mail addresses (so they could e-mail targeted customers with information and offers for specific products and services) they’d see much better results over the long term.
Not to mention, they wouldn’t run the risk of running customers away, because they have lurking salespeople scanning aisles for defenseless victims. As far as I’m concerned, from now on I’ll be shopping at Lowe’s.
So tell me, what are you doing in your business to eliminate the need for selling? How are you integrating sales tactics into your marketing materials so that you don’t have to actively “sell” to your target market? Do you believe in educative selling, or do you think there will always be a need for the full-court press?
Let’s chat about it in the comments below.