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How To Sell Without Being Incredibly Annoying

What comes to mind when I think of salespeople? 

  • They're pushy.
  • You can't trust them.
  • They'll say anything to get a sale.
  • They don't know anything about me and don't care.
  • They're super annoying.

Apparently, I'm not the only one that feels this way. According to a 2015 American Marketing Association (AMA) survey, most consumers are annoyed too. Here are some behaviors that turn them off the most. 

  • Being too pushy (24%)
  • Not taking "no" for an answer (23%)
  • Not listening (18%)
  • Talking too much (9%)
  • Bait and switch (8%)
  • Reading from a script (7%)
  • Using meaningless sales jargon (5%)
  • Upselling (4%)
  • Being impatient (2%)

These won't take "no" for an answer, used-car-salesman tactics have run their course. People are fed up with being coerced into buying something they don't want or need. If you're anything like Alec Baldwin's character from the famous "Always Be Closing" sales training speech(in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross), stop it right now!

For many salespeople, forcing a sale isn't on their agenda. They just don't know how to approach people, especially when they're just starting out. Here are several ways you can make meaningful connections with potential buyers that don't require a canned sales pitch. All you need is a desire to be helpful. 

1. Be Honest.

It may be tempting to bend the truth a little or leave out important details in order to save the sale. However, making promises you can’t keep or bypassing potential risks will not only cost you a sale, you risk losing your customer relationship entirely. 

Being dishonest isn't just what you say, it's also what you don't say. Withholding important information is deceitful and unethical. Nowadays, all people have to do to verify your credibility is get on bbb.org. You're much better off just being honest from the get-go.

2. listen.

How are you going to know what your customers need or who they are if you aren't willing to listen to them? Being a good listener isn't just about being polite, it's also about making people feel understood and heard. While listening, you will find out things like

  • What makes them afraid
  • What causes them stress or discomfort
  • How their problem affects their life--their business
  • What they think the solution is
  • What is standing in their way to fixing the problem
  • How their lives would be better if the problem was resolved

3. stop selling and start serving.

Instead of thinking "what can I get" from this person, think "what can I give." This isn't a tactic. This is a way of being. The act of service breaks down barriers and builds bridges in all aspects of your life, not just in business. “By freely offering information, advice, and resources to people who have not yet decided to hire you, the need for any clash of wills between prospect and salesperson disappears. Instead of creating sales resistance, your generosity dissolves the barriers between you. Prospects begin to think of you as a trusted resource. You become the first person they think of for their own needs and referrals as well.”

Chick-fil-A is one of many great companies that is a great example of putting service before selling. They believe that for real growth to happen, you have to do more than just sell sandwiches. In one of their cities, where football is king, they give "away food at Chick-fil-A Bowl games and at events on campus. Operators strike vendor relationships with stadiums and have great relationships with over 200 athletic departments where they provide catering. Yes, it’s an expense. But for Chick-fil-A, measured in terms of relationships built and enjoyment for fans and customers, it’s worth it.”

4. Make an emotional connection. 

For many businesses, the secret formula to their success isn’t better services and lower prices. It’s establishing an emotional connection with the people they serve. 

"All buyers are influenced by their emotions. How customers care about your products/services may be unconscious, but these unconscious feelings can have a very concrete impact on your business. Emotional connections can determine the strength and length of a customer relationship. They drive passion, loyalty, and advocacy.”

According to Gallup and Mori research, these are some of the benefits of having emotionally engaged customers and patients:

  • outperform competitors by 26% in gross margin;
  • outperform competitors by 85% in sales growth;
  • are at least 3 times more likely to recommend a business;
  • are at least 3 times more likely to purchase again; and
  • 44% rarely or never shop around.

How do you make an emotional connection?

  • Smile. It goes a long way.
  • Create a fun and interactive environment.
  • Offer products and services that appeal to your customers' values.
  • Take on a social cause.
  • Offer validation and empathy. (This goes back to listening.)
  • Get to know your customers on a first-name basis 

It's a new era

Though many people out there don't seem to have gotten the memo, "Ditch the pitch," you have. You're on your way to making better connections and stronger customer relationships. Just remember what sales is all about. It's about putting the needs of others before yourself. It's about service.