Monday, December 18, 2017

"As Much As We Like To Believe Selling Has Changed, It Still Involves Listening"

Other than retail sales, where the customer walks into an establishment and expects to be waited on by a clerk or allowed to browse on their own (often dependent on the customer's mood at the time or the general character and business model of the establishment and how it responds to walk-in traffic), selling is essentially the same today as it's been for recent memory - possibly forever.

Sure, there is much more advertising than ever before and much of it is online, but this does not translate immediately to more sales - only in more interest and inquiries. The number of online selling sites (such as eBay), online advertising sites (Craigslist and Next Door, for instance), and retail websites where we can place our orders and have them delivered to our door (Amazon and Walmart come to mind, along with many clothing and specialty companies) puts the consumer in the driver's seat and lets them shop, research, compare, and make purchases without ever leaving the comfort of their home.

In the sense that people shop and purchase online, advertising and marketing can be said to lead directly to more sales, but the sales occur - as they typically do - after the consumer learns about the availability of an item or solution they think will help them. Then they explore the item and decide whether to purchase it. They also have the ability to compare prices across retailers for the best price (including shipping and taxes) on the exact same or very similar item.

Many salespeople tend to be intimidated because the consumer is armed with so much information prior to the initial sales encounter. Actually, this is good and does not detract from the overall sales experience. If anything it enhances it. Instead of the salesperson spending time educating the consumer - often in a nearly condescending or elementary way - about the attributes of their product or service, or in making a case for the consumer needing it, they can spend their time answer specific questions raised by the consumer and address much more pertinent inquiries as to how the product or service might work for the client. At this point, solutions and performance are more important to the consumer than price. Then, the price will factor into the discussion of which product or service is actually selected by the consumer.

Selling is now, and should always have been, about listening to the needs of the consumer and then expressing ways those can be addressed rather than being about the person making the sale. As aging in place professionals, we have many ways of meeting our clients' needs, but we won't know what they desire, which are the most appropriate, which can coexist with their structure and floor plan, and what the budget can accommodate until we ask questions and seriously listen to what is being expressed - in words and in emotion.

Selling our products or services does not happen because we want it to, and we don't sell something just because we think the client should have it or we make a larger margin for selling it. It is totally dependent on the client. We are in a needs-based business rather than a product-driven one. Our clients determine what they want or need by sharing with us or allowing us to determine what will serve them. In a product based business, it is more about us and the need to make a sale to produce revenue. In our aging in place businesses, we make money but only when we serve our clients.

We may find our clients through referrals, direct contact, social media, websites, or other types of marketing. Once we establish that connection, good old-fashioned, time-tested sales techniques take over - no fancy closes, scripts to follow, or anything remotely hokey. We simply observe, listen, ask questions, and listen some more to form an idea of what we want to recommend. If the client agrees with or suggestion, we make a sale. If not, we adjust the proposal until it meets with their approval.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.