Selling as a process, if not a professional undertaking, has gotten a bad reputation because we often associate unpleasant experiences that we've had or witnessed over the years with the whole field of selling. We, like many people, generalize and tend to link the overbearing, pushy, won't-take-no-for-an-answer salespeople to anyone who sells a product or service.
Business-to-business selling where vendors and suppliers sell to business and industrial customers - often in very large quantities or large dollar volumes - is quite common and both buyers and sellers are used to dealing with the others. It's the business-to-consumer selling that creates most of the issues.
Consumers like to be in control, and they are used to shopping in a retail store, online, or self-service situation such as a grocery or convenience store. Here they can go about their business at their own pace and not encounter and clerks or salespeople unless they have a question or need to check-out. Some large retailers and gas stations even provide self-checkout or automated transactions where no one else is involved in making the purchase. This likely is one of the strong appeals of online shopping.
So, when salespeople engage consumers to sell home products, services, or other major purchases, sometimes they advance their own agenda rather than just meeting the needs of the customer. This is where the reputation of salespeople takes a hit, and this is where salespeople fail the consumer.
Rather than attempting to understand the customer or their needs, some salespeople seem to have a mindset driven by a production quota that their company has established for them to meet as part of the overall company sales plan. The company has a projected revenue and need to have each salesperson to produce a certain portion of that revenue. They might have a particular product that is not selling as well as others in their inventory that they encourage or even incentivize salespeople to "push" - even when the customer is not that interested in this specific product or it doesn't serve their needs. This is where many sales issues arise.
In fact, some salespeople ignore learning about the customer's needs and focus solely on attempting to sell them what the salesperson feels compelled to sell by his or her company. Their need to make a sale overrides the requirements, needs, desires, or level of interest of the consumer.
So, let's forget about making a sale as aging in place professionals. Sales will come once we determine what will serve our clients and begin to show them how this can happen. We have a valuable product or service that we offer, but we want the client to recognize this from their vantage point and decide to move forward rather than being pressured into a decision because we need to make a sale. Instead of focusing on selling or making a sale, let's go for understanding the needs of our potential clients and designing a solution for them that serves their interests and budget.
We don't have a quota, and we don't need to make a sales for the sake of making a sale. We offer solutions, and we derive great satisfaction from helping people to enjoy a safer, more comfortable, and more accessible living space than what they have when we first meet them - regardless of whether they have a particular physical or sensory need or not.
When we truly learn what people are thinking and what they need and desire, we can suggest a course of action to help them achieve it - rather than approaching the situation as a potential sale for our own purposes. When they allow us to help them and appreciate that we really are interested in serving them, we will make the sale.
Putting ourselves, our products, solutions, services, or company ahead of the needs and interests of the client is why the consumer often reacts negatively to the idea of working with a salesperson or anyone they perceive as just trying to sell them something they may not need or want.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, 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.