IN MY BOOK, Selling Big to China, I talk about two commonly held myths about sales. I describe them below:
Myth 1: B2B Sales
Regardless of whether you are selling Levi’s jeans directly to a 16 year old, or 9 foot high tires to a mining conglomerate, at the end of the day an individual says “yes” or “no”. There’s no such thing as B2B, or business-to-business selling. The whole fallacy that bricks and mortar, tables and chairs, and marketing plans, can find Needs, build Goodwill, and negotiate for a win-win result is obviously ridiculous. However, somehow this acronym has slipped into our sales vocabulary while we weren’t looking. The fact of the matter is, businesses don’t make decisions, individuals do. Regardless of what you sell or negotiate, you are always engaged in ‘Individual to Individual’ sales, or I2I. I2I sales can also be thought of as ‘eye to eye’. If you can’t see eye to eye with a customer or supplier there’s little chance that you will both agree to a deal. Individuals have eyes. Businesses don’t.
So, when I ask you “who is your customer” you must not say ‘multinational trading companies’ (if you are a freight forwarding company) or ‘restaurants’ (if you are a customer service training company). Rather, you will refer to an ‘individual’, flesh and blood; somebody that comes to work in the morning, and returns home at night. A real-life decision maker, not an address on a business card. It is these decision makers, who I will, from this point, call Targets, that actually decide whether to buy or not to buy. Nothing a sales person can do, excluding injecting some kind of truth serum, or holding a gun, will switch someone from ‘not buy’ to ‘buy’. The electrical signal within the brain of the Target is independent from the outside world. The only person who can truly change that signal is the Target themselves. You know this to be true because you are also a customer. We are all responsible for the decisions we make.
Myth 2: Salespeople ‘close’ deals
Accordingly, the second fallacy that I’d like to dispel is the notion that a ‘salesperson closes the deal’. Interestingly, this misleading expression is not limited to the English speaking sales field. In spoken Chinese, sales managers often ask their staff, “你搞定了吗?” which translates into “Did you settle the account?” Again, this implies that the signing of the contract is dependent on the salesperson, and not the Target. Wrong!
Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, author of Newsell (1990) and Melbourne resident, was a pioneer of a different thought and even received his PhD on proving that a salesperson doesn’t close the deal. External examiner to Hewitt-Gleeson’s thesis was Professor George Gallup, creator of the Gallup Poll. He wrote to Hewitt-Gleeson stating “Newsell is the first new strategy for selling in fifty years. You have presented a new approach to a very old subject with proof that your ideas do work.” Alas, nineteen years on, his theory is still relatively unknown by the majority of sales people.
Of course we know that it is the customer who closes the deal. As I’ve already stated, this is because we are all customers ourselves. Even Jeffrey Gitomer, author of ‘The Sales Bible’ (2003), agrees with his statement that “people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy”. However, while we know that another person, say a salesperson, couldn’t actually convince us to do anything we don’t want to do, many unconsciously follow the conditioning that ‘sales people close deals’. Open deals, yes. But not close. It’s true that for many of our purchases, the initial interest was created by the salesperson; the ‘open’. However, we know that the decision to buy, the ‘close’, is an electro-chemical reaction that takes place in our brain. Two lessons can be learned from this realisation. First, as salespeople, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we have Jedi powers that can change our customer’s mind. Second, if salespeople can’t control the ‘close’, but have the ability to ‘open’, let’s redirect our attention towards creating as many opening opportunities as possible.