April 4, 2006
I’ve never really thought of myself as a salesperson.
I remember when I was younger I interned for GE and they had some career fair at the end of the summer where you met people in all the different ‘early talent identification’ programs. When I got to the sales people, they all just seemed so smooth. I didn’t trust them, and I certainly didn’t want to buy anything from them. I just couldn’t picture myself joining that table over some of the others.
Well, fast forward a few years after I started Omedix and reality struck – I had inadvertently positioned myself as the sole salesperson for our company. Either I sold our product or we didn’t do business; it was that simple. And so I had to start learning how to sell.
I remember my very first sales experience. We were going to build a custom site for a heart surgeon group. I must have met with these doctors 4 times, but because I didn’t understand that it was my responsibility to walk everyone through the sales process, the process stalled and each meeting ended with me looking to the doctors to see what they wanted to do next. One of the doctors was particularly kind, and invited me over to his home for dinner and then to discuss the website stuff.
I was so insecure about our product at the time that I felt uncomfortable trying to promote what I was selling. A friend had recommended a few sales tips to me and I tried to force those in to the conversation, looking very much like a complete tool in the process. I was so conscious of the ‘sales importance’ of meeting the doctor that I wasn’t able to lay back and relax and enjoy the evening as a fun social experience. By the end, I didn’t know what the next steps were, so I just walked the doctor through the contract and asked him to let me know. He never did let me know, and we never even really received an official response from that client.
Fast forward to today, and I realize that everything about what I was doing was just plain wrong. By contrast, a few weeks ago, I was in discussion with a practice manager (usually the decision maker for our product) about what kind of site would be a good fit for him. First and foremost, I felt good about what I was offering, I felt proud that it was quality, and I felt confident that whatever he bought from us, it would be a good value. I mean, honestly, as the President of Omedix, I have complete control over these things so I should hope I feel that way!
So right off the bat, I didn’t feel like I was ‘selling to earn money’; I felt like I was doing this gentleman a service by professionally advising him about a service he needed.
With that as my foundation of confidence, I also realized that, as strange as it sounds, it’s really not about the product. I mean, sure, this practice was interested in a website and so it made sense to talk to us, but my focus when I first began speaking was one thing – to establish a rapport. We talked at length about his career history, and interests, and you know what, I loved it! It was fun because talking to people and getting to know them and liking them is fun. It made me want to work with him because now I liked him.
Maybe not so surprisingly, it apparently made him want to work with me too. Based on this practice’s situation, I made a recommendation about what I thought they should use. It’s a higher-end practice and so they were really going to be best-served by a higher-end site. I recommended accordingly, and I quickly found out that because this person and I now had a mutual trust of one another, he didn’t really care to hear the particular details from me. He basically said, “Tell me what I need, and let’s do it.”
What a truly wonderful gesture of trust, and you know what, not only would I be very uneasy if I violated that trust, it would be terrible for business if I violated it too. So sure enough I made a professional recommendation to him about what he needed – one I would feel comfortable making to my own mother – and told it like it was. I recently learned the initial payment to begin is already on its way.
What’s so striking to me about this is how remarkably little it had to do with the particular features of our product. Sure, I’ve put a ton of time and energy into making sure we have a great product, and sure I feel like we’re going to deliver a spectacularwebsite for this practice, but I never had to sell that. Instead I offered trust, they accepted, I got excited about working with them, they got excited about working with me, and the rest is relegated to the trust factor.
Earlier today, I was in another sales situation. It was interesting because what the practice wanted and what I would recommend – again my litmus test; what I would recommend to my own mother – were a bit off-synch. I had the choice either to capitulate and say “Sure, what you’re asking we can do”, or I could take the higher ground, stand up for my beliefs and say, “You know what, if I were you, here’s what I would do.” What I proposed to them did cost more money, and it involved some things they were visibly uncomfortable with. To be honest, I really don’t know if they’ll decide to go for it.
But the truth is I feel good about the professional recommendation I made, and I stand behind my decision to recommend what I did.
I’ve started realizing that if you want to make more money in this world, the way to do it is not by learning tricks for manipulating people or slick sales techniques; it’s about finding out how to add more value to the world, and then making a genuine, informed, professional recommendation to people who trust you that if they use a service you developed they will benefit far more than what it costs them.
That, to me, is capitalism at its best. My company invests time and money developing a service that provides value to our clients, and when our clients come to us with the problems I know they have (I’m starting to see the same ones again and again) I can confidently say “I have a solution to your problems.” and make an honest, friendly recommendation about why I think this will improve their life in some capacity.
And that’s something else I’ve realized. If I have to try too hard in a sale, it’s not a good fit. For whatever reason, this client does not value our product as much and it is unlikely to be much different if they wind up purchasing it. That used to make me insecure, but now I realize you just can’t be all things to everyone.
So, the take-away from all of this for me is: selling is not about ‘sales’ at all, trust is far and away the most valuable thing you can build, and great selling should come from confidently knowing you offer a valuable service and being proud that you are helping people improve their lives.