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Are You a Salesperson or a Consultant? By Bill Tamminga


What salesperson doesn’t love the Glenngary Glen Ross speech when Alec Baldwin gives his seven-minute rant/pep talk to his struggling group of sales flunkies? One of his main points: ABC. A – Always, B – Be, C – Closing. Makes sense, right? Well, keep that in mind because I’ll get back to this point in a second.

There is nothing wrong with good salespeople. We need them to fill all kinds of roles – in mall kiosks, call centers, and used car dealerships across the United States. But as margins and dollars-per-transaction increase, traditional sales skills (the kind we’re taught in seminars and sales meetings) become less relevant.

One of my largest clients was an insurance company that specializes in wholesaling annuities. It was a $10 billion per year business and there was a tremendous amount of money to be made selling their products. As I spent more time with their sales staff, I saw that there was a clear distinction between the salespeople in the top 5% of the company and the rest of their peers. The difference was very clear in their earnings – $1 million per year (or more) at the top versus an average of $100,000 (or less) at the bottom.

In addition to earning more income, those at the top were more confident, more effective communicators, more polished in their appearance, and they dealt with more sophisticated clients. But those were all external manifestations of their unique approach to sales. While the those salespeople at the bottom focused on the textbook sales process and becoming experts in the details of their products, the top 5% focused on consulting.

The top 5% rarely went to a prospect’s office on the first visit with a sales kit. They never went to a prospect’s office without a preset list of qualifying questions. And they never, ever asked for business on the first visit. They simply asked questions about the prospect’s needs and desires and then shared how they might be able to help. They often left with business after their first meeting, but they never asked for it.

Following are a few more differences between the top 5% and their peers.

The Top 5%
– Thoroughly qualified the prospects before and during the first meeting.
– Listened significantly more than they talked.
– Recommended only the features and benefits that mattered to the customer.
– Focused on solving customers’ problems.

The Rest
– Spoke more than they listened.
– Explained the features and benefits of the entire product/service.
– Asked just a few questions.
– Talked through the customer, not to the customer.
– Focused on the product, not the problem.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard sales managers use Baldwin’s classic line “always be closing.” It’s a good line and it works for salespeople who handle large amounts of small transactions. But if you want to make huge money in sales and work with companies that will pay you seven figure incomes, you’ll need to make a slight change: Always Be Consulting.
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Bill Tamminga is a sales and marketing consultant in Denver, CO. He created a marketing assessment tool for service businesses called Advanced Business Triage and is currently working on a how-to marketing book for service business owners. You can visit him at www.BillTamminga.com

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