Observations and Insights on Selling

The SalesPractice blog offers weekly observations and insights for sales practitioners pursuing the highest levels of performance in personal selling.

This Week's Post:

The 4 Applied Understandings

Gary Boye

One day I had a conversation with That Little Voice in My Head. It took place halfway through the gathering of material for these pages which advises that there are Four Things that determine our success in selling.

"You can't say 'things,'" the Little Voice said. "Call them 'secrets', or 'laws', or 'rules."

"They are none of those," I argued. "They are 'teachings'. Nobody made them a law or a rule. And they are nobody's secret. They are what four decades of lessons and accomplishments in sales taught me. Every single success story I observed in myself and others validates those teachings. I take no credit for inventing some kind of magic formula."

We bantered back and forth and I almost won the argument with The Little Voice-until something occurred to me. It had to do with the words of author and educator Stephen Covey, whose classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, remains one of the very best treatises on personal development. Covey said, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

My four things were not just things, they were understandings. More succinctly they are meant to be applied understandings. They are not just factors in the science, art, practice, business, game (pick one) of selling. They are the determinants.

I have a powerful intention to influence the reader with my core belief about selling for a living. Here then is what I observed, utilized, and teach as the Four Applied Understandings that determine our success in selling:

  1. YOU ARE BEING COMPARED. Every potential customer you meet is comparing the experience they have with you to the experiences they have with others. Your success in selling comes from making the other experiences pale by comparison.
  2. HONEST INTRINSIC QUESTIONS are the building blocks of a sale.
  3. PREPAREDNESS is the most important skill in selling.
  4. CLOSING is a progression of consent.

It would be wonderful if you could carry those words in blinking lights on the inside of your forehead. However, here's a suggestion: Write them on a three by five card and carry them with you, at least until the time you retire from selling, managing a sales force, or being a CEO or chairman in a company driven by sales.

Awareness always precedes understanding. To further the cause of awareness, let's revisit two words that were used above. The words are "factors" and "determinants." It is important to know that although they are sometimes used interchangeably, their meanings are different.

My dictionary tells me that when I "determine", I settle or decide conclusively. I ascertain or conclude, after observation or consideration. (In all fairness, I admit that I have chosen and paraphrased the definitions which align to this discussion.)

When we say success in selling is determined by the application of four understandings, what is it exactly that we are determining? The answer lies in the attainment of desired outcomes in the selling process.

On the other hand we find that "factor" is defined as an element or cause that contributes to a result. Factors such as skill levels in all phases can certainly contribute to the attainment of our desired outcome, but, in truth, some will and some won't, depending on the specific circumstances. As an aside to this, I'm aware that there are some who would speak disparagingly about other who make easy sales, calling them "order takers." I picture the disparagers stopping a buyer in her tracks, saying "Wait a minute-you can't buy yet, I haven't done my closing dance!"

The commission dollars from the easy sale are just as bankable as others.

The good news is that, in these pages, we're going to talk about the "factors" in selling. The great news is that we're going to filter every one of those factors through the lens of the determinants-namely The Four Applied Understandings that cause our success in selling. I'll name some of those factors right now as referenced from the most popular topics on SalesPractice.com, the definitive source of sales education on the Internet. Certainly, the reader would not be excited if the following topics weren't laid on the table and relentlessly dissected for the sake of becoming a true knower of what makes sales happen.

The Psychology of Selling always has appeal. And--that's a good thing, so long as we focus on awareness of how people behave rather reasons why they behave that way. The latter is best left to the psychologists who have had a great deal of trouble of agreeing with one another. After all, we have things to sell. Below are three factors.

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Social Influence
  • Customer Experience

Lead Generation has always been the primary topic for newcomers to sales. What a difference it will make when understanding of the essence of these activities takes place!

  • Sales Prospecting
  • Business Referrals
  • Business Networking
  • Cold Calling
  • Follow-up

Marketing Promotion always boils down to applying "Should I or shouldn't I?" to every idea.

  • Personal Selling
  • Advertising
  • Sales Promotion
  • Public Relations and Publicity
  • Direct Marketing
  • Internet and Technology

Selling Skills are the nitty-gritty, aren't they? It's probably the reason you have read this far. The juicy part. The magic. The secrets. Tactics and techniques. Well, so as not to disappoint, we are going to explore the following in a way that can take you from novice, or practiced novice (our term for intermediate) to mastery. And--we will do it all from the filter of Applied Understandings.

  • Sales Approach
  • Sales Interview
  • Sales Presentation
  • Sales Closing
  • Sales Resistance
  • Sales Negotiation

The huge rewards which await your success in selling will directly relate to how willing you are to internalize the Four Applied Understandings we have introduced on the preceding pages. Welcome to the journey.