Andy Paul: Selling Without Selling Out
The COVID-19 pandemic, and humanity’s response to it, upended traditional ways of life and business. In particular, the art and craft of selling was turned on its head. Travel was curtailed. One-on-one in-person meetings were abandoned in favor of Zoom calls. The entire end-to-end sales cycle had to be conducted online.
According to Andy Paul, author of Selling WIthout Selling Out, this disruption should have been an opportunity for sales professionals to reinvent their approach to selling. But it didn’t happen: By and large, in the post-pandemic era, sellers have reverted to old ways that just aren’t working. “Despite all the advantages of the technology that’s at our disposal today for marketing and sales purposes, the data suggests that we’re actually performing less well,” Andy says.
Andy, a long-time sales professional with over three-quarters of a billion dollars in deals to his credit, set out to find out why, and what sellers can do about it. The result was Selling Without Selling Out. He was interviewed recently in our Sales Lead Dog podcast and shared some of the insights he learned while writing the book.
Causes and Drawbacks of Traditional Selling
Andy says that the main issue with traditional selling is that we train sellers to focus on persuading the customer to buy their product or service. Here’s a target, go out and hit it.
The problem with this approach is that it all too often results in sales professionals resorting to off-putting, “sales-y” behavior that destroys their credibility and reinforces negative stereotypes of salespeople as sleazy, self-centered, and untrustworthy.
The blame for this state of affairs starts with upper management and sales leadership, who tend to focus on uniformity, customers as “personas,” and on hitting targets for contacts, meetings, and conversions. The result is that sales professionals are becoming more like robots and less like humans.
A Better Way: “Selling In”
Andy’s solution involves focusing on the innate human behaviors that form the pillars of his approach, which he calls “selling in” (as opposed to selling out):
A sales professional with this mindset approaches each contact as a human-to-human interaction in which the seller first tries to understand the customer’s situation, pain points, and desired outcome. It’s then the seller’s job not to persuade the customer to make a buying decision, but to help the buyer reach a decision by offering the right solution.
We, as a profession, need to train sellers how to connect with buyers on a human level, how to prepare for various types of sales calls, and how to ask the right questions to understand the customer. The “selling in” approach enables salespeople to be creative, think outside the box, and find better ways to help their customers.
Buyers equate value with progress. If they are investing time in taking your call or reading your email, they will perceive the interaction as valuable only to the extent that it helps them move towards a buying decision. Any other activity is a waste of their time. Sellers need to understand this and practice it with every interaction.
Andy says that in many industries, there is little differentiation among providers with regard to products and services. Research shows that what actually makes one stand out from the others is the buyer’s experience with the sales representative. Those who create positive experiences for their customers will have the most success.
For more on Andy’s insights, listen to his interview on the Sales Lead Dog podcast.