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Avoid Stupid Sales Gimmicks

There's no need for tricks when you're driven by the timeless tools of the trade.

Some years ago, a good friend of mine returned from a sales conference with a rubber band around his wrist.

Not just any rubber band. One he wore as a badge of honor. He told me, with a straight face, that this piece of rubber was the key to joining the sales elite.

I guess David Hannum was right: There is a sucker born every minute.

The sales world is littered with all manner of "sure-fire" systems for selling. The problem is, selling cannot and should not ever be reduced to a fad system.

Catch my drift. The other day I invited two clients to have lunch in the hopes that they would refer business to each other. They wound up hitting it off from the start. When I informed one party that the other party liked him very much and wanted to do business immediately, he responded with genuine surprise.

"Are you sure?" he asked, "because I'm not a salesman."

What he didn't realize is that he was selling by being himself. The importance of this observation goes beyond one's approach (or lack thereof) to closing a deal. It is the antidote to the silly, gimmicky, let's-put-one-by-them sales tricks that masquerade as wonders of the sales world.

The hydra-headed problem with so many sales systems is not only that they don't work, but worse yet, that they encourage salespeople to jump from one cheap stunt to another. Time after time, I see salespeople--whether they be business owners or commissioned reps--zig-zagging from one charade to another. They stumble onto a new gimmick touted as the wonder closer to all wonder closers, only to find that in the real world it's no panacea. So they drop it like a hot potato and move on to the next dud.

One of the rarely discussed keys to successful selling is to identify an approach that works for you and to stick with it. Figure out how to perfect your system when it fails to produce. Identify what makes it work and look for ways to enhance those parts. Make it so much a part of you that it's less about a system--but instead a natural extension of yourself.

The reason the non-salesman client of mine succeeded as a "salesman" is because he's driven by all of the elements of timeless salesmanship:

  • A genuine interest in the other party
  • A self-honesty and integrity others can perceive and believe in
  • True interest in understanding the other party's challenges and opportunities and in seeking solutions to them (as opposed to simply moving products and services off the shelf)
  • A steely determination to reject gimmicks of all kinds

If you don't possess the resolve to avoid gimmicks, you become a gimmick yourself--a transparent product hawker looking to wheel and deal even when there's no value in it for the client.

Don't be a salesperson. Be a person who happens to make sales because you do all of the other stuff right.

Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a management and marketing firm based in New York, and the author of Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman. He's a regular media commentator on business matters including marketing, management and sales. He's also the author of the marketing blog, Unconventional Thinking.

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