How to Sell to Smart People Selling to people smarter and more experienced than you? Don't be intimidated. Here's how to close the sale.
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If I had to choose between selling to someone smarter and moreexperienced than I am and someone who is not, I would choose theformer every time. Some of the strongest business relationships Ihave developed over the years have been with people who have takenme under their wings and taught me invaluable lessons about theirbusinesses, their industries and selling in general. Often, theyhave become mentors as well as customers.
Don't be intimidated by people who have achieved success,wisdom and expertise; instead, appreciate the opportunity you havebeen given to learn and grow. Here are some simple strategies toremember when selling to someone SAME--smarter and moreexperienced:
- Let them toot their own horns. You'll often findthat a healthy ego goes hand in hand with a high level of knowledgeand experience. Most SAME people are happy to let you know how muchthey know, and that you are now stepping into their territory. Thisis especially important for the new salesperson to realize--theSAME person is not blowing smoke in the air. He or she just wantsyou to know that you're dealing with someone who's beenaround and knows what he or she is doing.
- Acknowledge their knowledge. Don't hide the factthat you're aware of how smart they are. Sincere compliments("You've been in the business for 25 years; you must knoweverything there is to know about this industry") make animmediate impact on the person's attitude toward you. This isdifferent from "sucking up"--if you don't really meanit, don't say it.
- Don't tell them how much you know about theirbusiness. When you sell to a SAME person, the temptation is totry and impress them with how much you know about their business.It's easy to get caught up in the moment and say,"I've done some homework--let me tell you a few things Ilearned about your company" before you know anything about thecustomer. A better statement might be, "I've done somehomework, and I see you've been in this business for quite afew years. I'd love to get your insight on what's new inyour industry." Take the advice of Lord Chesterfield, aBritish statesman who said, "Never seem more learned than thepeople you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch, andkeep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give thetime when you are asked."
- Learn something from them. People love to feel that theyhave had an influence on another person. Listen carefully to whatthe more experienced person has to say, then come back with asolution based on that information. You might say, "I thoughtabout our conversation on how you differentiated your product line.That taught me a great lesson and helped me understand how I can dothat with my product. It also helped me come up with an idea ofwhat we can do for you." That way, you not only have a win-winsales situation, you have also given the SAME person credit forteaching you a better way to serve his or her needs.
Any time you have the chance to make a SAME person your mentor,jump at it. This person can be your wise and loyal advisor--sharingknowledge and skills, and helping you advance in business. Turninga customer into a mentor can help you be not only a bettersalesperson, but a better person as well.