A young sales professional once said to me, “You could probably sell ice to Alaskans.”
I said, “That might be true, but it could be the last sale I ever got in Alaska.”
People who are new to sales often have the perception that getting someone to buy something that they don’t need (like ice to Alaskans, get it?) is the hallmark of an effective sales person. Certainly, having the ability to make money selling useless products and services is a rare skill, but it’s not a sustainable business practice. Once buyers realize they have made a bad purchase, they will never buy from that sales person again.
Ultimately, clients buy from sales people whom they trust, and building a trusted relationship is the hardest task to accomplish in business. To build a strong, trusted relationship, a sales person first must sell himself, namely, that he is someone with integrity; someone with competence; and someone who cares as much about the client’s success as he cares about his own. This requires an uncommon level of character, experience and empathy to build a solid reputation in the industry. Once established, that reputation becomes the pre-sale: before walking into the room, clients already have expectations that they are going to deal with a trusted business partner, not a huckster.
Clients may forget the details of the last deal they did; but they will always remember how that sales person made them feel in doing that deal. And if they feel they were not treated fairly, such as being sold ice in Alaska, the client will freeze out that sales person from any future deals.