THE BLOG
06/05/2013 01:14 pm ET Updated Aug 05, 2013

Make "Yes" the First Word Clients Say

Approach a prospect or even a former client with a new offering you're selling, and chances are the first word you'll hear is "no" or some variation: "We aren't in the market for that right now," "We don't have that in the budget," "We're fine with what we're currently using." It's almost as if humans are hard-wired to automatically reject whatever a salesperson is selling.

As a salesperson, you've probably given this automatic "no" to other sales professionals selling to you. Ever been in a department store and said to the salesperson offering help, "No thanks. I'm just looking"? We've all done it! But why? Unless your purpose was indeed just to browse, you probably drove to the store for a reason. So why isn't the first response, "Yes, I'm looking for..." or "Yes, I would like some help"?

Granted, retail sales and B2B or even B2C sales are very different, but the problem is the same -- clients have a knee-jerk reaction to salespeople and automatically give a negative reply, even if they need the product, want the product, and ultimately buy the product.

So how do we as sales professionals turn that around?

First, we have to acknowledge the fact that many prospects and clients don't trust salespeople. It's sad but true. Unfortunately, over the years people have encountered all sorts of salespeople -- some good, but most not-so-good -- and the profession as a whole has taken a beating.

The good news is you can shift and restore the reputation of sales as a professional career. In fact, it's time for salespeople to ban together and clean up the reputation of the sales profession so we can get to a "yes" sooner and be viewed as trusted advisers and collaborators.

When you are thought of as a confidential, trusted adviser, you not only sell more, but you also give people a higher level of service and expertise. To reach that level, though, you first have to gain your client's trust. Only then can you advise them on the best product or service that meets their needs, rather than pushing a product or service just to meet your quota.

Here are the key steps to make "yes" the first reply your clients give:

1.  Take the time to listen.

Listen to understand the client's needs, not to solve and sell. When you do, you'll gain a true understanding of what your client is looking to accomplish. Even better, listen as if you were in their situation so you can uncover their "pain"--the challenges that keep them up at night and that you can offer a solution for. But don't jump the gun and offer that solution yet. First, you must simply listen.

 2. Ask the tough questions.

Once you are clear about their goal, you can begin to ask the tough questions -- budget, timing, what a big win for them looks like, what's in their way, etc. Being in the same emotional space as your client puts you in an empathetic place so you can relate to them.

3. Be an expert adviser.

With a thorough understanding of their needs, you can now present a solid solution to their problem using your experience, knowledge, and wisdom. But don't "sell" them anything. Rather, your job is to determine the best solution -- even if it's not your product or solution. Yes, that's tough to do, but it's what gains trust. Make your recommendations as if you were trying to help your best friend. Your recommendation as a professional is vital to earning trust. Even if the client doesn't buy from you today, he or she will seek you out later for advice on the next challenge... and the one after that... and the one after that. When that occurs, anytime you call upon that person, he or she will always greet you with: "Yes! Tell me more."

Sales can and should be a highly respected profession at the level of a trusted adviser. The only way to make that happen is to choose to think of selling differently. What's your viewpoint? When you approach people, do you have the best interest of your clients in mind, or are you in the game of selling and making quota? When you are a trusted adviser, you will get more than a "yes"; you will change your game to being a resource to your clients, which will make them your clients for life!