The No-Selling Sales Approach

If you ask me, winter in New England (like pregnancy) is about a month too long. The same slow, heavy snowfall that in December has you contemplating the wonders of the universe, is just as likely by March to have you contemplating the wonders of owning a home in Florida.

There is one winter activity however, that I never seem to tire of: Driving in the snow. Near death experiences not withstanding, I have to admit that I enjoy the slipping and sliding that goes along with making my way down a snow covered street, or working my car out of a snow bank.

If you’ve never driven on a snowy or icy street however, beware. The most important rule for safe winter driving is completely counterintuitive: Avoid using the brake.

For example, I live on a winding, narrow, country road. It’s tight getting by another car under ideal conditions, and when the snow gets piled up on the sides, there’s even less room for error. When a car approaches from the other direction, it seems natural to tap the brake to slow yourself down. Unfortunately, doing so on an icy road will often cause the car to swerve, increasing the likelihood that you and your neighbor will become fast friends.

Instead, and despite all apparent logic to the contrary, it’s at the very moment that your reflexes tell you to brake that your best approach is to do exactly the opposite.

Likewise, when it comes to selling professional services, there’s a counterintuitive approach that works better than doing what reflex suggests. In this case, instead of talking about the “urge to brake,” I’m talking about the “urge to sell.”

If you’re reading this newsletter, chances are you’re not in the information publishing business. Sure, you’re trying to create something that’s interesting, useful and authentic, but whether you’re a financial planner, an attorney, a consultant or some other type of service professional, the newsletter itself is not what you’re selling.

Rather, its purpose is to position you as expert and make the phone ring with prospective clients. And with that in mind, it seems perfectly logical that your newsletter ought to put you and your expertise front and center. After all, we’re not giving away information for its own sake, and what’s the point in publishing if we don’t get to promote our business?

The funny thing is — and this is the counterintuitive part — the fastest and most effective way to sell yourself as a professional is to not sell yourself at all. Instead, focus on building a reputation as a helpful, open, available source of useful information in your area of expertise.

In my experience, when you apply a “help” rather than “sell” approach, a few things are going to happen:

• People will hear you. There’s so much selling disguised as useful information floating around, that when readers discover you actually provide no-strings-attached help, you’ll cut through the clutter and gain their attention.

• People will confide in you. Most of us are so guarded against unwanted sales pitches that even when speaking to someone who could potentially solve our problem, we tend to keep them at a distance and reveal a minimum of information. When you stop selling and focus on helping, your readers will feel the shift immediately. They’ll talk openly with you and without hesitation.

• People will speak well of you. A selling approach focuses on closing deals — those who can’t be closed are simply abandoned. A helping approach on the other hand, benefits everyone with whom you interact — whether or not you have something to sell to them. In this case, you’ll find that it’s often the people who don’t buy from you (particularly if you help them see that there’s not a good match) who speak most highly of you to others.

One final thought. The “No Selling Sales Approach” applies to more than just your newsletter. The next time you attend a networking meeting, sit on a panel or get a call from a prospective client (no I’m not kidding), take off your sales hat and approach the interaction from the perspective of, “How can I help this person solve their problem?” You’ll be amazed at what it does for your income.

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