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Stop Selling and Start Solving

The public has a bad image of sales people and the idea of sales in general. They are viewed as someone who is trying to lure our money away from us, to con or swindle us. True there are some sharks out there but anyone who is trying to build a career in sales knows better. A true sales person is always looking for the win win. The situation where the customer truly is receiving a valuable product or service for a fair price and the sales person is able to make a profitable sale and continue to deliver on their promise.

This takes creativity, a positive attitude and the ability to view a situation from the other persons point of view. A good sales person always listens to the potential customer and searches for what it is that they are missing or have a need for. They search for the problem holding the customer back and then rigorously attempt to solve this problem.

The beans were not the problem.

The beans were not the problem.

A specific example of this from my coffee selling days took place in a large upscale hotel. I was meeting with the general manager and they were already using a very high quality coffee with a brand most people would have considered top shelf. I didn’t let this discourage me because there was a reason I was meeting with the GM, they don’t take time to meet just for amusement.

We sat down and instead of telling him all the amazing things I had to offer and try to convince him we were as quality as the coffee he is using I simply asked him a question. Are you happy with the coffee you’re serving today?

He looked taken aback at how piercing the question was as if I had called his hand in poker. He then regrouped and decided just to answer honestly, “No.” That was the beginning.

The GM went on to explain to me that they have been receiving complaints about the coffee either being too strong or too weak and he couldn’t understand it, the coffee was fresh, the roaster is very well respected and they pay a lot of money to carry the best. I immediately asked if I could see the kitchen where the coffee station was. He brought me back promptly and luckily an employee was there starting to brew another pot of coffee that moment. I stayed back and with the GM and observed how the coffee was being brewed without the young server noticing me.

not a well kept station but that's besides the point.

not a well kept station but that’s besides the point.

There it was, I saw it. I then walked to the young server and asked him, “how much coffee did you use to brew the gallon?” He shrugged and said, “five or six scoops.”

“What’s a scoop I asked?” The server held up a spoon! He was barely using any coffee to brew an entire gallon. Another server was walking by, I grabbed him, “How much coffee do you use to brew a gallon?” He scratched his head and replied, “9 or 10 scoops”. “And what is a scoop?” I continued. This server held up a ladle!

This is not an accurate measuring devise for coffee...

This is not an accurate measuring devise for coffee…

I looked back at the GM and told him we have identified the problem. No one here has been trained. There is no unified brewing ratio, no manual, no posted recipe. Everyone is making up their own method. I let him know we offer training and gave him a copy of our training manual and told him to keep it no matter what coffee he decides to use. I then did a couple test brews and gave him the proper ratio to use as a recipe for their current coffee.

He was so grateful that I had taken the time to hear his problem and then to resolve it in the same meeting that he became a customer immediately. This is how you build trust, this is how you solve problems and this is how you create a win win situation.

Due to the sales person stigma and the fact that a true sales person is a problem solver by nature it is no wonder they have started renaming the position consultant. A sales person consults you on your decision and gives a recommendation based on your needs and the consultants experience. Now, the next time you see a potential customer with a big problem, don’t cringe and move on, accept the opportunity and win them with resolution.

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