When I first entered into full-time sales in 1972, I joined a sales society. We all read the same sales books, listened to the same tapes, and attended the same seminars. About a dozen times a week, we met to discuss what we learned and role-play.
Back then, we were learning and practicing high-pressure "sell through intimidation" sales techniques. That's all they used to teach in those days.
But, do high-pressure sales techniques produce results?
A Killer is Born
I first got into HVAC sales in 1985 and quickly earned the nickname "Killer." I used to say that when I ran a call, the customer either bought from me or I killed them. I used to brag that if they didn't buy from me, I'd blow them completely out of the business and make sure they'd never want to see another salesman for the rest of their lives.
My coworkers and I used to say that if you didn't have at least one customer per month call the office complaining about your using too much pressure, then you weren't closing hard enough. If it happened once a week, then you were really doing your job! We really believed that if you didn't close the sale on the first call, you had very little chance of closing it at all.
Of course, back then I did very little follow-up. After what I put most people through on the first call, they never wanted to see or hear from me again anyway.
In 1987, the sales calls became extremely scarce. At one point, maybe one person a week would call and buy from me over the phone, people who I had seen previously.
As this went on for about six weeks, I began to wonder if these people forgot who I was. In one instance, I found that they did. I went to the customer's home to pick up the signed paperwork and they took one look at me and slammed the door in my face! "But you called me," I hollered through the door. They yelled back, "We didn't know it was you!"
Regardless, I got to thinking that there were still some potential customers hiding in the pile of paperwork I generated over the last few years. I decided to sort it out and make a few phone calls.
Now, I never actually filed anything, so I literally had a big pile of paperwork. I started by sorting it into three smaller piles. I made one pile for the people who already bought from me. Another pile for those who, to the best of my knowledge, didn't buy from anyone yet. And, a third pile for the people who bought from someone else.
During this 90-minute process, I began to feel every aspect of my life change right before my eyes...and there was nothing I could do about it.
Since I was looking for follow-up potential, I tried to remember exactly what happened during each call. I noticed a pattern emerging.
I realized that the people who bought from me didn't receive the high-pressure treatment. Because they were buying, I didn't need to pressure them. However, those who didn't buy from me, or bought from someone else, were all people I gave the high-pressure treatment.
This was mathematical proof that my high-pressure sales tactics didn't work!
The truth hit me hard — I spent the last 15 years of my life alienating everyone I could, and I had nothing to show for it.
I remember there was this 50-year old salesman leaning back in his desk chair with his hands clasped behind his head, silently watching me the whole time. He was one of those dark glasses-wearing guys who'd been in sales his whole life and had seen plenty of salesmen come and go.
I looked up at him and said, "You know something, Bobby? You can't make people buy. You can't force them to buy. You can't talk them into buying. All you can do is try to figure out what they want to buy, and let them know you've got it."
There was a moment of silence. Then, without moving an inch, he quietly said, "I think you're on to something there, Charlie."
Things were definitely changing for me in the late 1980s. Fortunately, sales training and techniques were changing dramatically too. I took the Dale Carnegie sales course, which taught me a far gentler, much more professional sales presentation and style. I was also running calls with "HVAC's Million-Dollar Salesman," the late Tom McCart. Tom had a wonderful, gentle approach that was completely devoid of pressure.
I had another epiphany a few days after sorting those piles. I was on my way to a sales call and was listening to Zig Ziglar's See You at the Top on audiotape. I'll paraphrase what he said:
"When you run a call, many things may be beyond your control; but one thing will always be within your control, and that is the impression you make. I challenge you to make it a point, from now on, to always make a favorable impression with the customer, and to make it a goal to leave the door open just a bit wider for the next salesperson who comes into your prospects' lives."
That's when it really nailed me I was a bad salesman. I was giving salesmen a bad name.
I felt so ashamed. I pulled the car off the road and I started to bawl like a baby. I felt like a prize fool, not because I was crying, but because I unknowingly did everything I could to give my chosen profession a bad name.
It was at that moment that I became a real salesman.
No More Selling
The lesson to be learned is to stop selling. When you run calls, don't try to "sell" them anything. In fact, you don't sell; they buy. They called you out there to buy, and they're going to buy if not from you then from someone else. And they'll usually do it within hours of meeting you.
There's no reason why they shouldn't buy from you, so make them feel good about you, and you'll make more sales.
Charlie Greer is an HVAC sales trainer, creator of "Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD" and the sponsor of "Comfortech Idol 2006: The Search for the Best Salesperson at HVAC Comfortech." For online information on Charlie's products, services, Comfortech Idol 2006, and seminar schedule, go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com, call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or email [email protected]