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Soft Sell for Hard Times

Be a counselor, not a high-pressure salesperson.

By Larry Wilson

You may think that in hard times the best strategy for advisors is to “sell, sell, sell.” That might be true. But if you take the wrong approach, you may as well “sleep, sleep, sleep,” because the truth is, a soft touch pays off in the long run.

Essentially my model said, “The more I help others get what they want, the more I get what I want.”

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with selling. I became a member of the Million Dollar Round Table before I was 30, but during my early years I didn’t know why I was successful. At the time, selling was perceived as an adversarial relationship where the seller attempts to “beat” the buyer in a win-lose scenario. I knew this wasn’t the basis of my success, so I went looking for my own secrets. I realized that I was successful because I helped people get what they wanted and feel how they wanted. Essentially my model said, “The more I help others get what they want, the more I get what I want.” This felt right, and helped me discover my true self.

In time, I developed this model into what I call the “counselor salesperson” approach. What’s the approach? Here are four key techniques to help you get started:

Relate: Create an open, trusting relationship with your customer. Lay the groundwork for problem-solving together. This counters the first obstacle to making a sale: no trust.

Discover: Work with your clients to create a solution by bringing out and understanding their problems, goals and visions for the future. Thus, you avoid the second obstacle to making a sale: no need.

Advocate: Link your clients’ problems, goals and visions with the solutions you’ve worked up together. Make them “internal” champions to help you close the sale. This helps you avoid the third obstacle to making a sale: no help.

Support: Recognize that you must stick by your clients after the sale to ensure they reap the benefits of your product or service. Assure them that their needs are being met. Now you’ll get over the final obstacle to making a sale: no satisfaction.

As a counselor, you become a trusted problem-solver for your customers. Both you and your customer must win. And you should not only feel successful, but fulfilled. What’s more, this strategy makes it difficult for competitors to take future business away, giving you a powerful, sustainable advantage in toda’s competitive marketplace.

© FeatureSource

Larry Wilson is founder of the Wilson Learning Corporation and Pecos River Learning. He can be contacted through

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