People will tell you all about this one quality if you merely let them. But you have to earn it.

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People will tell you all kinds of industry gossip and secrets if you actively listen and give them 100% focused attention. Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

There is a strange sense that some salespeople have about their prospects. Some think that the prospect actually cares about them and their stuff and what they have to present.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The prospect does not care about you and your stuff. The sooner you actually get this and understand this, the sooner you start to empathize with the prospect and his perspective.

As Sales King and Ace Jeffrey Gitomer reminds us over and over and over again until the poor guy is blue in the face: the prospect cares about his stuff. She cares about her stuff. The prospect cares about about what they are having for dinner. The prospect cares about their upcoming vacation. The prospect cares about their kids. The prospect cares about looking good in front of the boss. The prospect cares about their promotion. The prospect cares about making good business decisions.

See, the prospect cares, just not about your stuff.

So, how do I get them to care about my stuff? Why should they? How compelling is your stuff?

It amazes me that the modern salesperson still talks about prospecting. It is sad, the amount of time still wasted in this activity. When all this time they ought to have turned the tables and attracted the right kind of prospect by telling the right story to the right people over and over and over again.

People got needs. You got to find them. You’ve got to uncover them. You’ve got to reflect them back at them.

The best way to find them, to attract them, is to enter the conversation currently going on inside the prospect’s mind. You become a mind reader, the Great [YOUR LAST NAME HERE]. How do you read their minds? Simple. Get around your ideal prospects and customers and listen, listen, listen. They’ll tell you everything.

Salespeople are notoriously great talkers. Talk, talk, talk. All day long: talk, talk, talk. We are not known for our listening skills. Ironically, some of the top salespeople are also some of the top listeners. Actual listening — active listening & note-taking — is one of the most underrated sales skills on the planet.

People will tell you everything if you let them.

Here are the side benefits of active listening that are also underrated: inside info; market data; industry gossip; company gossip; secret sharing; the brass tacks of problems, the root causes; it makes you look really smart; people love you for it; people want to hang around you more often; exceptional marketing fodder.

It is this last one that is of particular interest to us: exceptional marketing fodder.

Look — all great marketing is based upon the problems the customer or prospect is currently experiencing. These are problems that they do not have a good answer to. They may be difficult problems. They may be easy problems. But they got problems.

This is where you, the exceptional salesman, enter.

They have industry problems. You have industry answers. You have seen this problem before and you have conquered it. It is another one of those…Maybe not you, personally, but being exceptional at what you do professionally, you have done your research and know that other industries suffer from this very problem. And they solved it.

A prospect attraction strategy that is devoid of prospecting.

Let’s apply the collective power of creativity and connection and association, and transfer that solution to your prospect’s industry and put it in a permanent form, like a white paper or PDF. And we could call the file name the problem it is designed to solve so that it gets some SEO juice. And if we really wanted to get ambitious, we could write an ad that speaks directly to this problem and put that ad in front of the very industry people we’re looking to attract, wherever it is that they hang-out.

Note that the above prospect attraction strategy is completely devoid of prospecting. It is also devoid of quoting, of begging, of pleading. And it is completely devoid of the procurement department. This attraction strategy flies far above the procurement department into the executive ranks.

Further, it is far more powerful because people are coming to you vs. you seeking them out. People are more drawn to well-positioned experts, especially when they discover them on their own. This gives them a slight sense of skin in the game, and we all know how important skin in the game is.

Another reason why this strategy is so powerful is It leads with value. You’re not asking them for anything. Instead, you’re solving their problem first. Not just any problem. A vexing problem for them that they seem to have trouble solving on their own. This shows empathy on your part. This shows social savvy. This shows initiative. This shows drive. This shows value. This shows you care. You did something for others without being asked. You got after it. You show resolve to solve others’ problems. This helps you to develop an industry reputation as a guy who knows how to get stuff done.

Never want to prospect again? Good! Keep reading.

If you never want to prospect again, then, you must turn the tables! It is not optional. If you desire to never prospect again — which you should — you need to re-think and strategize your entire approach to your marketplace. You need to re-think and strategize yourself and the way in which you are perceived. And the best way to do that is to make yourself the perceived expert.

Here’s a painful exercise: think about the way others perceive you when you’re dialing for dollars, AKA prospecting. You’re perceived as a telemarketer. You’re perceived as a pest. You’re not welcome. You’re not welcome to call me — at any time. Take me off of your list. You’re dialing 100 numbers just to get to 1 who will actually talk to you. It’s pure pain. No one can say they actually like doing this sort of work. (Can they?) Can you find success in this traditional, old school manner of prospecting? Yes. But that is a very small Yes. In fact, let’s write that in 8 point font: Yes.

Conversely, how do others perceive you when they discover you through your writing, through your videos, through your interviews, through your white papers, through your social ads, through your online courses, through your webinars, through your professional articles written for professional publications? They see your work and think you’re the expert. They see your work and they’ve actually learned something. They see your work and they see a problem-solver. They see you and they see “a guy who knows how to get stuff done.” They see your history of past success with other industry movers and shakers, and automatically think you can help them, too, through the power of Social Proof.

Earn the Power of Social Proof — Become known.

Speaking of Social Proof, these aforementioned actions and behaviors are all acts of positioning yourself as the expert. Social Proof is all about that: having done the work beforehand for certain industry people so that when other industry people see your work, those you’ve worked for are testifying on your behalf. Think of it as the always-working-for-you testimonial.

Online reviews are modernity’s testimonial. Ask for them. Capture them. Use them. Let your happy customers do your selling for you.

As Jeffrey Gitomer says, “When you say it about yourself, it is bragging. When others say it about you, it is proof.”

You cannot buy the power of Social Proof. You must work for it and earn it. The way you work for it and earn it is through research and writing. You earn it through teaching and training. You work for it through meeting new people and adding value to their lives instead of taking from them or otherwise asking for stuff from them.

Think: what can you give to someone you just met that will actually help them succeed? If you don’t have anything or cannot think of anything, that is your current scorecard. You best do something about that.

Teaching and training is such a big deal in adding value today that it deserves its own paragraph. All great marketing today is teaching and training. All great webinars teach and train. Naturally, all digital courses teach and train. All great talks or in-person presentations teach and train. The more salespeople teach and train, the more they are perceived as the expert in what it is they do, the more it is perceived they have the ability to solve industry problems, the far better their positioning is, and thus, the more they shall sell.

Make everything you do professionally about your customer or prospect. Wake up and think about them. What are they worried about today? What does a day in their lives look like today? What big problems are they facing today? What can you do to help solve them today?

Make everything you do about them. Exist for them. Solve problems for them. Take action for them. Train and teach for them. With this sort of industry positioning, sales shall be yours. You’ll make it rain like the best in the industry. And you’ll have the expert positioning to become industry royalty.

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I’m a sales, marketing and tech Pro who creates content designed to help people solve problems and shift perspectives.

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