This title may seem in conflict with something you hear me say regularly, "Selling is a difficult and scary job." Both that statement and the title are true. They are a reflection of one another.

For way too many salespeople, their chosen profession is scarier and more difficult than it should be. The reality is that they are often the biggest cause for their sales efforts not being simple.

Let me start by establishing the basis for my “selling is actually simple” claim.

  • Let’s start with the result. Especially in our industry, a sale results from the salesperson solving a buyer's problem.
  • Business owners rarely want to be sold to, but most want to solve any problem holding them back.
  • A salesperson adept at identifying said problems immediately steps away from that negative stereotype so many have of salespeople and into the role of advisor/problem-solver.
  • When that salesperson, now advisor, can help identify problems and lay out a plan for addressing the issue and delivering better results, they are engaged to do just that.

In other words, selling is as “simple” as identifying a problem and earning the buyer's confidence that you can solve the problem.

Selling isn't about making something happen; it's about clearing obstacles from a path to allow it to happen.

And here’s where so many salespeople complicate the simple. Too many unknowingly place obstacles on the sales path instead of clearing them away.

Prepare, but not TOO much

Preparing for healthy sales conversations is a responsibility of a professional salesperson at every step of the way. However, it is a fine line between being prepared and becoming paralyzed because of over-preparing.

When looking to start a sales conversation, you need to research enough to know if a prospect meets your “target client profile” and whether or not they are likely to struggle with the problems you can solve. You will want to continue to filter prospects during the sales conversation. Still, there is only so much you can learn about them before meeting them.

Second, stop trying to prepare some “perfect, sexy pitch that can’t be ignored.” Instead, find confidence in your value proposition and be able to articulate how it delivers improved results. Ultimately, nothing is more enticing than warranted confidence resulting from your ability to improve the buyer’s business.

Stop pitching products

Although they chose sales as a career, many salespeople flat out don’t want to be seen as a salesperson. If you struggle with the obstacle, you must reframe how you look at selling.

Instead of defining your role as selling a product, embrace the impact you deliver as a problem-solver. Take away your mental obstacles by recognizing your real value and intent to solve problems for others.

If your website emphasizes your products, you are likely guilty of self-sabotage in this area. Consider replacing that list with “problems we solve.”

Fear of prospecting

Another sales coach friend of mine often observes prospecting efforts, "Too many salespeople sit and wait for the roast duck to fly into their mouth." Of course, roast ducks don’t fly.

Don’t take my earlier comment that “selling isn’t about making something happen” as an indication of selling being anything other than an active sport. You must intentionally work to clear the path at every step, including the initial step onto that sales path.

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Unknowingly, salespeople block opportunities from entering the pipeline in the first place. Start by defining your ideal client and then searching for suspects that fit the profile. To be clear, a suspect is an opportunity you think you may like to do business with but who isn’t yet aware of your interest.

Clear the path by having a conversion strategy (five to seven-step campaign) to introduce yourself to the suspect and to demonstrate your understanding of their challenges and your ability to help.

One step at a time

Think of obstacles on the sales path as a series of hurdles in a 110m race. They can’t all be cleared at once.

When looking to convert a suspect to a prospect, your only goal should be to create the opportunity for a conversation, to get the sales process started. Too many salespeople come charging in too hard and look like that stereotypical salesperson they detest. They would run themselves straight into a brick wall if they didn’t already trip over the starting line.

Remove the obstacle by assuring a suspect that, for now, you have no idea of whether or not you should eventually work together. However, assuming you have a buyer-focused sales process, you can assure them that your approach will ultimately help you make the right decision about working together.

Stop showing up at the wrong time

A considerable obstacle to sales success that benefits producers put in their way is showing up at renewal time. This is a tough obstacle to overcome for many reasons. First, that’s when all your competition shows up looking for the same opportunity. Second, and most important, the renewal date is primarily about choosing an insurance plan, not an advisor.

Remove this obstacle by showing up off renewal and competing for the advisor role. Educate the buyer on the difference between choosing an insurance plan and choosing an advisor. Give them permission to expect a greater impact from their advisor than simply a spreadsheet and capabilities presentation.

Be transparent about your intent

Another obstacle producers face is avoiding an up-front discussion about what it will take to win the opportunity. By establishing what it will take to succeed in a quantifiable way, both sides know how to proceed down a clear path.

As an example, we coach producers to establish the following goal. “We won't ask for your business until and unless a couple of things happen during our conversations. First, it must become very clear to both of us that there is an opportunity for meaningful improvement to your overall HR and benefits program. Second, assuming that opportunity exists, we must earn your confidence by sharing how we've solved those problems for others and detailing how we would do the same for you.”

Any prospect genuinely giving you an opportunity to EARN their business will see this as reasonable.

Move the prospect forward

This is where a consultative, buyer-focused sales process comes into play. The traditional pitch of competing with a spreadsheet and capabilities presentation may be the biggest producer-placed obstacle. Once you have delivered the same spreadsheet as the competition and rambled on about all the “free stuff” you offer, where’s the motivation for the buyer to take the next step?

A sales process focused on solving broader problems blows this obstacle out of the water. Once a prospect has agreed to the goal (as shared above), having a sales process built on diagnosing their overall HR and benefits program to identify what is and what isn't working as needed is the next significant step. When it’s followed by introducing specific solutions to address the identified needs along with case studies and a plan of implementation specific to that buyer, you will reach the goal of having a new client.

Stop placing obstacles in your way. Selling is simple if you allow it to be. Stop looking for the perfect, sexy pitch and, instead, embrace the effectiveness of a logical, buyer-focused approach.

In the end, knowing your buyers' problems and knowing you can fix them will be one of your greatest sources of warranted sales confidence. Nothing is sexier than confidence.


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