Good Salesperson, Inferior Product

Mike asks, “ I’m still relatively new to sales, and I’m wondering. Is there ever a genuine situation where you work for a company that sells a product no one wants, but you’re still a good salesperson? Alternatively, could a good salesperson get meetings regardless of the product?”

I’ve hired countless salespeople who, soon discovered that every major prospective client in their territory already had a partner and would reject their attempts to schedule a meeting.  Invariably, the salespeople decided it was impossible to get a meeting with the prospect because no one wanted to change. Instead, they decided it would be better to call on people who did not use what we sold, teaching them how to understand the value of our offering as something that was somehow easier than a competitive displacement (i.e., Eat Their Lunch).

In my first book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, I opened with the idea that sales success is not situational. Some salespeople sell for Google and Amazon.com, both great products, great marketing, and an enormous tailwind, who still struggle to sell well even with a great product. Some people sell cardboard boxes, the most commoditized commodity anyone might sell, who sell at prices higher than their competitors, displacing lower-priced alternatives by creating greater value. If the product by itself was enough, all you would need to succeed in business is an order taker, not a salesperson.

Every day salespeople sell products and services and solutions that are inferior to other products and services and solutions that their competitors offer. They don’t believe that their product is inferior. The top 20 percent of salespeople that sell something that is not the best in class beat the bottom 80 percent of the sales force that sells something that may be considered the best in category. Salesmanship matters a great deal.

A good salesperson can get a meeting regardless of the product. In fact, a good salesperson is not selling the product when they ask for a meeting. Instead, the meeting is the product that they’re selling. A good salesperson is selling the value of having a meeting with them. To be effective here, you have to believe that it’s valuable for your prospective client to have a meeting with you, regardless of the product. In my second book, The Lost Art of Closing, we call this concept Trading Value. What are you going to provide your prospective client that’s valuable enough for them to exchange their time, their single, finite, nonrenewable resource?

I would never recommend someone sell something that does not serve their client. However, in many cases, it’s not the product that’s inferior; it’s the lack of salesmanship. That lack of salesmanship may be the result of a lack of training, a lack of experience, or a problem with mindset. It might also be a combination of all of these. In any case, wherever there is evidence of other people selling successfully, you can be sure it is not the product.

It’s not the product. It’s salesmanship.

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