1. When you are selling something, what is more important--the product, service or provider?
In almost every instance, someone else sells what you sell: insurance, software, real estate, tax preparation services, and so on. The best way to succeed is to be different than the rest--to be an extraordinary provider. And the best way to do that is to be an expert and a friend.
You're an expert because you know more about what you are "selling"; than the salespeople and a friend because you put your customers' needs before your own.
A few years ago, when I was house-hunting with a realtor I had just met, I found a home I adored. It was love at first sight.
When I told the realtor to put in a bid for me, she said "No.";
"No?"; I asked. "Why not?";
"It's not the right house for you. I know because you've told me that you may want to sell in two years when your company relocates.
"Well, this house is not an easy sell. Its floor plan, its property--even its architecture-- doesn't sync with what buyers in this price range in this community look for. So, no, I don't want to sell you this house.";
My realtor, who turned out to be my expert and my friend, volunteered to forgo an immediate commission to advise me--guide me--to do the right thing.
She is my realtor for life. I refer everyone to her. She knows the provider is exponentially more important than the product.
2. In today's litigious environment, is it still feasible to make a 100-percent guarantee on product/service performance?
No! But your customers don't care primarily about product or service performance. They want to know that you are committed to them, that you will honor your brand promise, and hat you will live up to the pledge you made when you sold to them.
They want to know that you are genuine and that you guarantee commitment to them. Do you?
3. When it comes to salesmanship, why do most companies suffer from the 80/20 rule?
Because they accept the nonsense of 80/20, which really means that 80 percent of salespeople can't really sell. They are "salespeople"; in name only. The best salespeople I have ever met believed the worst thing they could do was to sell anything.
One of my clients, a total nonsalesman by the standard definition, graduated from Harvard Business School with a copious amount of book learning and a very modest dose of real marketplace smarts. They don't teach that at Harvard, mostly because the professors have studiously avoided the real world.
But he had an innate knowledge of sales. Did he think of himself as a salesman? Absolutely not. But every day, after graduation, he took another fellow Harvard grad out to lunch and "sold"; him or her on the benefits of doing business with old school ties.
Virtually all of the "salespeople"; who have worked for him have failed at selling. It's not what you say that counts, but what you do. And in many cases, the worst thing you can do is to live up to the standard definition of a "salesperson."