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Why You Need to Stop Selling and Start Educating

Remember those notorious vacuum cleaner salespeople who would knock on doors and try to wrangle sales out of hurried housewives? They used a variety of hard-selling techniques (some quite shady) to close a sale, earn a commission, grow their company's revenue and move on to the next target.

Why don’t we see these types of salespeople anymore?

That old method of selling is simply not effective in the digital age. Consumers have much more information at their fingertips, and as such are much smarter consumers.

From Salesmen to Customer Advocates

The internet offers customers more options for purchasing the same product or service, and there is instant access to customer reviews and information regarding the seller's business practices and satisfaction level of his or her clients.

You simply can’t dupe your customers anymore – at least not for very long.

New methods of selling for a new era

Just because old sales techniques are bad for business nowadays doesn't mean you should stop actively closing deals. You still need to differentiate your company from the competition, and you still need to move units.

But how do you do that in this day and age?

You help your prospects make educated decisions and build trust in your brand. Using the methodology of inbound marketing, the roles of marketers and salespeople have changed.

Contemporary marketers are in the business of driving, capturing and nurturing relevant leads. This means establishing brand authority, helping prospects to understand the problems they are trying to solve, explaining the benefits of your solution, and using social proof to demonstrate your solution delights those who use it.

The more "touches" prospects have with your brand that leave them feeling like you consistently make their lives better, the more ready they'll be to taking the relationship to a new level.

Then it's up to the sales team to address any lingering questions and seal the deal. With leads already trusting your brand, the sales team's conversion rates will be far higher than if they reached out cold to strangers. Your customers will be easier to delight and retain over time too.

How Saddleback Leather does this so well

Let’s take a look at how Saddleback Leather markets their leather bags. The company created a video where the CEO explains how to knock off a Saddleback bag. He explains in detail how a cheaper bag can be made and what the difference is between the high-quality product manufactured by his company and less expensive knock-offs.

This video has been viewed over 300,000 times and has had a major impact on the revenue of the business.

In the video, the CEO never once overtly markets his bags. Instead, he focuses on educating the public on the process of bag making and the materials used to make leather products. After watching it, customers can make an educated decision about whether to buy a genuine Saddleback or a cheaper imitation.

This strategy works because it builds trust between customer and brand. A customer who trusts a brand will make multiple purchases and is more likely to refer friends to the brand as well.

In the long run, this type of customer is worth much more than someone coerced into buying. Of course, building trust takes longer and requires more effort than simply selling, but it pays off in the end.

Start solving problems genuinely

As a trustworthy brand, your job is to solve your customers’ problems. Most of the time you can do this by positioning your product as the perfect solution. On occasion, however, your product is actually not the best fit for a specific potential consumer.

Volunteer this advice upfront and suggest an alternate solution that will likely serve him or her better. Instead of a dissatisfied customer, you may even create a lifelong fan who will refer you to others whom you can help.

Focus on building trust, solving problems and educating the customer about their pain points, your brand, service and products. Don’t worry about the sales – when people trust you and appreciate your advice, sales will flow naturally.


Written by Ben Jacobson / August 12, 2014

A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.

Articles by Ben Jacobson