If you woke up with a sharp pain in your side, it’s not likely you would forget about calling your doctor and look instead for a salesperson to help ease the pain. But it may surprise you to know the roles of doctors and salespeople are more similar than you think. You don’t need a medical degree for a career in sales. But paying attention to how doctors help people solve their problems might elevate your status with your clientele. Below are a few pointers to help improve your bedside manner.

1. Establish credibility… early. When doctors speak, they do so with authority and confidence. People already presume a doctor is competent and honest. Salespeople have to work a little harder to establish credibility. Start by making a positive first impression.

Assume the role of a trusted advisor. Be confident and realize that customers are speaking with you because they believe you can help. Communicate that. Let them know your intention is to solve their problem, and not just sell them something. Establishing credibility is important. Failure to connect with the customer early will result in difficulties later in the process.

2. Understand their pain. You would probably be leery of a doctor who just wrote you a prescription without an examination or asking about your symptoms. Doctors don’t make assumptions. They can’t afford to. They take as much time as necessary to learn everything they can about the patient’s problem so they know best how to help.

Good salespeople do the same with their customers. They have a genuine curiosity about their customers and try to fully understand the situation so they can recommend the right solution. They ask intelligent and thoughtful questions that get customers to talk about their problems. Then, like a doctor, they listen intensely to their responses.

3. Realize the impact and the urgency. There is usually more to the pain than meets the eye. Doctors realize this. They will go beyond the surface symptoms and dig deeper. They ask additional questions like: How severe is the pain? How long have you had the pain? This is an important step in the sales process, too, and probably the one most overlooked.

Sometimes salespeople get busy and a little too eager. They try to immediately pitch a solution as soon as a need has been uncovered. But it’s important to take the extra time in order to know the full scope of the problem. Ask a few more questions. Try to discover the personal impact of the problem and the customer’s urgency to fix the problem. This will ensure you are in sync with the customer and will help clarify the next step.

4. Present a solution, not a product. After a thorough discovery process the doctor will prescribe a treatment. They will carefully review the results with the patient and explain exactly how the prescription will eliminate or reduce the pain. This explanation is essential.

Consumers won’t buy anything unless they believe it will solve their problem or fit their need. For instance, they don’t really care what kind of lens the camera has; they just want to know if it will take a great picture when their daughter walks across the stage and graduates. If your customer’s “pain” happens to be wet traction, because he recently slid through an intersection, make sure your presentation addresses that.

You no doubt have a tire that is a great fit for his need. But when you present it, don’t focus so much on special compounding or patented micro-sipes. Make sure, first and foremost, he knows your tire will stop his Suburban in the rain.

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5. Manage expectations. There is no magic pill. If the pain in your side was somewhat self-inflicted due to poor diet and a lack of exercise, the doctor will tell you that the meds will provide temporary relief. But you really need to change your lifestyle. If you don’t, the pain likely will return.

If the customer’s original tires didn’t live up to expectations due to under-inflation, then the time to address that issue is “now.” Explain to them that the new tires will feel better right now, but they shouldn’t expect that the tires can withstand poor maintenance. It’s easier to have this conversation immediately than it will be 10,000 miles later when the customer has the same problem they thought you just solved for them.

Today’s consumers continue to be more sophisticated, and competition is fierce. Sales professionals need to continually improve their skill set to maintain an advantage. Using proven sales tactics is always just what the doctor ordered.

Rick Phillips is CEO and president of Disruptive Concepts Consulting LLC, a Sandler Training firm based in San Antonio, Texas. He has 40 years of sales and marketing experience in the tire industry working for Yokohama Tire Corp., Triangle Tire USA and various independent tire dealers. For more information, visit www.disruptiveconcepts.sandler.com/about.

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