My eight-year-old son plays on a traveling soccer team. During the past few months, I’ve been trying to coach him through a few ideas for ball control and positioning awareness so he can maximize his efforts and performance on the field. Ironically, he puts a lot of effort into increasing his performance on the field but, like a lot of the salespeople I talk to, that extra effort alone has never improved his game.
My son’s biggest challenge in life right now is playing soccer, building Legos, and drawing battleships, while still managing to fit in a little downtime to watch the Three Stooges. I’m careful not to overwhelm him, yet it still feels like he isn’t focused on what I’m trying to teach. He will stand there, look me in the eye, give me that obligatory, “Yes, I got it, Dad” look, but nothing changes on the soccer field. Your prospects do the same when nothing changes after they leave the conference room.
It came to a head recently after a weekend full of soccer games. I watched as he continued to work hard on the field, but kept making the same mistakes over and over. As I struggled to think of ways I could help him, I finally realized why I had failed. I owned the urgency to make the skill improvements. It was my idea, not my son’s idea. He didn’t have a vision of what the improvement would help him achieve on the field.
That Sunday night, we sat down together at the kitchen table. I shifted my tactics 180 degrees. I took a different approach. I changed the conversation. I detached from labeling anything my son said as good or bad. I let him know up front that it would be fine with me if he didn’t want to play soccer anymore. I wanted him to feel safe telling the truth.
Ask Questions That Get Prospects Thinking About Change
I asked him to write down two or three things he wanted to achieve in soccer. I had to explain what achievement meant by using a Lego example. Still, I was a little anxious. If he failed to make a connection between achievement and Legos, my coaching strategy would be lost. In the time it took for this thought to pass through my brain, he wrote down two answers: 1) he wanted to be a consistent starter on his team and 2) he wanted to make the top travel team next year.
Feeling the sense of momentum, I asked what he thought he needed to work on to achieve these goals. To my surprise, he rattled off the two things I was trying to drive home through coaching. Wow, he was actually listening! I was two for two now, so I moved in for the close, still remaining detached from his answer. I couldn’t let on that I was excited or he would shift into appeasement mode. I mean, what kid doesn’t want to please his parents at this age?
Finally, I asked how improving those areas would help him achieve his two goals. He did a good job connecting it all. There’s no final analysis to share yet; the jury’s still out. But he’s listening better and taking more initiative to practice on his own.
My son taught me a valuable lesson that day which is directly applicable to sales performance.
Prospects Want Ownership of the Change Decision
Your prospects have an essential obligation to make progress toward business objectives at their organizations. They’re not getting paid to sit around and take up space.
One way of changing the result of your prospect sales conversations is to shift the burden of change onto the prospect, enabling them to embrace the need for change and improvement as if it were their own idea. Your prospect can then take ownership of the change because they came to that conclusion on their own.
Help Prospects Create a Vision for Change
Spend less time trying to convince your prospect they need a change, and more time on questions and conversations designed to help prospects convince themselves.
Help your prospect create a vision for change. Stop assuming your prospect will make a change just because they understand they need to make a change. What if they’re not good at the change you’re recommending, or already tried it and failed in the past? What makes you think they would want to go through that again? Help them create their own vision for change, and give them hope.