My last two writings were about the self-imposed performance restrictions that most sales people place on themselves prior to ever sitting down with a prospect: the blind pursuit of an outcome. I explained how a preoccupation with “next steps” directly impacts how and what you listen for, ask, and communicate to the prospect.
If you didn’t catch it, I also suggested that your outcome pursuit is symbiotic with the experience your prospect has with your competition – because all conversations are influenced by intent. If you and your competition have the same “next step” intent (pursuit), it will be very difficult for your prospect to distinguish your conversation from any other “sales” experience they have.
Here are six factors that can influence your preoccupation and pursuit of a sales outcome that can leave you and your prospect frustrated and exhausted. All of these unfortunately shift your conversation focus from what’s important to your prospect to what matters to you:
- You haven’t had a win in a while – the innate pressure you feel to validate your effort, quantify your commitments, and reinforce the skill that your ego wants to believe and boast that you have. You need a sign (success) that tells you the struggle and work are worth it.
- Your pipeline isn’t healthy and won’t enable you to hit your quota or goals – the misguided “if” self-deception. “If” you can get this prospect to agree to a second meeting, then you will have the setting to deliver your expertise in a very compelling fashion. “If” you can do this, the prospect will experience your best. “If” you can persuade the prospect to change, the win buys you time to build your pipeline.
- You love to compete, but haven’t learned to manage this innate drive effectively – not all competitions are worth competing in. There will always be a certain population of prospects that have no intention of making a change, but will still follow your sales game to learn new ideas and check the review box. For those addicted to competing, the immediate ego gratification of attaining an outcome of some kind will cause you to spend a lot of energy chasing the wrong things in the wrong places.
- You are convinced that your solution is the best for them – you become so pre-occupied with your position that you’re the “right fit” that you lose your ability to think, listen, and ask questions objectively. You stay on the “need to be right” path, and communicate your opinions regarding why the prospect should change, vs. listening to understand their view – and why change might be very difficult for them.
- Your intent to pursue and make the sale is about you and what you gain – you’re in sales, so having a financial incentive to win is a common standard. You’ve learned that when a prospect asks you to review their agreements or data, or they request another conversation, it is a sign that you are moving closer to a sale. These are easier outcomes to identify vs. going deeper to assess the level of thinking and debating that your prospect did during the conversation. The latter is what the prospect needs to do in order to advance their decision process toward change, and this process can only be observed when you are not distracted by your own pursuit of the former.
- You are looking for the prospect to validate you and your efforts – this is a heavy lift for both you and your prospect. You feel it as anxiety, hesitancy, and uncertainty; you sense that the person sitting across the table or on the phone is judging you and this interaction. Gaining a favorable next step eases your insecurities and provides you with temporary validation – relief. But your prospect feels it as annoying pressure, and depending on their mood and demeanor, they may choose to avoid any perceived conflict by agreeing to a next step.
Yes, you could argue that these six factors are very human and to be expected to some degree, but that degree limits your level of performance and achievement. When you are preoccupied by these self-limiting factors they impact what you hear, what you ask, what you learn, and what you say to your prospects – which are all equally important parts of the conversation experience for your prospect.
So, if you want to sound and feel different from your competition, and if you want to advance your skills, learn how to compartmentalize your preoccupations and distractions. It’s not simply the old adage of listen more than you speak, but the importance of avoiding your internal pre-occupations with an outcome. Learn to do this and everything about your conversations will change.