Be Careful Of Your Vested Interest In The Sale
I will say this again because it’s crucial to your performance: elite sales people ask the questions that no one else will ask. One type of question is the contrasting question. Contrasting questions help create a comparison between two different things – actions, routines, decisions, and results. They are highly effective by adding objectivity and ownership into your prospect’s decision process – especially while you are interacting with a prospect who hasn’t decided on making a change, but would highly benefit from making one.
This particular group of prospects gets caught up in the chains of vendor loyalty, the pride of past effort and outcomes, or the insecurity that maybe their current approach has seen better days. How many of these types of prospects do you interact with, or give space to in your business pipeline? I can tell you, impassioned presentations will do little to help them embrace these change-resist factors.
You may ask, why? Because your prospect knows that your efforts represent your vested interest in them as a sales target or win. They don’t condemn you for that, they’ve grown used to it and probably expect it. So they filter your commentary and expertise accordingly.
To illustrate this vested interest dynamic, I’m going to draw from a recent experience I had with my teenage son. If you don’t have teenagers or kids yet, hold tight – they’re as tough as your prospects.
The condensed version – after years of youth travel soccer and working out this summer, he did not make the local high school freshman soccer team. Yes, we were surprised. As a parent, I had a vested interest in how he would respond to this setback. Would he quit? Would he double down? And how would he go about those decisions?
His initial reaction was to “buy into” the noise regarding “coach favoritism” and “youth club politics.” He was feeling the sting of disappointment from all that past effort and the insecurity that maybe he wasn’t as good as he thought.
As a parent, I knew if he hung his hat on the “fairness or favoritism” point, he would not be able to take ownership of the effort to improve. And because of the size and competitiveness of his high school (5,400 students), his opportunity to play again with all his friends on the team would soon disappear. I was also aware that he had no interest in listening to dad (a vested participant here) try and persuade and convince him to make a decision he wasn’t ready to make.
If you’re out there hustling, I’m sure this sounds similar to many prospect conversations. You’re ready to guide, help, and in some cases lead the way, but your audience (prospect) hasn’t yet determined if they are interested or committed. In this instance, it was time for me to let go of the direction and decision my son would take, and focus more on how he would make the decision, and why.
The first step was to help him gain clarity on the two competing paths he could choose, and the impact of each. Path one was – he didn’t do enough out there to shine, and needed to get better. Not an easy starting place. Path two – the coach took the kids he liked and knew. A much easier position to take – he’s off the hook from the hard work and struggle to get better.
Here’s the list of questions I asked my son to help him think, debate, and assess which path was better for him:
- Which path is easier, and why?
- Who’s in control of path one – need to get better?
- Who’s in control of path two – coach selected the kids he knew and liked?
- Which path feels better today in the short term, and why?
- Which path would feel better a year from now, and why?
- Which path gives him the best chance to play with his friends again (if that was important?)
- What is he going to do with his time if he doesn’t run cross country and play club soccer?
At this point, I could tell he was moving past the sting of not making the team, and slowly accepting and embracing the idea that he had to either take ownership of working hard and getting better or accept the fate of one coach’s opinion as the end of a high school soccer dream. After a night of thinking, he chose to take ownership.
This situation and conversation aren’t much different from the interactions you have with prospects that are stuck and unable to debate their change or no change options objectively. Loyalty, pride, and insecurity play a big role in how your prospects scrutinize change, so maybe it’s time to advise them through your ability to ask contrasting questions – what happens if they do? What happens if they don’t? To do this you’ll have to let go of your vested interest in the sale.