Selling is the number one barrier to making a sale. I promise there’s no schtick here.
The Four Factors Creating a Sales Collision (Instead of a Conversation)
The sales professional’s approach is biased.
When a salesperson’s actions and intent to sell are rewarded by a sale, their desire and attachment to an outcome is reinforced.
Sales appointments take months of outreach effort, exposure to rejection and a pounding to one’s confidence. By the time you show up for an appointment, you are carrying a whole history of emotion and anticipation. Without realizing it, you default to listening for what you want to hear, only asking questions that align with expressing your expertise or that achieve some kind of “sales” next step with the prospect.
The prospect’s approach is also biased.
As human beings, we are inherently challenged to maintain objectivity and see things for what they really are. We are often blinded by the history of relationships, the memory of past efforts and the fear of future unknowns. These are sources for your prospect’s emotional attachment to what they currently have in place. When debating change, they tend to overestimate what they already have, and underestimate what could be gained by trying something different. This rationalization keeps your prospect unobligated from having to make a difficult decision — like changing to your solution.
The core of all human interaction is trust.
Trust is the mutual sense between two people that determines if an experience or conversation will harm or help. From your prospect’s point of view, harm occurs when they have to invest time listening to you try to convince and persuade them to debate a decision they are not ready to make. They have an emotional backstory that you have not asked about and therefore do not know.
Help arrives when you choose a bias-free approach that clarifies their situation and guides them to think objectively. Because most sales skills and conversations focus on what the salesperson wants, the prospect experiences more harm than help. This creates an ongoing expectation for your prospect every time they accept a new meeting with you.
The prospect has a lot to consider.
In surveying 1,500 of our clients over the past five years about their sales experiences, our data indicates that 2 of 10 prospects have decided on and committed to an imminent change prior to your first conversation. This means 8 out of 10 not only have to evaluate the facts, features and benefits of what you do, but somehow have to separate from their own emotional biases and objectively debate the future uncertainty and risk of change. If you’re stuck in sales mode trying to have sales conversations, it will be a hard task for your prospect.
Combining these four factors into a sales approach creates a collision instead of a helpful conversation. You’re driving for an outcome that rewards your effort, while your prospect resists your pressure in order to protect their time, effort, past history and future uncertainty. This is not a conversation.
Sales professionals who are burdened with reward, insecurities, pride and hope, innately make poor advisors. The sales skills of pitching, persuading and promising might work for the 2 of 10 prospects who have already committed to change, but it won’t help the majority of prospects that haven’t accepted the need to make a change. So scratch the sales approach.
What your prospect needs is an objective guide — someone who sets aside their position or personal interest in the conversation to ask the questions that will help him debate his current position.
This open, exploratory approach will relieve the prospect of the biases that hold him back from receiving new ideas objectively. They will avoid ways to disqualify working with you to avoid the uncertainty of change.
Become the catalyst for a productive conversation. You can shut down the cycle of chasing sales and decision avoidance.
Compartmentalize your emotions and needs.
The prospect doesn’t owe you anything. Do your best not to label anything they say as “good” or “bad.” When you assign a value to whatever is being said in the conversation, you lose the objectivity in how you listen, what you ask, and what you say.
Shift your conversation’s purpose away from a self-serving outcome.
Shift your mindset away from “How I can get a second meeting?” to an intent that serves the prospect: “How and if I can help.” You’ll notice that this shift opens up your natural curiosity and questions.
Be self-aware of your emotions during the conversation.
Anytime you feel yourself experiencing anxiety, hesitancy or disappointment, you’ve assigned a negative value to something that was said and jumped ahead to how that will impact the outcome. You’ve lost your objectivity, and the prospect will mentally withdraw. This also holds true when the prospect says something conducive to advancing the conversation. This is a common misperception that a positive sales outcome might be reached, so you get sloppy with your questions, learning and conversation.
This mental shift will help you change the prospect conversation because now you’re truly listening. It will change what you hear, the questions you ask, and the information you learn. The subsequent conversation will feel and sound very different. The experience you create.
Conversational value is created when you help another human being objectively debate the risk of change. Change is what your prospects have to accept if you are going to win their business.