Many of us are afflicted with an automatic habit pattern that absolutely cripples our ability to engage with our prospects and to proceed with a normal sales call. This pattern is based upon some very basic beliefs that we hold about our customers, and is ingrained in our sales training and our sales behaviors. If this habit is not detected and removed from our mindset, we will never achieve any degree of success in our sales careers.
Until recently, I was unaware of this crippling habit pattern and therefore could not detect it in my coaching clients. It is cleverly hidden in our basic beliefs about how to sell, and is therefore almost impossible to detect. You might even have it yourself !
Today’s article will reveal this hidden roadblock and will give you some positive steps you can take to deal with this barrier and to return to winning new clients. Read on….
The Arrogant Presumption
As salespeople, we have been trained (either formally or in the school of hard knocks) to sell our products and services to a carefully chosen group of companies in our Target Market. Many of us have learned from various sales training courses (aka the Xerox sales method, Spin Selling) to look for and find the customer’s “Pain” and to get them to dwell upon and discuss this pain area in great detail. We have learned over time that when the customer recognizes they have a problem or issue that is causing them this pain, they will then be compelled to “solve” the problem. At that point, the salesperson can present their solution to the problem, which presumably will alleviate the pain. Sounds pretty accurate ?
The problem with this approach is that it presumes that there is something broken which needs to be fixed, and that might not be true. We have something to sell, and we believe it will solve their problem. Therefore, they must have that problem, right? Since we intend to offer them a solution to their “pain”, this means that we presume that they do, in fact, have that pain. Since we have the ideal solution, they must have the problem!
For example, if we were selling vacuum cleaners to a housewife, we would assume that this very same housewife has dirty carpets that need to be cleaned and that these dirty carpets are causing her significant problems/pains. Our presumption prior to the first call is that this housewife already possesses dirty carpets; therefore our solution would be a good one. We assume that we know what is wrong with our prospect without a shred of evidence! And then we proceed to go looking for the problem that we absolutely know they must have!
What if the housewife doesn’t have that problem? Perhaps they have a maid that regularly cleans the carpets. Perhaps they have a tile floor, and it’s not cleaned with a vacuum cleaner. Maybe they just bought a brand new vacuum cleaner from your competition. Your presumption could be completely false, and therefore your approach could be doomed to failure. Fact is, you really don’t know what their problem is!
The approach most of us have been trained to use is guaranteed to push our prospects away, and here’s why. Our arrogant attitude that “we know best” what’s wrong with them, and our presumption that we have the best solution is self-serving. When we ask questions, they are only intended to prove that our client possesses the problem we are hoping they have. We are determined to prove that the problem exists, because that’s necessary for us to begin selling our solution.
Since we started out with an attitude that they have a problem/pain, we began our conversation on a negative footing. What arrogance for us to presume, without any evidence to the contrary, that their company has a massive problem that requires our assistance! What if nothing is broken? What if their real problem/issue is completely different from our assumption?
Find out what’s Right
Here’s a better approach to take.
The next time you’re in front of a prospect, start by finding out what’s right about their company. Why are they successful? What happened in their history that turned the tide for them? What are they doing now that is allowing them to achieve success? What’s working for them?
Different presumption, entirely different result. By focusing on the positive, we allow our prospects to tell us about their “wins” and to brag about their successes. While they are doing this, their level of enjoyment increases by leaps and bounds, and their enthusiasm drives through the roof. As this happens, we are beginning to build trust and rapport with the client, that elusive element so necessary for successful communication and understanding.
As they discuss their success, we focus on accepting and appreciating their story. We listen with interest and enthusiasm, and we eliminate any fixed ideas, preconceived ideas or judgments we may have possessed. We learn to accept without being critical or argumentative.
In this approach, we do not presume that they must have a problem that we can solve. We start off at “ground zero” by learning more about their company and finding out what makes them successful. By doing this, we are able to build a framework for safe and trusting communication. Without being forced, the prospect will naturally proceed to open up and be willing to discuss what is causing them difficulty in their company. And if your potential solution is a good match for their problems, they will be quite interested in your approach. In fact, I have on numerous occasions experienced something quite rare….the prospect actually DEMANDS to learn about what is being offered!
Rather than driving your clients away with an arrogant presumption, this winning approach draws them nearer with understanding, appreciation and validation. Try it on your next call!