Despite today’s explosion of technology and information, we’re still encountering some of the same selling challenges we did 25 years ago. Knowledge isn’t the problem–it’s the application of knowledge that’s the issue.
For example, have you ever seen a salesperson move straight into the “product dump” when she knows she should actually be asking questions instead of pitching solutions? Or what about the rep that offers a discount early and often, despite the fact he just attended a training course on negotiation skills?
Here’s the issue: Most CEOs and sales managers focus on the wrong end of the problem. If a salesperson is missing quota, the boss tends to focus on coaching and teaching more hard selling skills. Certainly such skills are important. But in many sales situations, the real problem is that emotions–instead of skills–start running the meeting. This of course affects the salesperson’s ability to close and win more business.
Let’s look at a couple of hypothetical situations.
A salesperson is meeting with a challenging prospect or customer whose behavior triggers an emotional response in the salesperson — a fight-or-flight response. With the fight response, the salesperson gets defensive or sets out to prove the prospect is wrong. A flight response results in the salesperson simply shutting down, and nothing intelligent can enter his/her brain.
In both cases, all those good selling skills taught and coached by the sales manager went out the window. Emotions, rather than effective selling and communication skills, ran the sales meeting.
The second scenario is little different. The salesperson meets with a positive, warm prospect that says all the right things. “This looks really interesting. We need to do something. We are always looking to improve.”
The salesperson gets excited and starts buying the buying signals, tossing the sales playbook out the window. The salesperson skips over all the qualifying questions and selling stages. She offers to write a proposal because she’s “got one.”
When she returns to present her solutions, she hears excuses from her positive prospect such as, “The timing isn’t right” or “I need to run this up the ladder” or “This is more expensive than I thought.” Chalk up another practice proposal to emotions, rather than effective selling and communication skills, running the meeting.
So what can you do?
Teach your team members self-awareness. When they start responding either positively or negatively to a prospect, have them take a deep breath and ask one of two questions:
- Negative prospect – “What else could be true? What else is going on here?” By asking the question, you change the story, which changes the salesperson’s emotional state. The salesperson moves from getting defensive to getting curious.
- Positive prospect – “Am I hearing information or evidence?” Where is the proof that this prospect is really committed to eliminating a problem or achieving a goal? This helps the salesperson get back on track to ask the qualifying questions.
In the words of the late John Wooden, the famed UCLA men’s basketball coach: “Manage your emotions or they will manage you.”
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