Salespeople and traditional sales training must face an inconvenient truth. A salesperson only gets a sale if his/her customer first decides that salesperson will be getting that sale. Salespeople are in the decision business. In other words, salespeople’s success depends upon the decision making of others. Salespeople must remember that there’s another conversation going on while they’re talking to customers. It’s the internal buying conversation that’s happening between their customers’ ears. This second conversation is also known as, “decision-making.” The customer’s internal conversation is the more important of the two.
Admittedly, this is a difficult scenario for salespeople to face. Salespeople’s livelihoods depend on the outcome an internal conversation they can’t control. Salespeople aren’t privy to whatever conversation is going on inside their customers’ heads. Yet it determines every salesperson’s destiny.
Traditional sales training’s answer is to stick its head in the sand. For example, sales trainers say, “Customers buy from salespeople they like.” I consider this statement to be living in denial. It gives salespeople the false sense of being in control of their customer’s thinking. In reality, I can recall times as a customer when I bought from salespeople I didn’t particularly like. I bought from them anyway because they had the best product. Customer decisions are primarily based upon what’s in their best interest, not the salesperson’s best interest. Don’t you think salespeople are better served thinking about what’s best for their customers, rather than on how popular they are?
Salespeople harboring the fantasy that their behavior controls their customer’s thinking are setting themselves up. These salespeople distract themselves from the real goal. The salesperson’s real goal is for customers to decide they’ll buy. Salespeople who think that decisions to buy are based primarily upon their actions will focus on their actions rather than the goal. The salesperson’s goal involves the customer’s actions more than the salesperson’s actions. Selling success is more about the customer’s buying performance than the salesperson’s selling performance. Self-absorbed salespeople are paying more attention to selling performance than buying performance. As a customer, how does it feel when a salesperson is more concerned about what he or she has to say then what you have to say?
The most important reason for salespeople to prioritize customer decision performance over their own selling performance is that it leads to higher quality buying decisions. For example, buying decisions that are more customer centered than salesperson centered are more “internalized.” Internalization makes the difference between salesmanship and sales leadership. Internalization is when the customer’s decision to buy integrates into their beliefs and values. Internalized decisions are more sustainable. Customers who internalize their decision to buy will take initiative to use the product, recommend the product, and reorder the product without requiring a salesperson to always be around them.
A salesperson’s inability to control customer decision-making isn’t a curse; actually it’s a blessing. Salespeople need to start by recognizing what they can and can’t do instead of denying it. This insight automatically shifts their attention onto the customer. A more customer aware salesperson is a more responsive salesperson. Responding to the customer’s needs is what sales is all about! A little clarity on the part of the salesperson can go along way. They’ll be rewarded with more sales success, better customer relationships, and have a lot more fun selling.