Salespeople Should Turn Their Thinking Around
A New Salesperson
Let me tell you a story that highlights the importance of turning your thinking around. I was a new salesperson visiting a potential customer. The visit wasn’t going well at all. I was still unfamiliar my product, and this customer was giving me the hardest time he possibly could. At one point, he accused me of trying to trick him into buying an inferior product. I tried my best to assure him that this wasn’t the case.
I was new, so I hadn’t yet acquired the detailed product knowledge I needed to handle all his accusations. As soon as I realized that changing his mind would be hopeless, a wry smile broke out over his face. He said to me, “I’m just giving you a hard time, sonny. I already heard about your product and I know it’s good. Sign me up for two of them.” Then he added, “You gotta learn your product better so you can handle guys like me.”
I drove back to the office with my sale in hand reflecting back on the what just happened. In spite of my poor selling performance, my customer’s good buying performance resurrected the sales call. Was that good or bad? From my ego’s standpoint, it was terrible. I couldn’t take any credit whatsoever for getting the sale. The result was entirely out of my control. If I viewed the situation from a productivity standpoint, the result was excellent. I made my quota. An “atta boy” from my manager added to my internal puzzlement. As soon as I told my manager what really happened, his smile instantly vanished.
Pay Attention to Your Customer’s Buying Performance
What went through my manager’s mind as his smile vanished is what salespeople commonly put themselves through on their own. It’s the negative self-judgment salespeople impose upon themselves when a sales performance doesn’t meet their expectations. Not only is this negative self-talk detrimental to productivity, but it’s also unfounded. There will always be occasions when salespeople could have performed better. However, that’s missing the point. Sales success is ultimately determined by the customer’s performance, rather than the salesperson’s.
The Customer’s Decision
Deciding whether or not to buy is ultimately the customer’s responsibility, not the salesperson’s. Many salespeople think that they are more responsible for the customer’s decisions than they are. This is primarily so that salespeople can believe that they have more control over the situation. As painful as it is for salespeople to tell themselves they messed up, thinking this way keeps them feeling like they are in control. In reality, if salespeople actually had control over their customer’s decision making, then everyone would be a salesperson. It would be the most lucrative profession on the planet! In fact, salespeople can’t control their customer’s thinking at all. This is why successful selling relies on the highly developed skills of salesmanship.
The Customer’s “Self-Talk” Determines Whether You’ll Get The Sale
Salespeople need to turn their thinking around. This involves shifting one’s focus of attention from the salesperson’s selling performance toward the customer buying performance instead. By doing this, salespeople avoid detrimental negative self-talk and improve their selling ability. For example, a typical salesperson values the importance of establishing “trust.” They will typically say, “Getting my customers to trust me is a big priority.” I agree that it’s nice for customers to trust their salespeople.
But, what happens if the salesperson turns their thinking around?
This means the salesperson would say instead, “getting customers to trust their own ability to make a good decision is a big priority for me.” This shift in focus will limit a salesperson’s self-doubts. This is due to their attention shifting from their self-doubts on to the customer’s self-doubts. A customer who has self-doubts is an essential concern for salespeople to address. Most customers experience some degree of self-doubt during the decision making process. A customer’s self-doubt negatively impacts buying performance. The process is not very different from how a salesperson’s self-doubt will negatively impact selling performance. For example, self-doubting customers will frequently make inappropriately conservative buying decisions.
What happens when a salesperson changes his or her thinking?
When salespeople turn their thinking from selling performance to buying performance, they become more aware of customer thought processes. They can support a customer thinking that is helpful for decision making. They can also address when the customer’s thinking is detrimental to decision performance. For example, a salesperson may notice her or his customer has a self-limiting belief. Salespeople would fail to see that belief if they were self-focused rather than customer focused. It’s common for this to happen when salespeople are distracted by their own negative self-talk.
More Opportunities for Changed Thinking
Another opportunity for salespeople to turn their thinking around involves customer awareness. When asked about the role that customer awareness plays for their selling, most salespeople say, “Customer awareness is essential. I need to make my customers aware of my product’s benefits.” Making customers aware of a product’s benefits is important. However, let’s turn the salesperson’s thinking around. What if the salesperson focused on the customer’s “self-awareness?” That salesperson would notice how well the customer is in touch with their own needs. The salesperson will notice if the customer has explicitly formed goals and objectives.
When salespeople focus on the customer’s self-awareness, it improves their productivity. After all, If customers don’t know what they need, then how can they know if a product’s features will be beneficial? Paying attention to the customer’s self-awareness helps salespeople avoid their own negative self-talk. The salesperson’s focus has now shifted away from their own self-talk and onto their customer’s self-talk. Afterall, it’s ultimately the customer’s self-talk that determines if the salesperson will be getting the sale.
Buying Performance and Selling Success
The customer’s buying performance is where the rubber meets the road for selling success. Salespeople can be mindful of this by turning their thinking around. Salespeople should be more concerned about their customer’s buying performance than their own selling performance. This change in thinking leads to accelerated learning, and diminishes negative self-talk. After all, the goal of selling is buying. Customers in the digital age have more choices than ever before, and are more distracted than ever. A salesperson’s undivided focused attention is a gift to customers. Salespeople become perfectly positioned to fill this need when they understand why they are needed. Not unlike my unwitting mentor taught me years ago, salespeople have to show up knowing why they are there.