Willie Loman, the protagonist in Death of a Salesman, needed only a calendar, an order book, and a phone to conduct business. He conducted business in the simplest way possible. The film Glengarry Glenross portrayed salespeople as liars and lazy. Chris Farley’s Tommy Boy was a comic fool and Herb Tarlik of WKRP in Cincinnati will forever portray salespeople as weak and sleazy. Is it any wonder prospects have a negative perception of sales people?
What are you doing to avoid being lumped into those images? In your industry there are competitors who are probably conducting themselves very much like you. Would breaking out of that crowd be of benefit to you? Being seen as different from the usual carpet salesperson, pharmaceutical rep or financial advisor will take you to a different plane and set you apart from “they’re all the same.” It will also take some work to make it happen.
Here are a few thoughts about conducting your business and your thinking differently than the other guy.
#1 Recognize that buyers are human, acting out psychological “scripts” reflecting their needs, desires, biases, and defense mechanisms. The best salespeople are amateur psychologists. They understand that everything a buyer says or does is a reflection of scripts they carry in their heads. These scripts reflect various degrees of psychological maturity. Buyers are prisoners to their scripts. Therefore, there is no reason to be upset by their “readings.”
#2 Take a close look at your own psychological maturity. Do you whine, complain, and manipulate like a child? Do you control, smother, nurture, and criticize like a parent? Or do you behave like a composed, confident adult? The very best salespeople have egos and personas that reflect more of the nurturing parent and the adult than the critical parent or child. The time you spend in the adult emotional state is when you can observe what happens during your sales call from a dispassionate viewpoint.
#3 When attacked, respond from your head, not your gut. If the buyer is manipulative, sarcastic, and aggressive, do not respond in kind. Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and ask this questions: “Can you please tell me what happened to make you feel this way?”
#4 Talk about your feelings; don’t bury them. You and the buyer are engaged in a psychological drama where each is trying to maintain security and control. If you feel manipulated, stressed, or uncomfortable, bring it out in the open. If you think the buyer is feeling pressured, bring that out in the open. After clearing the air you can move toward closing the sale.
#5 Get into the buyer’s shoes. Reverse your perspective. What might the buyer be feeling and why? What emotions is the buyer revealing? If you were the buyer and had to deal with a salesperson like you, how would you feel? Empathize with these feelings.
#6 Listen to your “coach.” Listen to your inner voice of reason and objectivity – your coach. Your coach wants you to make the sale, and doesn’t want you to waste time and energy protecting your ego. Listen empathetically to the buyer and respond non-defensively.
#7 Disengage. Imaging that there is a third person in the room observing this interaction in silence. When the going gets tough for you, become that third person. In your detached state, ask yourself what you are seeing and hearing. What advice would you give to the salesperson (you)?
Getting a bigger share of the business is the objective. If your only method of doing that is lowering your price, you’re not a business person in sales, you’re taking the easy way out and there will always be someone else to go a little lower.