We are running into some of the same selling challenges we did 25 years ago, despite the explosion of technology and information. Knowledge isn’t the issue; the application of knowledge is.
For example, how many of you have observed a salesperson move into a product dump, even though he knows that he should be asking questions — not presenting solutions? Or the salesperson that discounts early and often, even though she just attended a negotiation-skills training course.
The problem is that most sales managers and CEOs are focused on the wrong end of the problem. When a salesperson isn’t hitting quota, their boss focuses on teaching and coaching more hard selling skills. Those are important. But in many selling situations, emotions start running the meeting, which affects the salesperson’s ability to execute the hard selling skills.
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. 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 their 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 a 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.”