Here is a test for you. Take 10 people randomly in the street and ask them what are the concepts that spring to mind when you mentioned the words “sales” or “sales person”. I recently did a workshop with companies part of an incubator called 50th generation and asked them this question. The nice words that came up where “manipulative”, “pushy”, “untrustworthy”, “talkative” “second hand car”, “liar” and other niceties. Not very sexy, is it. And that was from people actually selling.
So, we all have this belief system that, dealing with a sales person, she or he is going to be manipulative, untrustworthy and pushy with them. Clearly that fades away when the relationship grows but, especially when prospecting, there is this dynamic. And how do we behave to “protect” ourselves. Well, if you are familiar with the Sandler approach (highly recommend it), you will know that we have built our “defence mechanism” which includes:
A- Not telling the truth
Remember, our belief system tells us that sales people lie. So, we lie and declare
- I am interested: Even if we are not the slightest interested
- I am not interested: When we could actually be interested
B- Trying to get as much possible from sales people, for free
Us, sales people, we are usually enthusiastic, aren’t we? When asked questions about our stuff, we simply answer. So more often than not, prospects get what they want, be it pricing, knowledge, technical stuff, for free. And prospect receive information, not only for free (something known as free consultancy) but also without being asked much about the prospect’s issues.
C- Duck and dive
In other words, we are comfortable to disappear in the ether even if we committed to give an answer to a proposal or after a first call.
Let me get one thing straight. People having this behaviour are not bad people. By default, human beings are nice people and don’t lie. This reaction is natural as a natural need to build defence mechanism against sales people we believe are “manipulative people”, right? I for one certainly do it. For example, when entering a shop, when a sales assistant asks: “Can I help?”, my natural response and the most common response is: “No thanks, I am fine”.
Clearly, sales people aren’t liars (in case you still doubt it :) ). So, how to address the issue created by this belief system? A belief system that lead to biased rather than open and frank conversation. Well, there are a lot of things to do, including not necessarily be too enthusiastic as enthusiasm doesn’t sell. But one fundamental principle can help. The prospect need to be told that it’s perfectly acceptable if they don’t want to buy from you. That the objective you both pursue is actually to assess if there is a ground for a conversation and that he or she can decide to close the conversation at all time. That goes against their expectations (“oh, he is not going to be pushy”) and will be the good start of building a truthful, equal relationship with a prospect.
There is a whole raft of other things to implement, ways of positioning this, both at the practical and philosophical level to avoid being perceived with these wrongly held beliefs. And like many useful things in life, it’s not easy but it’s worth it.
Do you have any perspective on how to establish this equal relationship and correct these beliefs prospects often have when dealing with sales people? If so, I would be keen to hear about it.
PS: by the way, my good friend Regan from thesocialeffect mentioned that Seth Godin had a book called “All marketeers are liars” :O .