Sales and Sales Management Blog

March 28, 2012

George Orwell’s Negative Influence on Sales Language

The coincidence of timing: My friend Dan Waldschmidt published a post yesterday on why words matter.  After reading my post on how words a misused, I’d encourage you read Dan’s to see how words should be used.

What words do you use to describe yourself and your products and services?  Are there words you intentionally try to keep out the mind of your prospects or clients?  Do you use euphemisms instead of plain English when making a presentation in order to try to elicit a particular feeling or response from your prospect?

As salespeople, we’ve been taught to frame our conversations and presentations in ways that lead our prospects and clients to the conclusions and decisions we wish them to arrive at.  In order to do this, we are advised by some to refrain from using certain words that may evoke a negative reaction—or to use words that will evoke a negative reaction, depending on what we want our prospect to think or feel.

Much of this advice is based on the idea that if we control the conversation we control the prospect’s attitude, thinking, and ultimately, their decision making process.  In other words, by carefully controlling the words used in the conversation, we can control the prospect’s thought process. 

Some sales trainers even go so far as to recommend we not bring up potential negatives—don’t address a non-existent objection so as not to plant a potential objection in the prospect’s mind.  Or if an objection is raised, deflect it and return to the presentation or closing the sale.  Gloss over the objection and it will go away.    

It seems George Orwell has become the director of sales training.  Orwell’s Newspeak is now the new “sales speak.”  No longer is communicating with a prospect as a rational human sufficient; now we are exhorted to in essence treat them as nothing more than a computer, inputting only the data we want them to compute–as though if we don’t give them the words, they won’t be able to think the thoughts we don’t want them to think.

Orwell believed that words are the keys to thought.  If the words don’t exist to communicate a particular thought or concept, it isn’t possible to think the thought or concept.  Consequently, if you can control the words someone has available to them, you can control not only what they think, but eventually how they act.  Orwell later repudiated the concept.  Unfortunately, a version of this concept has become quite popular in some areas of sales training.

Like Orwell’s world of 1984, some view the world of sales as an arena where words are not simply powerful in influencing thought and behavior; they are the creators of thought and behavior.  If we don’t say it, the prospect will never think it.  If we can frame it using the words we want, the prospect will never think of their own words to describe it or question it.

Rather than trying to communicate, we are told by some that if we create the conversation we wish to have with the prospect, the prospect will unknowingly go along with us.  If only we learn the right words and phrases to use—and the words and phrases to avoid, we can direct the prospect to the ”proper” decision.  Selling in this view is simply an exercise in rhetoric.

So, we learn the right words and the right phrases; we engage the prospect by making sure we eliminate any words that might evoke thoughts, feeling, or concepts we don’t want them to have; and we ask for the order.  Instead of the automatic ‘yes’ we expected, we hear a resounding ‘no.’

What could possibly have gone wrong?  We did everything right.  We used the right words; we avoided the wrong ones.  We were careful to implant the ideas, concepts, and emotions we wanted the prospect to have.  We executed perfectly.  And they said no.  How could this possibly have happened?

Could it be that they did the unthinkable–they actually thought words and concepts that we worked diligently to keep out of their head?  Despite our best efforts to implant the right “data,”  when we pushed the “enter” button they exercised independent thought and rejected our attempt to manipulate their decision making process?

Is it possible the words we use aren’t as important as the communication and connection we make with the prospect?  Is it possible that our attempt to finesse the prospect by trying to direct their thinking through the careful manipulation of language isn’t as effective as we have been lead to believe?  Is it possible that less rhetoric and more communication would serve us better?  Could it be that more listening, more understanding, and more straight answers to prospect questions could prompt more trust in the prospect?

Maybe it is time to rethink the Newspeak of selling and learn instead to listen, to answer honestly and forthrightly, to drop the euphemisms and begin once again communicating with prospects and clients using plain English.  Maybe rather than the belief that the words we use will create the reality we want in the prospect, we should seek try to understand the prospect’s needs, wants, and issues and try to present our best solutions to those needs and wants as honestly and forthrightly as possible. 

The Orwellian experiment has been tried—and failed.  Orwell recognized the failure of the concept before he died.  Certainly, many trainers in the areas of communication and persuasion recognize the legitimate uses of rhetoric in the sales process.  Yet, there are still large numbers of trainers selling the Orwellian concept of easy sales through language manipulation and its false promise of controlling prospect thought and behavior.  There is a difference between the legitimate use of persuasive influence and the intent to deviously manipulation. 

We are selling to independent beings who exercise their capacity to think autonomously of our attempts to stage-manage their actions and decisions.  Our words can influence, they cannot create the reality we want.  Our words can help create an image, they cannot eliminate independent thought.   Our words can create conversation, dialog, and real communication, they cannot produce a pre-determined outcome.  The sooner we recognize their independence, the sooner we can get back to creating relationships built on trust, not on linguistic manipulation.

March 26, 2012

Four Common Destructive Sales Management Styles

I’ve had the privilege of working with many new managers whose company hired me to help them transition from seller to manager or to work with existing managers to become more effective.  One of the recurring issues I’ve discovered is a misunderstanding of what a sales manager is.

Whether I’m working with a newly promoted seller into a frontline sales management position or an established sales leader, I often find someone with a warped and destructive idea of what a sales manager’s work is. 

Generally I find these misguided managers have adopted one of these four destructive management styles :

The Clone Coach:  A common tendency of great salespeople when promoted to manager is to believe that if they could just train all of their salespeople to be mini-me’s of themselves then everything will be great—the salespeople will be happy, they’ll make their numbers, management will be thrilled, customers will be loyal forever, and the new manager will be promoted again in no time.  Thus, the new manager sets out to coach every seller on his or her team to do exactly what they did to be successful without regard to the individual salesperson’s experience level, knowledge, personality, or skills. 

Typically the harder the manager tries to “coach” each of their salespeople to mimic the way they sold, the more frustrated each seller becomes and the more resistant to being “coached.”

Although the manager may succeed in creating one or two clones, they will alienate the majority of their team and eventually there will be a breakdown of trust and cooperation.

The Super Seller:  The Super Seller is the star salesperson who when promoted to manager tells his or her salespeople to forget about selling, “you get the prospects, I’ll sell ‘em” is the crux of their management style.  They haven’t the slightest interest in seeing their salespeople grow as sellers; their only interest is making THEIR numbers because it’s all about them.

Salespeople languish and eventually wither and die under a Super Seller for they not only have no chance to grow, if they do decide to exercise selling skills they are typically scolded for the perceived sin of costing the manager potential scalps on his or her lodge pole.

Although the manager may appear successful to upper management if judged only by the numbers, she is judged a complete failure and is resented by her team which typically suffers large turnover and discontent.

The Disciplinarian:  Less prevalent that the two previous management styles but equally dangerous is the manager who comes in with the attitude of “I’m going to whip these lazy good for nothings into shape if it kills me.”  Most typically it does kill—both the team members and the manager.

The Disciplinarian usually has a chip on their shoulder and disrespect for those they “manage.”  This manager views himself as being not only a superior seller to his team members but also more dedicated to the company and his job than they are. 

Sales teams under the thumb of the Disciplinarian suffer from morale issues that eventually result in high turnover and often outright rebellion. 

The Pal:  The Pal manager has most often been promoted from within the team and is friends with the majority of team members.  The Pal’s transition from peer to manager changes virtually nothing in the team’s relationships as the salespeople have a difficult time making the transition to viewing their old friend as their manager and the new manager has a difficult time now having to hold her former team peers accountable for their actions.

Instead of making the transition from peer to manager, the new manager makes a transition from peer to Super Friend, becoming the advocate extraordinaire for her team mates, protecting them and covering for them no matter what.  The Pal is committed to her friends and is most concerned about how they feel about her rather than managing them. 

Unfortunately for most managers who take on the role of The Pal, the lack of discipline and accountability results in the team members taking gross advantage of them—to the point that often their tenure as manager is very short lived.  . 

The common denominator that binds all four of these management styles together is a focus by the manager on themselves and their wants and needs.

Certainly managing entails coaching, and disciplining when necessary, as well as helping close a sale here and there; and needless to say making the numbers is important.  But managing involves far more than these few traits and it becomes destructive when the manager becomes completely focused on their own needs and their perceived success rather than their team’s growth and performance.

One of the keys to being a successful sales manager is having a solid understanding of human nature and in particular understanding what makes each team member tick.  More than anything else, sales management is about leadership, not about control or being the big shot or even just making the numbers.

Manager, if you see yourself locked into any of these management styles, by all means seek out a quality coach or find a quality management training company and start the process of becoming a strong manager.

Seller, if you find that you are working for one of the above managers, consider your situation carefully and make a conscious decision as to whether you want to continue in such a situation where your growth as a salesperson may be stymied and you may live in a constant state of frustration.

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March 23, 2012

Can It Get Any Stranger?

We humans are funny animals.  We tend to do the same things over and over, no matter what the consequences.  Although we are admonished to learn from our mistakes, more often than not we continue to make the same mistakes time after time.  Maybe not the big obvious mistakes, but the little ones that we don’t notice we keep doing and doing.

Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if we’re doing something that has a negative outcome that we’d stop doing it?  Even more fundamental, doesn’t it seem reasonable that we’d notice that what we’re doing isn’t working?

Seems reasonable. 

But strange as it seems, our lives are full of things that have negative consequences yet we continue to do them. 

Some of these negative things we may be aware of and consciously choose to do anyway with such as smoking, overeating, or taking a tad too many nips of the juice.. 

Nevertheless, there are whole hosts of actions we take that have negative consequences of which we are completely ignorant.  We’re ignorant of these negative consequence actions not because we’re blind, or stupid, or too lazy to see them.  We’re ignorant because we have never examined them to see what the consequences of those actions really are.  We do them because we’re ‘supposed’ to do them or because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  We do them out of ignorance.

Unfortunately, that same ignorance that invests other parts of our lives, worms its way into our sales careers as well.  We do the things we’ve been told are the right things to do or we do them in the way we were told was the right way to do them.  And when the outcome of those actions isn’t what it’s supposed to be, we blame ourselves or chalk it up to bad luck or bad timing.  Worse, we decide the answer is to do more of those actions believing that if we do them more often and with more conviction, the outcome will definitely be better, right?  After all, weren’t we told that those were the right actions, so then the problem must be we simply aren’t doing them long enough or hard enough, never examining them to see if the problem might be with them, not with us.

So our solution is to do more of what doesn’t work.

Can it get any stranger? 

Yet, that is how the vast majority of salespeople run their sales careers.

Cold calling not working?  Make more cold calls.  Not closing enough sales?  Push for the sale harder.  Not meeting enough prospects at the networking events you go to?  Go to more events.  The direct mail piece you sent not producing results?  Send out more. 

The answer is always more of the same.  Do more of what’s not working and it’ll work

What a strange business we’re in.  What other business is there whose answer to the things that aren’t producing results is to do more of it?

Do you think that if the owner of a restaurant decided he wasn’t selling enough fish the answer would be to cook more fish?  Or, if the radiology treatment a physician has prescribed isn’t working they would just prescribe a larger dose without first examining why it isn’t working?  Of course not.  The restaurateur would want to know why he wasn’t selling more fish and he would figure out how to generate more customers who order fish or he would change his menu to reflect the tastes of his customers because if he tries to continue to force fish on his customers, he’ll be out of business.  Likewise, instead of just prescribing a bigger dose of the same radiology treatment, the physician will seek to discover why the treatment isn’t working and change her prescription accordingly. 

Neither the restaurateur nor the physician is just going to say, “oh, well.  What I’m doing isn’t working so I’ll just do lots more of it.”  We’d think they were nuts if that were their answer.

Yet, that’s the answer most salespeople come up with when their sales career isn’t progressing in the direction they want.  And the strange thing is few of their associates or their manager thinks they’re crazy for simply doing more of what doesn’t work.  In fact, they are often the salesperson’s biggest cheerleaders egging them on to do exactly those things.

Can it get any stranger?    

Why would a rational person decide the answer to correcting something that isn’t working is to do more of what isn’t working? 

Although there are a number of reasons such as the advice they are getting from their sales manager, many of the sales books they read, and their associates, all assuring them that all they need to do is make more calls, push harder for the sale, send out more direct mail pieces, often the real culprit is that they have no idea what they are doing that is working and what they are doing that isn’t working.

Salespeople for the most part tend to work off gut feeling.  “I feel that my cold calling isn’t producing the desired results.”  “I feel that my closing skills are really good, I just don’t feel that I’m getting to make enough presentations.”  “I feel that I’m getting a lot of referrals, they’re just not very good.” 

Working off gut feeling is a surefire way to feel–and be–broke. 

The problem is few salespeople take the time and put in the effort to examine their sales business in detail to discover what they are doing that is really producing the results they want—and what they are doing that isn’t.  Few salespeople know exactly:

  • What activities they are investing the majority of their time in
  • The characteristics of the prospects they really connect with
  • Where their sales–not their prospects but their sales–are coming from
  • What prospecting and marketing methods are actually producing sales and not just bodies
  • What they are doing in the sales process that is working and what isn’t, furthermore, most have no real idea of what their sales process is
  • Or know exactly how many qualified prospects they talk to, how many of those prospects bought, what specific products or services they bought, why the prospects bought—or didn’t buy

In order to run a business, the business owner must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their income statement and their balance sheet.  Those two documents tell the business owner what’s really going on in their business.  They tell them not only how well they are doing, but where to invest more time and money, they warn of potential problems, and they reveal new potential opportunities the business owner might not otherwise have seen.  The balance sheet and income statement are the history of the business and the business’s history tells the business owner what’s going to happen in the future—good and bad–unless the business owner makes changes to the business.

Salespeople need the same roadmap as any other business owner.  Salespeople are not employees—despite getting a W2.  Every salesperson is self-employed.  They run their own sales company.  For those salespeople who are W2’d, it just happens they have only one client—the company they are currently selling for.  Like any business owner, they must have a historical document that alerts them to problems–as well as opportunities.

Rather than having a balance sheet and income statement, salespeople must take the time and invest the effort to reconstruct their sales and marketing history in numerical form.  They must create a document that informs them of not what they think or feel has happened in the past, but tells them exactly what has happened.  Such a document will tell them in no uncertain terms where they have really spent their time; what they have really done in terms of prospecting and marketing; who their ideal prospect really is; what prospecting and marketing methods are really working; what their closing ratio really is; and a great deal more.  And it tells them that if they continue doing what they’re doing, exactly what will happen in the future.  On the other hand, it will also tell them exactly what changes must be made in order to change their future.

If a sales history document is so powerful, why do only a handful of salespeople have one?  Although one of the most powerful tools any salesperson—and their manager—can have, reconstructing one’s sales and marketing history is tedious, takes a good deal of effort, and for many the results are very uncomfortable. 

If you are serious about changing your sales business, you must learn to run it like a business and to take full responsibility for what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.  You can’t do that unless you know–and you can’t know by guessing or going on gut feeling.  You can’t change your career if you simply continue to do what you’re doing. 

For salespeople, finding and selling quality prospects is how they make a living.  Yet, most leave their success or failure up to chance and gut feeling.  Can it get any stranger than that?  You don’t have to be like 85% of all other salespeople who meander along with no real idea of what to do to be successful. 

Sit down and do a thorough review of your prospecting, marketing, and selling activities for a reasonable period, say a year.  Dig out your records of what you did and exactly what activity produced what business.  Figure out what produces business and why.  Likewise, figure out what you’re investing time in that isn’t producing business—and why. 

Once you know those two things you can begin to put together a solid plan to exploit those things that are producing for you and take corrective action on those things that aren’t.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in control of your sales business and you’ll no longer have to wonder where your business will come from—or if it will come.

follow me on Twitter at: @paul_mccord

March 18, 2012

Guest Article, Sales Lead Brownouts Produce Sales Dips Wihin Three Months, Leading to Pipeleine Failure, by James Obermayer

Filed under: lead generation — Paul McCord @ 10:04 am
Tags: ,

Sales Lead Brownouts Produce Sales Dips Within Three Months, Leading to Pipeline Failure.1
by James Obermayer

“Companies often decide to curtail lead generation spending because cash flow slows and sales stagnate.”

Please reread that last sentence.  Does it make sense?  It should read:

“Companies that curtail lead generation spending because cash flow slows and sales stagnate see a further decline in sales for three to twelve months thereafter because the sales pipeline has been reduced.”

Of course, I can understand caution when cash is short, but slowing down lead generation is not the way out of the morass.  Whether you average 100 inquiries or a thousand a month, if you cut lead generation spending and your lead count drops by 50% or more for three to six months, sales will correspondingly drop within three months.  What’s more, they’ll remain curtailed for three to six months after lead generation picks up.  It isn’t just a fact, it’s common sense.

This is how it works.

After lead generation spending is slashed, sales continue for about three months as the pipeline is drained of opportunities.  At this point, senior management is beating on sales management to increase the pipeline, and sales management replies with excuses for just about everything except lack of leads; that comes a month or so later when he or she gets desperate and every salesperson cries for leads.

It’s not too late, but recovery is several quarters away.  It takes months to build the inquiry level back up to what it was, and months longer to rebuild the pipeline.   Just consider the average sales cycle for your product and you’ll see that the rebuild time is considerable.  But there is no choice.  You can reignite sales lead flow, but it takes months for the pipeline to come back and months longer for sales to reappear.

What do you do?

First, don’t cut lead generation if you need an increase in sales: increase leads to increase sales.

When management requests a reduction in the lead generation budget explain the consequences:

Fewer leads for six months = smaller pipeline for nine months  = declining sales for three to twelve months.

Conversely:

Increased leads for three months  = increased pipeline within six months = increased sales for one year.

The lesson: curtail sales lead generation spending at your peril, understanding that there are consequences to your pipeline and to sales far into the future.

[1] James Obermayer, Sales and Marketing 365,  Racom Communications & Business Marketing Association, Evanston, Ill , #66, page 32.   Buy the book with all 365 Tips, Tricks, and Tactics for making more money all year long; from the publisher: $17.95

March 14, 2012

Act the Part to Become the Part

Filed under: attitude,career development,success — Paul McCord @ 4:13 pm
Tags: , ,

I often hear complaints from both new and experienced sellers that they don’t know how to become successful. 

The key questions is always, “what do I need to do to become successful?”

When I ask, most say that they have some very successful sellers in their company, while others indicate that although they may not have any high production sellers in their office, they still know at least one highly successful seller that they are in regular contact with regularly.

My answer  to them is simple:”Act the part to become the part;” that is, do the things successful salespeople do and act the way successful salespeople act and you’ll stand a very good chance of becoming successful also.

Seldom do I run into a seller that is satisfied with that answer.  Rather than getting a simple “OK,” I get a ton of reasons why that is a stupid answer. 

As soon as I make that statement I know what I’ll hear:

“How am I supposed to act like that when I’m new and just started?”

“I can’t act like that because I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“That’s crazy.  I can’t act like I’m successful when I’m just barely getting along.”

“If I act like I’m successful I wouldn’t be being genuine.”

Now, of course, these reactions aren’t always stated exactly as those above, but the bottom-line is always the same—they can’t do the things successful salespeople do because they aren’t currently successful.

Well, if they’re not doing the things successful salespeople are doing, then they must be doing the things unsuccessful sales people are doing. 

And they wonder why they’re not successful?

If you really want to become successful as a seller, find a successful seller that you admire and respect and begin closely observing what they do and how they act.  More than likely you’ll notice a few thing such as confidence, a thorough knowledge of their products and services, a commitment to gain all the sales and product training and coaching they can possibly get, a willingness to admit when they don’t know something along with a promise to find out, and a desire to help their prospects and clients solve issues and meet needs.

You’ll also more than likely not find a few other things, such as being self-centered, a fear of rejection, a single minded focus on money, or a know-it-all attitude.  Unfortunately, much of the time these negatives are easily found in those very sellers wanting to know how to become successful.

It really isn’t that hard to figure out that if you do what the successful sellers are doing you’ll probably have a great chance at being successful. 

If, however, you’re doing what the unsuccessful sellers are doing, you’ll have an even better chance of continuing to be unsuccessful

If you’re not reaching the level of success you want, you can continue doing the things you’re doing that aren’t getting you where you want to be, or you can simply act the part to become the part, that is, act like a successful seller and you’ll become a successful seller.

So, rather than continuing as you are, find someone you respect, observe them carefully and then do the things they do and act the way they act.  Over time you’ll find that it’s a whole lot more fun acting—and becoming—successful than it is watching the successful sellers leave you behind.

Connect with me on Twitter:  @paul_mccord

March 12, 2012

Guest Article: Sales Secrets from Baja California, by Jeff Beals

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 9:51 am
Tags: , ,

Sales Secrets from Baja California
By Jeff Beals

To unearth the age-old secrets of sales and marketing, I journeyed 2,600 miles to Cabo San Lucas on the extreme southern tip of Baja California Sur.

Actually, it was just a vacation.

But during what was a carefree trip spent mostly on the beach and in margarita bars, I inadvertently received a Mexican marketing lesson and crystal-clear insight into what it really takes to be successful in selling services and promoting products.

The unexpected lesson came at me from two different angles – from above and below. One angle was luxurious, affluent and exclusive; the other was “street selling,” marketing in a very traditional and primitive form.

Let’s start with the luxurious angle. We had the good fortune of staying in our friends’ opulent condo, a lavishly appointed place with an interior design worthy of an architectural magazine. As the guest of a resident, I was offered the “opportunity” to sit in an information session organized by the management company. Of course, the session was actually intended to sell me my own piece of real estate paradise (or at least a one-week share of it).

Normal vacationers run like hell when offered such an “opportunity.” Not me. I love real estate and am fascinated with marketing, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn. The free breakfast buffet and piña coladas were just icing on the cake.

Wow, the real estate agent was so effective – she was charismatic, well informed, a great conversationalist with such strong interpersonal skills. The meeting was private, not some presentation in an auditorium. The pitch was soft-sell, much more focused on relationship-building than high-pressure closings. We talked for two hours. Most of the time was spent discussing the local area. We talked about politics, culture and a great deal of Mexican history. She asked questions – lots of them. A good salesperson gets to know her prospects inside and out. She knew what information she wanted from me, and she got it.

In a clear attempt to play to my ego, she said, “The advantage of a time share is that you pre-pay your vacation. That means a man of your stature is essentially forced to set aside time in your busy schedule to relax and be with your family. That will make your wife happy and give your kids memories for a lifetime.”

Now, she obviously acted as if I was a much bigger deal than I really am, but what a great angle! She found what I valued and focused on how her product could satisfy that value.

Then there’s the other side of sales and marketing in Cabo.

As is common in Mexican tourist towns, street hawkers are omnipresent. They sell everything from traditional souvenir items to whale-watching excursions to staged photos of you downing a shot of tequila on the beach while sporting an oversized sombrero.

There’s so much selling, you get kind of sick of it, which can lead to flippant brush-offs and irritated responses of “No gracias!”

While walking to lunch one day with my wife and our friend, a street vendor approached me and displayed a handful of silver bracelets.

“Hey man, you need one of these for your pretty lady,” he said.

“Her? She doesn’t even like me anymore,” I responded playfully.

“Maybe this bracelet would help,” he said.

“It’s hopeless; nothing will help. She doesn’t want anything to do with me,” I insisted.

A pause and a smile… “Get one for your next wife!”

His humor and creativity stood out among the sea of street vendors all saying the same thing. What’s more impressive, however, is that he was trying to find something I valued. Had I been telling the truth, it may have been a successful pitch!

How interesting – the methods of selling I experienced on my Mexican vacation were very different, yet the lessons were the same: it all comes down to value! Whether you are selling exclusive real estate or future garage-sale items from a pushcart, you are successful when you find the buyer’s value points.

The successful marketer and the savvy salesperson know that people buy what they value and only what they value. It is the salesperson’s job to find out just what that value is. Value is determined by the prospective client, never by the seller or marketer.

How do you find what your prospective clients value? It’s simple. Start by building rapport and then ask the right questions.

The street hawker with the bracelets built rapport through humor and creativity. Because it was such a brief encounter, he didn’t have the luxury of asking me a lot of questions, but give him credit for trying to find my value point as quickly as possible.

The condo salesperson gave a textbook performance. She built rapport with me and asked the right questions. She now knows what I value. She didn’t make the sale, but I suspect I will hear from her periodically. When the day comes that I can justify such a frivolous expense, I do have her contact information.

You never know…. I just might call her someday.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. You can learn more and follow his “Business Motivation Blog” at JeffBeals.com.

March 7, 2012

Your Attitude Is Showing–Is It Killing Your Sales?

Whether we like it or not, whether we want it to happen or not, whether we believe it or not, our attitude toward our job, our attitude toward our product or service, and especially our attitude toward our prospects and clients is telegraphed to our prospects and clients through our voice, our body language, and the words we choose.

And, again, whether we like it or not, our attitude has a direct and often disproportionate bearing on whether or not we close the sale

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of sellers.  I’ve seen all kinds of attitudes.  I’ve run across sellers who were genuinely honored to work with their prospects and clients, others who were true believers in their product or service, others who had a servant’s heart and were anxious to be of service to their prospects, and others who were excited to be a part of their company’s success. 

The prospects of these sellers pick up quickly on the seller’s enthusiasm and confidence.  The seller’s prospects and clients are to some extent influenced by the seller’s attitude and are more likely to have a positive view of not only the seller but also their products and services. 

On the other hand, I’ve met sellers who were only going through the motions, who looked upon their prospects and clients as nothing more than a checkbook, who hated their product, service or company, or who simply hated the very act of selling.  Almost all of these men and women knew their attitude was damaging their careers and sales efforts.  Most were too lazy or fearful to address the issues or to find more appropriate employment. 

Just as positive begets positive, negative begets negative.

But I’ve found two attitudes to be particularly destructive simply because most of the individuals who exhibit these attitudes don’t seem to understand how damaging their attitude is.  In fact, those who have one of these attitudes are convinced that their attitude is a major asset when dealing with prospects and clients.

These two attitudes are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but both are far too prevalent and both are extremely difficult to eradicate:

Fear: Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of getting fired, fear of not being able to pay the rent, fear of going back to the office empty handed are all common fears with sellers and they all send out an unmistakable beacon to the men and women these sellers try to connect with.  And that fear kills sales.

The problem with fear is that although the prospect or client picks up on the fear, they have no idea the source of the fear and can easily mistake it for something more ominous such as an attempt to lie or cheat or even an attempt to scam the buyer. 

Fear is sensed almost immediately and sends up red flags in the prospect that tells them to proceed slowly and with great caution.  Further, the seller’s fear simply reinforces the natural fear that many buyers experience when making a purchase, making it even that much more difficult for the buyer to pull the trigger and make a positive purchasing decision.

The only cure for fear is developing confidence.  Confidence comes through developing the skills and experience to be successful.  Fear is often attached to a lack of preparation, training, and coaching. 

Fortunately, fear can be overcome, but too often it is simply allowed to fester to the point the seller either moves to another career choice or the company lets them go. 

If you or one of your sellers suffers from fear, address it immediately and get them on a training and coaching path to replace their fear with a solid self-confidence.

Arrogance: Just as deadly in sales but more difficult to address is the attitude of arrogance and disrespect for the buyer. 

Arrogance comes across in many ways.  I’ve heard comments from sellers such as: “He wouldn’t take my cold call and I’m a customer of his company.  I told his secretary that he owed it to me to talk me and any other seller who called,” “I finally got an appointment with the jerk.  I’m going to be a few minutes late just to let him know I’m not so impressed that I’m going to fall all over myself just because he said yes to seeing me,”  “He thinks he knows more than I do.  He’ll pay when it comes time to sign a contract,” and hundreds of other comments that indicate the seller thinks the buyer either owes him something or that he has little respect for the buyer.

The biggest problem with arrogance is most sellers with an arrogant attitude believe that their attitude is an asset, one that exudes confidence and power.  In reality arrogance is usually covering up some other issue whether a lack of confidence, a fear, or a personality or character defect. 

I’ve seen this attitude in a great many men and women who were at one time top sellers and who are now struggling.  It seems their way of coping with their lack of success is to become boastful and arrogant.

I’ve also encountered this attitude with relatively new sellers who very quickly were very successful and bought into the idea that they were in some way special.  Their quick success just as quickly went to their hear—and often their success quickly turns into struggles as they fall back to earth.

Whatever the root cause, prospects and clients pick up on the attitude quickly and when they do, their natural defense mechanisms come up, making it almost impossible for the seller to close the sale.

Dealing with a seller suffering from arrogance is very difficult simply because it is so difficult to get them to understand they are their problem.  Most arrogant sellers have bought into the BS they spout.  They have become believers in their own trash talk.  Not that they actually believe they can outsell and outperform, but rather that they are better than those they try to sell to and they deserve the respect they try to demand from others.  Ultimately they believe the prospect owes them something.

Are they a lost cause?  Frankly, most are.  However, I’ve seen a few that with heavy coaching and a period of close management have seen the error of their ways and repented from their sin.  Unfortunately, they are the rare exception, not the rule.

If you have either of these attitudes in your sales team (and I’m willing to bet most sales leaders have at least one seller with one of these attitudes) you must deal with them immediately and directly for more than likely they won’t deal with their attitude issue on their own.  Those who are fearful won’t know how to deal with it and those who suffer from arrogance won’t have the slightest idea their attitude is a liability.

If you notice that you suffer from one of these attitude issues, get help immediately.  If you are fearful, get the training and coaching that will give you the basis for developing the confidence to overcome your fear.  If you are arrogant, get with your sales leader and develop a plan that will help your eradicate your malignant attitude before it destroys you and your career.

Connect with Paul on Twitter @paul_mccord

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