Mind Over Manners

Shape Shape Shape Shape

Look at any profession, sports, acting, science, plumbing and even sales, and you’ll see that the elite in the group are willing to do things to succeed that other just don’t. More significant is that it is not so much a case of not being able to do the things that need to be done, but more the case that they just won’t. You would think that once they witness the success of their elite peers, they would at least be inclined to try, if for no other reason than to have a taste of success.

There are a number of things limiting people from mimicking success, some self-imposed, some societal, and some where one just compounds the other. One specific is where sales people allow “Social norms” (or expectations), subvert and trump “Business norms”.

Beyond Norms

Nothing wrong with social norms, manners, or being respectful and courteous, most elite sellers are respectful of their prospects and their objectives. Much more respectful to their buyers than many who show up unprepared, slinging products, looking for pain and suffering, wasting buyers’ time and patience.

Sales people need to be counter-intuitive in order to initiate and facilitate the kind of conversation that leads to mutual value for buyer and seller. This means doing things you may not do in a different context of everyday life. But selling is not your regular everyday life endeavor, meaning you have to do things to engage with prospects and close deals you would not, should not do in other parts of your day.

On a daily basis I hear people I work with say “Oh, I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t like that at all if someone did that with me.” Well maybe not, but this isn’t about you, and how you feel, it is about helping your customer and your company. Your job is to drive revenue for your employer. You do that by selling and delivering “value” to your buyers. Balancing those two (not necessarily opposing interests) is what the best sales people do daily. In the course of doing that, they do things that may not comply with social norms, but is effective in helping a buyer in achieving their objectives, and thereby improve their business.

It’s About Getting it Done

Voice mail is one example, I have shared my approach in the past, and those who try it, get calls back, and those who don’t, usually say that they would not like it if they got that message, ignoring the fact that they are not getting any call backs now, and the technique regularly gets people 30% – 50% return rates. Similarly, when I speak of the need to contact prospects early and frequently, that it may take 8 – 12 touch points in the course of two weeks to get a response from a prospect. They tell me that they would not like that, yet when you ask them to consider who they bought insurance, windows, lawn services, or other services, it often turns out that they bought from the person who was most persistent, “first in, last standing” has been shown to be the winner by a number of studies.

None of the techniques I or others have presented that are counterintuitive, or on the edges of day to day norms, have led to personal injury, loss of limb or death. I have checked with Federal, Provincial and State capitals everywhere, and they are legal too. What they have led to are more meaningful conversations and eventually sales. If you want the prospect to think or see things differently, you need to get to the conversation or point of reflection in a different way. This means doing things in ways that shake up the status quo, without that you end up looking like the pack, and suffering the same fate as the pack.

You would be surprised how many senior people and serious buyers welcome tough questions, even confrontational questions. Confrontation need not be negative, you can confront the buyer’s assumptions or premises in a professional way, and create a breakthrough for both. If you know the prospect may not have taken everything they need to into account, just because you want to be polite, or socially acceptable, and the buyer does not receive the best solution as a result, then you are rude.

Conforming To Success

I know some are worried that if they don’t conform they may lose the sale, but in the long run, you will lose more sales by not standing out, and not telling it like it is just to be polite, or worse, not to be different, to fit into norms. You can ease into things gradually. Start by asking questions or probing areas that you may not have in the past, but still in your comfort zone. Then move up. You know those questions bouncing around in your head, and you are just reluctant to ask them? Well ask one, not personal, and something that pertains to the issues at hand. Ask and you’ll be surprised what you get back. Then build on it. Most people I work with who adopt this path, tell me that prospects have told them how much they enjoyed the conversation, and while they may not always win the deal, they always learn and find things to take into the next sale.

It really is a question of mind over manners, and sales success as a result.

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