If you were to take a David Letterman-style “Man on the Street” poll about how the public would describe sales people, chances are you would hear things like “self-centered,” “pushy,” and “you can’t trust them.”
While we may not hear these words when face-to-face with an actual prospect, we can probably all agree that prospects are initially guarded, untrusting or more simply put, unreceptive to one degree or another. In other words, there is a natural tension that exists between sales persons and prospects.
The symptom of this low or lack of receptivity is reluctance for prospects to open up to sales people, which is what we need in order to best serve them and to be successful ourselves.
This is why one of the cornerstone principles we coach sales people on is the “Receptivity Principle.”
“When someone is emotionally ‘closed,’ you cannot persuade him/her with logical arguments. In fact, when attempting to persuade an emotionally closed person, he/she becomes even more closed.”
Therefore: Receptivity of the prospect has more impact on your ability to influence than the message.
There are three reasons why receptivity matters:
- Prospects are more willing to openly share their challenges, needs, objectives, etc.
- Deeper understanding and information from the prospect leads to larger sales opportunities.
- Prospects are more open to our recommendations.
So, how do we make prospects more receptive? Ask yourself these two questions:
Question #1: Does the Prospect Have a Choice?
The beginning of every sales process is like the beginning of a tug-a-war match. It’s like there is an invisible rope – one end held by the sales person wanting the prospect to listen to what they have to say and the other end held by the prospect that is not entirely comfortable and wants to pull away from the interaction. Just like the few seconds before the start of a real tug-a-war match, there is tension on the rope, or low or no receptivity, in this invisible tug-a-war match.
As a sales person, any attempt to sell our solution without the trust of the prospect, a proverbial pull on the rope on our end, can result in a corresponding pull back on the prospect’s end. The more we pull, the more prospects’ tighten their grip, dig their heels into the mud and pull back – i.e. become less and less receptive.
Prospects don’t want to be dragged into a sales process. They want the freedom to choose whether or not to take part in a sales process. When we pull the rope, we are dragging them into our sales process.
And at some point, after some tug-a-war, prospects will find a way to remove themselves from this or future interactions (no returned phone calls, missed appointments, etc.).
The less we pull the rope, the more relaxed and receptive prospects get. Since prospects will not drop their end of the rope first, our approach is to stop pulling and Drop-the-Rope®.
The goal is to reduce the tension at the outset of interactions with prospects and increase their receptivity. If we eliminate the tension, we create more open conversations with honest, emotional answers that allow us to better serve prospects and create more and larger sales.
Here are a few examples:
“Could I ask you a couple of questions to learn more about you and your objectives to see if my products/services are a fit for you?”
“My products and services might not be a fit for you, so do you mind if I ask you a few questions to understand your goals and see if I might be able to help?”
Question #2: Are You Other-Centered?
The majority of the public perceives sales people as pushy and self-centered. The self-centered part, by the way, is not inherent because we are sales people, it’s because we are people.
Most people have inside of them what comedian Brian Regan refers to as their “ME Monster” (if you have not seen this clip on YouTube it is well worth the time) – it’s that person inside of almost all of us that wants to tell everyone about themselves, has a “one-upper” story or thinks that they become more interesting by being the center of attention.
And, it is natural for many of us to become less receptive to those who only talk about themselves, even though, admittedly or not, most of us like to do it.
Have you ever found yourself listening to a prospect and thinking of what you are going to say as soon as their lips stop moving? Or, have you found yourself mentioning what product you have that can solve all of a prospect’s problems after only a few minutes of conversation?
Our challenge is to keep our “ME Monster” in check and get prospects talking more about themselves in a conversation so that we can truly understand where, when and how we can help them.
We call this Taking-the-Trip® – fully understanding the prospect’s perspective before we share our own.
Or, following one of Dale Carnegie’s Principles for Enhancing Relationships: “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” Carnegie goes on to sum up this principle and Taking-the-Trip® with the words, “A business runs on information…How we listen says volumes about how we think.”
By sincerely seeking to understand a prospect and truly listening to what they are saying, we are letting them know we are Other-Centered and not self-centered (i.e. we don’t have “commission breath”). Once we are perceived as Other-Centered, prospects begin to trust us more and become more receptive to working with us.
If you can effectively Drop-the-Rope® and Take-the-Trip®, you will find yourself with prospects that are more willing to openly share their needs, challenges and objectives, get larger sales opportunities and have prospects more willing to embrace your recommendations.