I was recently listening to one of my favourite audiobooks on sales as I painted my conservatory. It is the ‘Sales Advantage’ by Dale Carnegie. One of the most important skills that Dale Carnegie taught with respect to sales is the importance of seeing things from the perspective of your prospects and clients. I consider this to be the most important and something that is core to soft selling.
I find stories and metaphor as a great way to shift perspectives. Sales is a people business and there are 2 sides to every story. If you are not getting the response you expect then it can help to take a look at the other side of the story.
Amanda is confused. She is struggling to close a major deal. Amanda was convinced she had it in the bag. She had done her research, made contact and qualified the opportunity, had a great sales meeting with the CEO and submitted a proposal as requested. That was 3 weeks ago and Amanda has since not heard a thing. She has called a few times since but her prospect is always in meetings. Amanda gets the sense he is avoiding speaking to her. She was led to believe that the proposal was going to be a formality. Now it looks like it is dead in the water. What could have happened?
Chris had been experiencing a lot of difficulty in a particular area and when Amanda called the timing was perfect. She sounded like a nice person on the phone and he was happy to meet with her to discuss his problems. Chris is always very busy and often does not get back in time to put his young son to bed. He values his time and saw the meeting with Amanda as a good opportunity to spend time thinking about his business problem.
Chris soon became irritated after meeting with Amanda. She was very bubbly and talkative, just like on the phone. She just would not shut up! After 10 minutes it was clear that Amanda had no intention of talking through the problem and just wanted to talk about her product. He made a number of clear signals to give her a chance and then in the end he decided to get rid of her. Unfortunately he had not instructed his PA to come in and save him after 20 minutes. Chris decided just make the right noises and politely finish the meeting as soon as possible.
At the first opportunity he told Amanda it all sounded great and asked that she send him a proposal. It always worked and Amanda looked very pleased with herself. Chris did not want to hurt Amanda’s feelings by telling her what he really thought. She was obviously a nice person but he had no intension of doing business with someone who was not respectful enough to listen to the answers to her own questions. It was a shame because the product looked quite good. Chris made a mental note to use the information that Amanda had provided in order to do some more research with Amanda’s competitors. He told his PA not to put her calls through – ever!
When I started off in sales I had a lot of these Amanda experiences. It was only when I began to see the world through the eyes of my prospects that things started to make a bit more sense.