Observations and Insights on Selling

The SalesPractice blog offers weekly observations and insights for sales practitioners pursuing the highest levels of performance in personal selling.

This Week's Post:

Call it a Conversation

Gary Boye

Thus far, I've used the familiar term, "sales process" on these pages. Perhaps I used it because it IS familiar, and don't forget what I said about establishing common ground. But, I don't really appreciate that term. We know that selling is a people business, and, I'm not comfortable implying that I process people---because I don't.

Let's make a pact. Let's think of, and speak of, the experience that takes place between seller and prospective buyer as a CONVERSATION. That's what it truly is. When we are in front of, or communicating with, someone who we suspect could use our product, ideas, or services, we are in a conversation.

Now that we have that out of the way, I'm sure there are a lot of rules for how to be a good conversationalist. I'm in favor of isolating one and putting it at the very top. And, I'll credit Dale Carnegie for sharing this wisdom many years ago:

Show a sincere interest in the other person.

Let's dissect that advice:

  • Show
    Demonstrate your interest. Ask for more about what the other person is saying. Ask questions that reveal your interest. Be a listener.
  • Sincere
    Care about the person. Seek to understand. Understanding is the basis of empathy. We now have given meaning to the time-worn platitude that states "Great sales professionals have empathy" because we know what lies at its core.
  • Interest
    You are either interested or you're not. You can't fake it. A real master practitioner in sales has the best interests of her client in mind. Choose your path wisely.
  • Other
    Self-explanatory. It's not just about you.

Onward to our progression of consent, aka closing. Actually, we're already in it. What are we seeking by showing a sincere interest in the other person? I think I suddenly heard someone say "rapport." I have been hearing about, and, reading about, rapport ever since I ventured into sales education. As a matter of fact, it seems to be something we are supposed to "build."

I prefer harmony instead. In the engagement between buyer and seller, harmony is exemplified by conditions of mutual trust and respect. I hope you zero in on the word, "mutual."

Conditions of mutual trust and respect allow entry into the other person's world. And, allowing entry happens to be a form of consent.

Have you disengaged from the notion that closing comes at the tail end? Are you getting the idea that closing is a holistic practice? Can you see that the harmony of mutual trust and respect is something you seek to "put into place" because you see it as part of a strategy-not an isolated shot-in-the-dark tactic?

It is not a sin to suspend your belief in rapport in favor of seeking, identifying, and participating in conditions of mutual trust and respect. Think of all the goldfish you won't have to pet!

What does a progression of consent look like? Why don't we describe a conversation as if it happened in a perfect world?

Imagine a conversation between a salesperson and a prospective buyer. Imagine that the conversation is flowing under conditions of mutual trust and respect, right from the starting gate. The prospect CONSENTS to answering questions posed by the salesperson who has asked permission to ask the questions. In the course of the questions and answers, a problem is revealed which exists in the prospect's current circumstances. The prospect CONSENTS to agree with that assessment. After being asked, the prospect CONSENTS to examining an idea, product, or service that would improve his circumstances. He then, upon being asked, CONSENTS to a date and time for a continuance of the conversation.

The conversation continues (Scene Two, Three Days Later): After cordialities, the salesperson engages in a presentation of his solution and recommendations. The prospect shows interest and asks questions which are answered to his satisfaction. The salesperson, asks, (after qualifying some budgetary issues which the prospect CONSENTED to provide information on) if the prospect would agree to entertaining a proposal for providing the solution. The prospect CONSENTS to receiving a proposal of recommendations and costs. The salesperson promises to have the proposal delivered in two days. The prospect CONSENTS to an afternoon meeting on Friday, at which time he will review the plan.

On Friday afternoon, the prospect becomes a buyer. His final consent is a COMMITMENT.

I realize that I just may set the world's record for pie-in-the-sky oversimplification. Yes, it's a progression of consent, but there are more than a few things missing. To put it more eloquently:

Somewhere between hello and the final commitment, the gods have put RESISTANCE.

You knew all along we would be covering that! As we move on, we will enter the real world where you earn some of your money.