If you’re in business, you’re in sales. No matter how much you might want to be focused on clever marketing or delivering extraordinary service, the step of selling is a concrete part of your journey – period. If you’re not able to sell yourself in a 1-on-1 scenario, it will be unlikely that your registration pages will have people clicking to “buy now” over night.
Here’s the good news. Sales isn’t about convincing people they should buy your stuff. I love what Blair Enns said in “The Win Without Pitching Manifesto.” Your goal in the conversation is to have the prospect form the intent to solve their problem. It’s not to sell them something. Once they are intent to solve their problem, yours is but one obvious choice of a number of possible options.
In my recent client retreat we did some practice sales conversations and here is what I kept seeing. My clients are smart, they are thinkers, and sometimes their minds are not their friends. (I relate to this!) Because they tend to be the thinking type, some of them are constantly ‘figuring things out,’ and ‘figuring people out.’ Now, this is a helpful skill in business and marketing, no doubt. It can be a blessing for friends who want you to problem solve for them. It is no good in sales conversations.
What might this look like?
Prospect: I would really love to have more freedom.
Biz Owner: Oh, yes, I like freedom. It sounds like you’re feeling trapped.
This is a quick and obvious example, but all too common. See we don’t know if the prospect feels trapped, or what freedom means to them. At least a dozen assumptions have been made in that one statement. The prospect isn’t likely to feel heard, and we’re not likely to guide them to form the intent to solve their problem – we have no idea what it is!Figuring Out Is Not Presence
Whenever you’re trying to figure out why someone is the way they are, what they might say next, what YOU will say next to make you sound infinitely clever, or how to get someone to buy, you are not present. You are in your head with the wheels-a-churning, not holding a safe space in which you can respond as you are moved to in the moment.
And that’s not all! I teach the seven different energy states, or states of consciousness, from which you can respond. Three are based in fear and four are based in a love-energy. When we are figuring out how to ‘diagnose’ someone, or figuring out what we’re going to say next, the only reason we would do that is a fear-based reason. We want to look smart, hold the sale, be prepared, etc., out of fear.
We can only be in one energy state at any given time. If you’re in your head out of fear, you can’t be present to love, or create a safe space, or be an empowering presence, or even access your intuition. So you are cutting off your true power in the conversation.
Open-Ended Questions and Being Curious
I’ve always been a questioner. Luckily this serves me well today. I was actually shocked in this training by how quickly people’s open-ended questions went out the window the moment they were put on the spot. (Open-ended questions lead to a thoughtful response. Closed-ended questions require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and therefore are not very revealing.)
At my client retreat we played a game in which someone had a story they wanted to share and gave it an intriguing title. It was the job of the group to ask questions to reveal the details of the story.
Immediately people began to make random guesses about the story, and this went on for some time before the group was redirected to use open-ended questions that built upon the previous information given. Following this second approach, the story was revealed rapidly.
In the mock sales conversations, we saw the same thing. Rather than seeking to understand what the real motivations were of the prospect, it was easy for people to fall into the mode of trying to guess what is going on, and then assume their guess was right, and attempt to move the prospect into action with really knowing what the truth was for them.
Why was that?
Similar to the story game, we humans feel as if we are ‘doing it right’ in life when we figure things out. Knowing why we (and everyone else) are the way we are feels like a victory. In truth, understanding is the booby prize. I heard that phrase once and it was one that landed like Truth for me. Just because we understand something, doesn’t mean anything has actually happened.
To move yourself and others into action, you may need to suspend the need to know and instead just BE and ACT. Being curious is a great place to start. Countless entrepreneurs see their business die before it takes off. Some because they never learned to sell, and others because they are so busy figuring out what they need to say to look like they’re doing it right that they don’t even remember that they are in it to make sales!
Put your gift in your pocket
So, you may think that figuring people out is a gift you have. And it may be. But consider it’s a gift that could also be hurting your business. At the end of the day you want your clients to trust you and pay you. How much would you trust someone who is busy sizing you up? Consider putting this gift in your pocket for the duration of your sales call and see what happens when “curious and present” shows up instead!