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Anyone Can Oversell – But are You Good Enough to Undersell?

Conventional sales people have self-aggrandizing notions about their role in a sales call. So they make it all about their facts and figures and their product; all the things that customers generally do not give a hoot about.

Mark Twain commented that travel is fatal to prejudice. The non-selling posture is comparable; it is fatal to hype and product sensationalism. The non-selling posture works on a certain level because, instead of telling a customer what is best for them, you rely on your questions to be self-transformational, not self-evident and conclusive.

Orthodox sales people make positive assumptions that support their sales agenda and case. Sales people who embrace the non-selling posture are not afraid to make negative assumptions that challenge the customer's intentions, convictions and probability to change. Orthodox sales people are like over scripted movie directors who storyboard everything to death, instead of going with their instincts and planting the camera and letting things happen naturally. They try to make everything that is uncertain certain. They encourage the customer to get ahead of themselves, by overcommitting, causing both parties a lot of grief and confusion.

If you are not willing to surrender your personal identity, product identity, company identity and ego when using the non-selling posture, all bets are off. Mainline sales people have subconsciously bought into the idea that the sales call is all about them. They unfortunately are committed to a sales strategy that is designed to frustrate them and has failure intrinsically built into it. When you really think of it, it is the job of the customer to make up their own mind. Only in extreme situations do you want to force the issue. Your job is to play the role of the facilitator. This role is far more attainable and pragmatic than the ever so popular traditional role of product evangelizing.

This non-selling posture does not make a big deal of success, or a big deal of failure. The sales person does not let success get into their head. They are even keel. This relaxed take it or leave it strategy allows them to be objective and to be outcome neutral. "What customers want more than anything is to know you are more interested in helping them, than we are in maintaining our revenue source. And when we do something, or fail to do something, in order to protect our business, they eventually lose respect for us and understandably question whether they should trust us," says Patrick Lencioni. He believes sales people should refuse to be overly concerned with losing a prospect. They should willingly put themselves in a position of exposure to create trust and to find the truth. So are you willing to put yourself in harms way to promote goodwill? Are you confident enough to do something that is professional and really serves the customer's best interests?

Your ability to take negative news for an answer makes it easier for others to give you positive news. It is all about being open to all possibilities when you really want to find the customer's truth. Being a positive doubter is a great way to build credibility. As you step up to offer concessions of truth, transparency and reality, you will find more often than not it can be a very positive behavior modifier for customers. Often they will return the favor.

"While the principle of transparency sounds good in theory, it is actually very hard to live by. It takes courage. It takes a willingness to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It takes a commitment to removing yourself from the equation. And it takes a certain level of discernment to figure out when it's trusting versus helping to side step the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," says Charles Green. Transparency is the essence of the non-selling posture where you are not afraid of anything except the non-truth.

The non-selling posture is all about positioning yourself with humanizing language to make customers more comfortable, and for sales people to be more real. It kind of reminds me of Joe Tori, the well respected New York Yankee's manager who was noted for humanizing his players that some people thought were plastic. He did this by being very candid, transparent and real during a time when most sports teams were stepping up media training programs for rookies and encouraging players to dodge tough questions with bland opaque clichés and even hiring spin doctors.

Humility is also key with the non-selling posture. "The moment we think we know wisdom leaves us. Knowledge definitely stays but wisdom goes out the window," says Garrison Wynn. Sales people who embrace the non-selling posture realize it is not product knowledge that carries the day, but customer wisdom. To elicit wisdom from a customer one needs to put all the spotlight on the them.

Humility is the quickest path to the truth. "Truth when not sought after rarely comes to light," said Oliver Wendell Holmes. Classic sales people are so busy pushing their product's truth, they rarely get to the customer's truth. They are not concerned with the truth, because they believe they can create the truth. Because they rarely find the truth, they end up getting one big cluster fest of the truth.

"Humility swallows excessive ego and channels our ambitions into the business success of us rather than a selfish, short lived agenda of only me. Humility does not replace me and we, but places our focus on the proper sequence, for the right reasons, and at the right time. Humility has the ability to say I am something and I am nothing at the same time, I am special but no more than anyone else, I am deserving of respect, but no more than other competitors," says David Marcum.

"The test of first-rate intelligence, is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function," said F. Scott Fitzgerald. The non-selling posture makes it very clear to the customer that you realize that your value only fits under certain circumstances with certain types of customers, and your objective is to find out as efficiently as possible.

Go-Givers Sell More was a great book that I read with real interest. Patrick Lencioni claims that the go-giver position is all about staying clear on what you can and cannot control. "This turns out to be quite an impressive test: you cannot control the weather, the state of the economy, or what the person you're talking with is going to do next. Whether this other person buys your product or is even interested is entirely up to them. You cannot control the outcome." When you cede being in charge you let customers be very independent and empowered. Remember, people love to buy under the right circumstances, but usually hate to be controlled or sold.

"People don't buy what you sell. They buy who you are. People buy who you are not. They buy what you stand for. They buy why you stand for it. They buy the essence of the interaction with you. They buy the essence of themselves around you," says Scott Ginsberg. I cannot tell you how many sales could have been made if sales people just did not do the wrong things for the wrong reasons. The non-selling posture is always a stark reminder for sales people to keep it simple; simply listen, ask thought-provoking questions, and let the customer find their own truths. You do not need to be better than the competition in sales to win, often all you have to do is be more real, have a superior understanding of their problems, be transparent, be trustworthy and truly be interested in what is best for them.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com