Killing You with Kindness by "Yessing " You to Death
It takes a lot of empathy to insinuate yourself into someone else's business; literally and figuratively. Sales people say they want to build personal relationships, yet they do not want to get too personal. It is uncomfortable for them to go deeper than a superficial level in getting to know their customer. They are very comfortable in being very personal on a social level, but fall miserably short in really understanding the customer's complex personal challenges, priorities and issues.
There should be no illusions today. Customers are not secretly looking for new friends. They barely have time for their existing friends and family. No Friending! Having the skills of social hobnobbing does not yield the rewards like it did in the Golden Age of Selling.
Business is business until it becomes personal. You need to connect personally and at the same time remain impersonal to outcome. The power of relationships and negotiation rests with the one who cares the least about the outcome.
The time it takes customers to reciprocate with valuable information determines connection and trust. Business relationships go as fast as the slowest person. To their credit most traditional relationship sellers have a long view about delivering value after they make a sale. If they used this same outlook to acquire business they would really bring a lot more value and insight to their customer in the critical buying, decision process.
You should have a joint-venture mentality with prospects. If prospects are not willing to be an equal participant at the selling event, your stock and value is at great risk. Because product pushers have little capacity for empathy and give their customers little personal space, it takes no effort for customers to develop an aversion towards them. Many traditional sales people push all the wrong buttons.
When sales people serve product and their own agenda they do not serve their customer. However, when you are open to multiple viewpoints and realize you know very little, then you are able to get the customer to open up and look at their situation very differently. This assumes you have trust from your customer. When you do not, customer's bullshit meter goes into overdrive and often they will kill you with kindness and yes you to death.
We are going through a communication revolution and traditional sales people are the big losers. There is an identity crisis in the sales profession. From the customer's perspective, are we really as necessary as in the past? Before it was customer suicide not to meet a company representative for a business transaction. If you wanted expertise you had to pay the price and meet one. Today, it is debatable for many customers if it is worth the hassle and the price.
We live for the first time in an alternative universe for communication where it can be very detached and impersonal. At an alarming rate customers are opting out of personal connection and opting in for impersonal communication (email, text, voice-mail, RFPs, social media). If sales people are not careful they will see more of their jobs relegated to poorly paid activities like customer service, fulfillment and customer logistics.
It is hard to develop a kindred spirit with someone who holds you at arm's length and wants to maintain a virtual relationship, more than a personal relationship. Cyberspace might work for other alternative relationships, but make no mistake it is disastrous in the realm of selling. Relationship building, trust and personal connection needs to be in real time.
In concept there is a huge Facebook and face time face-off. Sales people want to personalize and meet, customers want to depersonalize and communicate electronically. How you navigate this communication quandary successfully will to a degree determine your fate in selling. If customers do not want to personally communicate with you, you are redundant and virtually irrelevant.
With technology savvy customers, it is much more difficult for sales people to be in touch, to stay in touch and to personally touch someone. It is hard to capture their attention and to connect with the attention-deficit tendencies of our "Facebook society" where everyone is connected, yet no one is talking, or is truly connected beyond a superficial level. One of my customers complained that he had an off-site sales person call in one day and had the audacity to tell him he could not work because his Internet connection, or as he called it his lifeline was down. So the problem goes both ways actually.
Unfortunately, through their actions and behaviors, customers are dictating that outside sales people have more of an inside role; limited customer contact. Yet for field sales people, where they really earn their keep is outside. One thing that has not changed in the last 10 years is sales people have to still perform their duties the old-fashioned way; pressing the flesh, making a personal difference and connecting personally with customers. It sounds so fuddy dudy and old-school to many millennials.
Because traditional sales people tend to have such a narrow interest in learning about their customer's business and unique circumstances, they rarely attain the level of a trusted business advisor. "Most salespeople think that trust is drawn on or used up in the sales process. The reverse is true, trust is actually created in the sales process," says Charles Green. You need to create an independent relationship with your customer so that you both put skin in the game.
"The truth is the less we focus on our needs first, the more likely our needs will be met. As soon as the client senses a me first intent from you, that intent stains the interaction on both sides. As clients feel your intent, they grow suspicious of what you have to say, become guarded about what they say, and do not give you access to information or people they otherwise would," says Charles Green. The days of extending sales people the benefit of the doubt are narrowing.
"When you base your relationships in business and everywhere else in life on who owes who what, that's not being a friend, that is being a creditor," says Sam Rosen. If you communicated with your friends the way you traditionally try to build trust with customers you unquestionably would have fewer friends on your Facebook page and in the real world. To obtain trust it helps to have an obligation free selling posture where understanding trumps persuasion. As long as you are in the push mode, you are at risk of customers pushing you away with silence, indifference, buying elsewhere and giving you false enthusiasm.
Jacques Werth of High Probability Selling has done some very interesting research on weighted values of decision-makers in relationship to trust. He found reputation of company, features of the product and quality had weighted values in the 60s to 70s range. On the lower side, price (non-commodity) was below 20 and liking the sales person was a paltry 3. That is shocking! Not sure if I buy that one! What was not surprising was the importance of the two top weighted values of level of trust and respect for the sales person. They came in in the 90s. He found most sales people were more than adequate in communicating the value of their company and offering, but lacking in establishing trust and respect. He found most outward attempts of trust and respect to be manipulative and counterproductive because of lack of authenticity and an abundance of self-interest.