Selling is a Quest for the Truth
Traditional selling is an assault on the truth. Well intended sales people are perceived by well indended customers as selling from a strong position of self-preservation. And once the ball gets rolling it becomes a vicious cycle from both parties of half-truths, mistruths and outright deception.
Customers will not begin to hear what is true for themselves as long as the sales person is invested in their own partisan agenda. Seeking the truth needs to start with the sales person having an open mind as well as an empty mind. "Surrender the ego and truth appears. Surrender what you think you know and truth also appears," says Paul Ferrini.
Ironically, one of the biggest impediments to finding the truth is the passion and the love of traditional selling. So long as you are hell-bent on enthusiastically pushing your one-sided agenda, the truth will be difficult to attain because there is limited dialogue, discovery and inquiry. To make matters worse, most sales people rely heavily on the antiquated strategy of feature and benefits selling which is not a way to find the truth, but a way to destroy it.
In my sales training sessions with new clients I always post the question if you were offered a magic pill that would allow you to be a master persuader, or would allow you to be a master at getting to the truth of your customer's problems and intentions, which one would you choose? After some initial hesitation, most realistic sales people realize being a master at finding the truth will consistently give them a sustainable edge over time, because no matter how masterful you are at selling and persuading, if the customer has no dough, no authority, no open lines of communication, no problems and no compelling reason to change, you are toast no matter how you spin it and hype it.
Sales people too often fish for the right answer and the right conclusion, and invariably they get the wrong answer. They prejudice their questions to get the answers they want to hear, and they unfortunately skirt the truth by asking unrealistic hopeful questions. If you want to really get to the truth and reality, ask questions that your customers want to answer and ask questions that you may be fearful hearing because the answer may derail your selling agenda.
To increase your chances of getting to the truth of your customer's circumstances, take yourself out of the equation. Depersonalize your approach. Do not make it about you. Make it all about the customer. Without the fear of guilt, customers tend to be more forthcoming. If sales people were better at squarely looking at reality in eye, they would be far more likely to get their customers to face reality also. In sales it is always better to be hurt by the truth than comforted with half-truths and false hope.
Beware that customers will sometimes feel threatened with sales people who are upfront, emotionally honest and forthright. They may feel threatened because they do not want to reciprocate. To minimize this reaction and response, one needs to project a balanced and unbiased front to put customers at ease. Remember, you cannot receive what you are unwilling to give.
Your goal is to build healthy relationships with your customers so you can have discussions on a higher ground, and so that you can get to the truth quickly and easily. When you get to the truth quickly, everyone wins! No one wastes their time.
Do not be afraid to call your customers on the truth. When you have customers who are stonewalling you and are in denial, sometimes you have to fluster them into betraying themselves and surprising the truth from them like a bird flushed from a concealing underbrush.
In the profession of selling you have to be a savvy buyer every day. We have to make important buying decisions as to what we buy and do not buy as to what our customers are saying they want. The more willing you are to tell yourself the truth about selling scenarios you are involved in, the more willing you will be able to speak the truth and challenge the truth with your customer. The beauty of sales people who tell the truth to their customers is they generally are good at telling the truth to themselves. Denial, false cheer and unrealistic hope is not a good foundation to build a sales career on.
President Truman was called give them hell Harry. He was famous for replying to that statement by saying, "I never gave anyone hell. I just told them the truth. They just thought it was hell."
Buyers make great deceivers if you let them, if you paint them into a corner, and if you do not give them an easy out. So always work hard to maintain equilibrium with your customer so they feel comfortable sharing the truth with you. Trust me, your job gets a lot easier this way and it minimizes a lot of stress and uncertainty. Remember, the truth shall always set you free.