Have you ever been in a social situation that suddenly became a sales-call?
Maybe you agreed to meet someone to “catch up” and it abruptly went from talking about family and vacations to a conversation about life insurance.
Going from having a friendly cup of coffee to getting pitched is rarely a good or comfortable experience.
When we walk into a car dealership, we’re not surprised when a sales rep approaches us.
We still may not like it, but it’s not out of left field. In fact, it’s expected.
But when we’re with someone under a social pretense, and there’s an unexpected shift to sales, that’s a problem.
Sales is an important and valuable profession. And there’s a difference between being “in sales” and being a professional salesperson.
Becoming a sales “professional” means being able to use authentic persuasion to sell your product or service.
A big part of that is managing relationships during your sales process.
As someone who’s worked in professional sales for over 20 years, I’ve gotten a lot better at doing this over time.
Here are some of the things that helped me become a professional and manage relationships during the sales process:
- Understanding, respecting and maintaining boundaries
- How to use a series of small agreements
- How to get better at implementing these ideas
Let’s get started.
Understanding, respecting and maintaining boundaries
Behavioral change expert, Adele Spraggon, was a guest on the LifeBlood podcast and she has some fascinating insights into the human brain.
She talked about how our brains have two sides; a relational side and a transactional side.
When we’re having a coffee with a friend, we’re mainly using the relational side of our brain. Should our friend unexpectedly shift the conversation and start pitching you something, the transactional side of our brain kicks in and it’s confusing and disorienting.
While we can shift between the relational and transactional sides, it’s all about the expectations. If you’re not expecting the shift, you’ll be caught off-guard. If you’re prepared for it, it’s fine.
And that’s the key: setting boundaries.
In the coffee meeting example, the reason for getting together was to catch up. During the meeting, the reason shifted to a conversation about life insurance. This violated the agreed upon boundary.
There’s potentially nothing wrong with talking with your friends about their life insurance needs. You simply need to be respectful of boundaries on the front end.
For example, if your friend had approached you about getting together for coffee to catch up and talk about what they’re up to professionally, you may have been just fine doing with it.
Alternatively, if your friend told you when you sat down “I’d like to spend 10 minutes catching up, then take 10 minutes to tell you about what I’m doing now,” you may have been fine with that as well.
When we know the conversation is shifting from the relational side of our brain to the transactional, we’re not caught off-guard and we can have a comfortable conversation.
How to use a series of small agreements
The better we can manage expectations, the better.
This is true in every aspect of life, but we’ll stick to sales today.
Let’s go back to our car dealership scenario. If you were to walk on the lot, what would you like the salesperson to say?
Perhaps something like “welcome in, what are you hoping to accomplish today?”
This would allow you to tell her “I want to buy a car today,” or “I’m just looking at the new model of XYZ car and have no intention of buying today.”
She, as a professional salesperson, would say, “great, would you like to look around on your own for a while, or would you like me to join you?”
You would respond, “I’d like to look around on my own.”
She would respond, “great, I’ll be in this area. Would you like to come back and find me when you’re ready to talk?”
You would say “yes” and you’ve made your first agreement.
I advocate doing this at every stage of the sales process.
Too often, we make assumptions about what’s going to happen next. The salesperson makes assumptions about you, and you make assumptions about the salesperson. The odds of both of you being right about your assumptions are very low.
Instead of making assumptions, why not be open and upfront about the next step in the process?
Doing so will not only make the process feel better, it will also help the process to be more effective.
How to get better at implementing these ideas
There are a lot of reasons salespeople don’t do this.
Many don’t know how. Some are afraid to be open and upfront. And others think it’s better to assume their prospect is going to agree to move to the next step of the process.
Wherever you’re at, here’s how to incorporate these ideas.
Step 1- Have an organized sales process. This means executing on each step of the process similarly every time.
- Set meetings in the same way every time
- Run your meetings the same way every time
- Share important information (like how you make money, and what follow up will be like) in every meeting
When you have an organized process, it makes it less likely you’ll forget something, or that things will fall through the cracks.
Practice, practice, practice.
Once you have a defined process, practice going through it.
It may seem silly to practice a conversation, but practice is how we get better at things.
If you wish to get better at guitar, you practice. If you want to learn how to swim, you practice.
Getting comfortable making small agreements throughout your sales process requires practice.
If you have a coworker you can practice with, great! If not, you can certainly rehearse and say it out loud on your own.
No one likes to be sold, but we love to buy.
A professional salesperson allows customers to do exactly that.
You’re in charge of the sales process, and with your customers’ permission, you’re guiding them through it.
Running your meetings this way will increase customer satisfaction and will increase your effectiveness over time.
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You’re on your way to becoming a more professional salesperson!
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