Written by Hamish Knox; President of Sandler in Calgary, Canada
One of David Sandler’s rules is, “the problem the prospect brings you is never the real problem.”
Translated to sales leadership the problem your salesperson tells you is behind their lack of performance is never the real problem.
What’s likely is your salesperson has one of the following five dysfunctions, which fall under “head trash.”
1. Non-supportive buy cycle – how we buy influences how we sell. Your salesperson who gets four quotes and does hours of online research prior to making a “major” purchase decision will say, “makes sense to me” to themselves when their prospect tells them that they need to “think it over” prior to moving forward. The threshold for a “major” decision will vary person to person.
On the flip side your salesperson who makes makes what your other salesperson would describe as “impulsive” purchase decisions may disqualify potential good fit prospects because they don’t respect their prospect’s buy cycle.
Support your salesperson by – on the “fast” end of the decision making spectrum coach your salesperson to ask all of the qualifying questions necessary to determine if a prospect is a good fit or not. Sandler clients know these as “pain,” “budget” and “decision” questions.
On the “slow” end of the decision making spectrum, design a game for your salesperson in which they must make fast, safe decisions. “Impulse items” is one such game a colleague shared with me. In this game your salesperson must choose an “impulse item” (e.g. chocolate bar at a grocery store or muffin at a coffee shop) that they have either a) never bought before or b) haven’t bought in the last six months and consume that item within 15 minutes of purchase. As your salesperson gets more comfortable to making low risk decisions they will become more comfortable resisting stalls from their prospects.
2. Need for approval – when your salespeople say or do things that aren’t in their best interest, like offering trials or testimonials without being asked, they suffer from “need for approval.” What you’ll hear from your salespeople is they did something to “build the relationship.” As one of my clients learned recently we don’t have relationships with prospects, especially in the early stages of our sales cycle. To them we are just another salesperson.
Support your salesperson by – Coaching them that until your prospect becomes a client your salesperson is the advocate of their company to their prospect not the other way round.
3. Discomfort discussing money – all of us carry money scripts from our parents. Most of those scripts are negative like, “it’s rude to talk about money,” or “don’t ask how much that cost,” or “you have to work hard for money.” A salesperson who isn’t comfortable taking about money will ask about discount policies during their interview or onboarding and will likely attempt to involve you in any conversation with a prospect about what your prospect would invest if they worked with you.
Support you salesperson by – building in a question about money into their pre-call plan and role playing money discussions so they become more comfortable talking about money with their prospects. You can also coach them to “trap” themselves into talking about with a prospect by enrolling their prospect in the money discussion. At the start of a meeting that might sound like, “Prospect, I need your help. I’m uncomfortable talking about money, has to do with the messages I heard from my parents when I was young, but we need to discuss the investments required to work together to figure out if we’re a good fit. Are you okay to remind me to have that discussion later in our meeting?” Zero people have said “no” to me or my clients when positioned that way because we trigger our prospect’s innate desire to help a fellow human.
For those of you who are thinking, “But what if my prospect does say, “no” to that question? Well, if someone was going to treat me that way when we’re just “dating,” I’m unlikely to want to get “married” to them. Disqualify and move on.
4. Negative childhood scripts – in addition to scripts about money we also carry with us scripts about sales as a profession and how to behave that impact your salespeople. For example, “just another slick talking salesperson,” or “don’t bother people,” or “be nice” hinder your salespeople’s ability to prospect and sell effectively before they go to a networking event or visit a prospect.
Support your salespeople by – coaching them on changing their scripts. Our scripts live with us forever, but we can alter them through coaching, journaling and affirmations. For affirmations to be effective they must be personal, positive and in the present tense (e.g. “I will quit smoking” becomes “I am a non-smoker” even if you’re going through 5.5 packs a day when you first write that affirmation).
You may also encourage your salesperson to have a conversation with their “parent(s).” Not their actual parents, but the parents who live in their head. Several of my clients used this technique to eliminate negative scripts as well as a lot of stress and anxiety in their lives.
5. Emotional involvement in the sale – our prospects say and do things to get your salespeople emotionally involved in a sale like saying, “we’re going to give you lots of business,” or “your product looks really good. You’re the front runner,” because when they’re emotionally involved they take hopium instead of purchase orders.
Support your salespeople by – coaching your salespeople on the meaning behind two Sandler rules, “sales is not a place to get your (emotional) needs met” and “you can’t lose anything you don’t have.” When your salespeople are emotionally involved in a sale they believe that if they don’t play along with their prospect they might never close another sale, which will get them fired, which will cause them to have to move in with their parents-in-law. Doesn’t make sense rationally, but our brain isn’t rational. A coaching session centered on the “5 whys” will give your salesperson the opportunity to realize that their fears are unfounded and they are allowed to assert themselves with their prospect.
Having head trash is part of what makes us human. To support your sales team in becoming sales champions give them the tools to overcome the real issues holding them back.
Until next time… go lead.