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Be Wary of Commitment Phobics

The great recession of 2008 has created a highly evolved master of BS and spin. As customers take longer to make decisions, take fewer risks and want to leave their options open, they must keep sales people under the ether of false hope and absolute delusion to keep them engaged.

Oh my...where did they learn such subtle language of deception? Prospects have truly mastered the art of mumbo-jumbo and double talk. I'm absolutely convinced they don't even know that they're consciously doing it because their toneality and their posture doesn't change much in their delivery. In other words there is no obvious tell. Yet it's there. They can deliver the biggest line of nonsense without even flinching.

Don't get me wrong, these aren't bad people. It's just a function of the times. The bottom line is they're information hijackers and rustlers. Their daily existence relies on extracting information from unsuspecting sales people. These types of customers justify their existence with your information. You'll generally find these folks at lower levels, who else has the time to do it otherwise.

If you're not careful the information highwaymen will woefully waste your time, energy and resources, and most importantly your tenuous sense of hope and promise. They'll browbeat you at a drop of a hat to be able to put you into their hip pocket for possible future use. They're so frustrating to deal with because they blow hot and cold at the same level to keep you guessing. As long as you're in constant limbo they can gain the greatest leverage from you.

The following are some typical passive aggressive responses and statements that you'll find. By themselves they're not so bad. But, the true virtuosos are able to deliver them in succession without missing a beat. These types of prospects refuse to be pinned down, or take any position that is positive or negative. They're commitment phobic and thrive on keeping open all their options. Their true talent lies in their ability to give these forthcoming statements with the coldness of an undertaker. Their posture of neutrality gives sales people virtually nothing to sink their teeth into:

  • We would never want to rule out the possibility.
  • It's a definite maybe.
  • There's a strong likelihood down the road, in the near future, if everything remains the same and nothing changes, we'll be interested.
  • The answer is not a no , but not a yes.
  • It's kind of hard to tell. It sort of depends.
  • We never like to close the door on new ideas.
  • It varies. You never know what will happen.
  • Send us some information and let's see what happens and we'll go from there.
  • You're more than welcome to send some information. We'll keep it in our files.
  • You have nothing to lose by participating in the bid.
  • We never like to say never.
  • I can't believe you'll lose, but I can't guarantee you'll win.
  • I'd hate to tell you no. You just never know.

In order to neutralize this very deceptive strategy, sales people have to go heavily into their "buyer's mode." They have to screen, heavily qualify and disqualify customer statements and positions just like a customer/prospect would do with a sales person. You have to have a talent to collaborate, authenticate and substantiate. You have to understand that you can't take anything at face value. Half of selling is learning what to buy or not to buy regarding customer's statements; fact or crap.

The following are beliefs, metaphors, loose rules and strategies that will help sales people minimize and prevent prospects from leading them down the primrose path of false hope and having them needlessly jumping through hoops:

  • There are always two winners at every selling event; the deal winner, and the other who lost quickly, easily and with minimal expenditure of resources.
  • You must be willing to lose. The more spin and BS they give you the more you must be willing to press for a resolution; pro or con. For example; I'm hearing you have a genuine sincere interest to change, but because of poor timing and circumstances beyond your control, you have just a casual interest now to take action. How accurate is that for your situation?"
  • You must have a strong pipeline of deals and a healthy backlog of prospects to be able to stand your ground and not be pushed around, otherwise it is just false posturing.
  • You can't live in a cloistered world of Nirvana where false hopes and flimsy promises flourish.
  • Keep records and be a diligent chronicler. Keep track of all the deals that you pursue that are flimsy and long-shots and see what your hit rate is. If you're honest with yourself you'll probably realize that you were a stereotypical sales person who was operating under the false tenet that hope springs eternal in the peddler's heart.
  • Be a realist.
  • Always be closing for the truth. Be in love with the truth; not with your offering.
  • Your job isn't to sell. Your job is to get customers to make tough decisions.
  • Be balanced in your sales approach. Bring up pros and cons.
  • Be a master of reading between the lines. Listen strongly for what isn't being said.
  • Be wary of unemotional language. It's frequently a tell for lack of commitment.
  • If customers are unwilling to be fully engaged and share useful, sensitive and important information you must question their level of intent. If they don't value your context, input, advice and perspective, you have very little to sell.
  • Don't sell with a scarcity mentality. Neediness is a foul smelling cologne.
  • Let the answer and possibility of "no" be at the forefront of your sales strategy. You can't define and confirm a "yes" response without making "no" an available and accessible answer.
  • The harder you sell, the harder it is to sell and get to the truth. Selling by its very nature so often produces the exact opposite effect.
  • Learn to throw out early every realistic hurdle and potential deal killer. Match them tit for tat. The more delusional prospects are with their spin, the more you're willing to keep them honest by really challenging them professionally.
  • Selling at a higher level in many cases is more about buying than selling. Be as discriminating and discerning of the information that your customers provide you, as they are of the information you provide them.
  • Validate! Validate! Validate!
  • Be a master qualifier and then learn to be a black belt disqualifier. Selling is more about sifting, sorting and selecting as opposed to selling and convincing in the information economy.
  • Have the posture that you're always "willing to walk." It will do wonders for your confidence.
  • Don't be an "eager beaver." Sales people with unbridled excitement, enthusiasm and optimism lose objectivity and are highly susceptible to spin and false hope.

Once you realize that selling isn't so much about convincing and persuading, but more about identifying prospects that are ready to buy, selling becomes a lot more rewarding and fulfilling. Sales people have to pick their battles effectively. Winning isn't just about being awarded the deal, it's also about winning efficiently.

Prospects will continue to prey upon sales people who have the strategy of "hope springs eternal in the peddlers heart," until they are able to deal with customers who stonewall and filibuster them to death. Sales people have to understand the difference between a yes and getting yes to death.

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