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Death by Selling

In sales as long as there are multiple viewpoints there can be no one true story. Change-agents need to constantly connect the dots and put the pieces together of their customer's puzzle with total equanimity. Classic sales people only connect the dots that favor their cause and their story. Bill Gates was famous at Microsoft for always relentlessly challenging all ideas; "What about this, what about that, how come this, and not that." He totally looked at all variables. This is what a trusted change-agent does. They are always looking through the rear view mirror to explore the full range of problems.

Change-agent selling works bottom-up from the problem, and information selling (product selling) works top-down from the solution. The latter is fairly presumptuous. It asserts the solution as a logical, inevitable, foregone conclusion, and all that is necessary is to dot the I's and cross the T's. Information selling so often indulges the sales person's fantasies of grandeur, preeminent influence and authority.

There is a lot of fairy tales in selling. Customers proactively seek you out and they are allegedly interested, ready to buy, and you see their interest as a mandate for change at a tip of the hat. They give you the false impression that you are the only one they have called.

The change-agent operates under the premise if it is too good to be true it probably is, until proven otherwise. Sales people should not be fearful of finding the smoking gun that will potentially "queer the deal." You need to courageously flush out all deal killers.

Think of customers as complex, capricious, full of commitment and cop outs simultaneously, and as true wildcards. Their priorities and attention spans are totally unpredictable. Conventional sales people work so hard to convey solution superiority before they establish whether the customer's circumstances are ripe for change. They have a razor focus on the endgame and final prize. All this self-centered focus breeds suspicion and resistance.

Sales people take a foolhardy leap of faith when they avoid all the intangibles of change, and go right to the tangible future solution, or problem resolution. Since they believe they cannot control the below the surface intangibles of change, they throw caution to the wind and throw reason out the window.

Selling is a constant battle to bring customers down to earth and to not single-mindedly always be smelling the roses. This is a challenge for solution-centered sales people, because they can hardly contain their enthusiasm for a done deal. They can barely bring themselves down to earth, much less their customer. They do not manage their customer's outlook because they cannot manage their own, because of their over the top emotional investment in the deal.

Sales people are not willing to call customers to task enough with TLC and tell them that their reach exceeds their grasp. They are not willing to tell them that change is not in the cards due to the fact that their goal is unrealistic, they do not have the necessary resources, the timing is wrong, they have other bigger fish to fry, or they are just comfortably uncomfortable, et cetera.

If you want to build trust, be viewed as an equal and be an unbiased advisor. Do not give customers a pass on wishy-washy commitments and unrealistic interest in changing. Set them straight by balancing the role of a nurturer and a respectful critic. Do not run from candid, open discussions about realistic trade-offs, and the pros and cons of changing. When you never second-guess your customer's motives for change you become a little vulnerable to customers second-guessing your self-serving intentions to sell them.

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