Do Not Control the Customer, Navigate and Direct the Process
Customers have a mind of their own. They have a will of their own. No matter how we try to slice it and dice it, redirect it, influence it, and try to change it, they do their own thing. They have motivations and intentions that are logical, irrational, contradictory, compulsive and well thought out—all at the same time. Beyond the surface they are complex and you will unlikely fully understand them. So let them do what they need to do. They ultimately will do so anyway; with or without your guidance and intervention. You will truly drive yourself and them crazy trying to over intellectualize their behaviors, beliefs and actions.
So let them do the heavy loading and lifting. Let them, through your insightful questions, find their own answers. It is much easier to sell when you are not doing the selling. The non-selling posture is built on the premise that the customer is the best sales person at the selling event. They have all (most) the answers, regardless of whether they are valid, and the answers you want to hear. They are truly the most influential player at the selling event if we let them. Why not try to let them sell you on their problems and their actionability.
So selling is not necessarily about changing minds and fully engaging your unprecedented powers of persuasion. It is actually a lot more practical than that. It is about finding customers who are open to changing. It is about finding prospects who are willing to share valuable information, who have an incentive to value your insight, who are predisposed to being open minded due to pre-existing challenges, and are under a sense of urgency to take action. Notice none of the aforementioned had anything to do with your offering. Once you learn it is all about them, selling becomes so much easier and stress-free. Few sales people are as influential, convincing and persuasive as they think they are.
"Control the process not the buyer. Let the buyer direct himself. Let the buyer buy. We make the mistake of trying to close before it's closable. I recommend you live by this rule: never ask for the business until you cannot think of a single reason why the buyer cannot or will not buy today," says Mike Bosworth. The non-selling posture is a self-directed process for the customer, where the sales person is professionally detached and expectation free. Because sales people are not by nature cautiously optimistic and are usually enthusiastically unrestrained, they lose a lot of objectivity, credibility and trust. "Sell paranoid," says Rob Joles. When sales people do not control the buying process with enthusiastic selling it can make them feel vulnerable, isolated and not the center of attention. This is why they thrive on control. It is very hard for them to conceive giving up control and allowing the customer the freedom to find their own answers and make their own independent decisions.
"Is vulnerability a weakness? Sales people are banging their heads against the wall doing the same thing and expecting different results. Being transparent and potentially vulnerable allows you to get customers to be more forthcoming with the truth. A few minutes of vulnerability and transparency can save you concessions (valuable information and the truth) in the long run," says Bill Caskey. So do not be afraid to ask questions where you potentially have everything to lose. Do not be afraid to ask questions that could derail your sales agenda. Do not be afraid to call out the 10 ton elephant in the room. In the long-term customers appreciate your candor, impartiality, and your transparency.
The non-selling posture is built on the foundation of being an open book. Mainstream sales people are a closed book when it comes to being forthright, unbiased, and impartial, and unfortunately they are only an open book when it comes to blue skying and hyping their offering. Customers do not extend sales people the privilege of the benefit of the doubt since their sales messaging is so steeped in self-interest. Most sales people do not have the force of will to rise above this, and it becomes a constant uphill battle because they are not willing to meet customers on a common ground. "A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still," says Rob Jolles.
"To get truthful answers from customers you need to make yes/no equal choices and sometimes to emphasize that no is okay. When people genuinely feel that no is an acceptable answer, they will give us better information, as soon as they believe we are not trying to pin them down or lead them to our conclusion. When we do not do this the trust alarm goes off and we get resistance rather than cooperation," says Randy Illig. Mainstream sales people create what they defend against unwittingly. So drop your defenses in customer interactions, and you will be amazed at how you increase your chances of getting the customer's trust. Defenseless selling is very rewarding, productive and stress-free. When you drop your defenses, customers tend to be willing to return the favor.
The non-selling posture is all about never taking any of your customer's information for granted, or at face value. "The test of all information is experiment," says Richard Feynman. So experiment with the information your customer gives you and set out to objectively challenge all that is said and not said. "No product or service is perfect for every customer. Sooner or later, every prospect must go without something," says Tim Connor. When you are realistic that there is no perfect solution, yours or someone else's, you tend to be open to all possibilities and to have more constructive and meaningful dialogue with your customers.