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The Soft Sell Gets Hard Results

The old definition of confidence in traditional times was assuming the sale at all costs, asking only hopeful, loaded questions that guarantee positive responses and never giving up. The new definition of confidence in the information economy is asking challenging questions, assume nothing and cutting your losses quickly on hopeless causes.

When we cling to positive outcomes we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves and our customers. When you let things unfold naturally and organically you will find "no" and "yes" come easier with less struggle. Nothing is worse than a long drawn out "no" that came with a lot of chasing and groveling for nothing.

When you sell hard and furious you often are projecting your own inadequacy and lack of confidence in your offering. The power of suggestion and the soft sell can be far more powerful. Strategic sales people who follow the philosophy of the non-selling posture know that often they have no more of the right answers than their customers. They have no need to be right and no need to make other's wrong. They have less opinions, less bias, no need to sidestep personal responsibility and no need to point their fingers at someone else. They work very hard to help customers see how they are firmly standing in the way of their own progress. They accomplish this through inquiry, instead of persuasion.

A key criteria for having a non-selling posture is being as transparent as possible. A great litmus test for the non-selling posture is; am I saying this for my own benefit and self-interest, or am I saying it for the benefit of my customer?

When you begin to sell without any emotional and a personal attachment to positive outcomes you become a true advocate for your customer. You stop looking out only for your own best interests, and you begin to serve the best interests of your customer. You serve without conditions and this becomes a very strong attractor in building rapport and trust.

The non-selling posture is open to everything and attached to nothing. Unless there is the potential for a "no," "yes" can mean very little and can be a very flimsy commitment. By not making "no" an acceptable option for our customers to exercise, it is like telling someone to not look at the 10 ton white elephant in the room. The majority will look at it regardless. The same is true with your customers. They will exercise their own free will regardless of how hard we try to contain them. So for the sake of transparency, you might as will be forthcoming and honor their independence.

"No, the word you have been trained to fear, is, in fact, the word that will change your life for the better, forever," says Jim Camp. He goes on to say "Never frame a question that takes away the right of your customer to say no."

Allowing for "no" answers can be the quickest and safest way to get "yes" answers. "No is only intimidating when it represents a vague sense of dread. As long as you dread it, you will come across in your conversations as less authentic," says Susan Campbell.

If you believe "no" represents failure and defeat, you will avoid it like the plaque. So be internally passionate and at the same time be externally and professionally dispassionate and detached when you sell. This maximizes your ability to get lots of sensitive information and build trust.

Selling with the non-selling posture is a balance between being wise and gutsy at the same time. Wisely asking tough questions and asking gutsy questions with only your customer's best interests at heart, without any concern about achieving a desired outcome for yourself.

There is no better way to cut through the half truths that customers feed you than asking questions that will potentially get you a "no" as a response. You are truly grounded when your sense of self-worth and accomplishment is not conditional on any sale or any customer.

The ability and the confidence to say, "I would like to ask some question about your operation so I can get a sense if there would ever be a mutual basis for us to ever do business together," without feeling unworthy is a sure sign of sales maturity and experience. It also makes clear to your customer you can never be an authority for them. You are reinforcing the idea that customers are ultimately responsible for what they think and believe.

Freeing ourselves from the false responsibility of our customer's actions allows us to speak more openly and freely. When that happens customers get value and tend to return the favor. We are not here to do for our customers what they ultimately must do for themselves.

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