We, as humans, have trouble letting go of things.
We still think about a favorite toy from childhood from time to time. We still miss an ex from years ago occasionally, or even just wonder what they’re doing long after they’ve probably forgotten about us.
For the majority of us, we hold on to the things that are or have ever been important.
And in sales, the most important thing is closing the deal.
But what happens to our clingy brains when they don’t need us?
A while back, I was having a good conversation with a prospect, things were going along swimmingly, and then I asked the question. You know the one, the pain question.
“How does your (fill in the blank) impact your business now?”
Or some variation of that.
We’ve all done this with the hope, the prayers (if that’s your jam), and even the expectation that they’re going to spill their guts about everything that’s wrong with it and why they’re not where they want to be. We want to hear their woes, their concerns, or (and I hate this one) what is keeping them up at night.
And you might not even realize you’re doing it, maybe it’s just me, but you’re probably hoping that they’re not doing great. You want them to be struggling so that you can fix everything for them.
What makes this even worse is that you’re so ready for this wave of despair that you’re probably queuing up follow-ups. You’re ready to pounce and sell this person before they’ve even finished talking.
So when they say, “honestly, everything’s going great!” we kind of want to melt into the floor.
At least, that’s how I felt in that situation.
In my last blog about preparation in sales, I talked about how important it is to have a plan, do some research on your prospect, and stick to your sales process.
But you can’t be prepared for the conversation to only go in one direction.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
That’s what an “I’m doing great!” feels like if you’re not prepared for that possibility. It completely stops you in your tracks.
A fighter can’t go into a fight planning to jab, jab, then hook. It doesn’t work like that. They’d lose every time because they wouldn’t be reacting to the other person.
It’s the same in a sales conversation.
If you only have a one-sided plan for how it’s going to go, then:
- you’re not listening,
- you’re not going to go for the no,
- and you’re not going to build trust that might lead to a deeper conversation.
On top of my frustration that I knew I lost the sale, I also didn’t trust that they were telling the truth.
Which is a fair assumption. They might not have trusted me enough to tell the truth. Studies show that people lie way more than they even think they do. And lying to a salesperson is often seen as even more acceptable. They either tell us what they think we want to hear or they’re trying to get out of the interaction as quickly as possible.
Either way, that’s why we probe and ask follow-up questions to dig a little deeper. We’re not maliciously trying to catch them in a lie; we want to find their issues to see if we can solve them.
But on that particular day, I was deflated. So I ended the conversation fairly quickly after that and left.
On my drive back to the office, I started to analyze what just occurred and my reaction to it. I asked a question, and I expected to hear a negative answer that would positively affect me. And then I didn’t believe the answer they gave me just because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
Whoa, that’s kind of messed up. And it’s not like it was the first time.
This is the issue; we are dying for people to have problems or gaps that we can fix to close a deal.
But if we step back and think about it for a second, isn’t that kind of a sad, negative way to live and do your job?
We should want people to be successful and happy and profitable all the time. And when they tell you that’s the case, you should be high-fiving them! (And then asking if they know anybody that does need your help. 😉 )
Some of you are thinking this is a ridiculous notion. That, as a salesperson, you have to be hunting for problems that you can fix. And you should be, but you can’t be attached to answers or problems that don’t exist for every prospect. But it does take some work to get there.
My life and my job got so much better when I stopped needing clients to be missing something or doing it wrong. Not everybody is going to need our products, our services, or our time. And that’s okay. Let’s be happy for the people who are already killing it. Your positivity and genuine pride for their accomplishments might help them develop a trust that turns into a relationship with you.
Then, if they ever do need you or know someone else who does, you’ll be at the top of their list.
There is a caveat to this mindset.
Whenever someone says they’re doing fine, don’t do what I did and walk away. Try to dig deep enough to figure out if it’s the truth. Again, they may just not feel comfortable telling us no, or they might think we want to hear that it’s going great for them. Setting upfront expectations that they’re encouraged to tell us no if they don’t think it’s a good fit can prevent this some. But nothing works 100% of the time.
But sometimes, they really just don’t need you. Not right then, and maybe not ever.
There are a couple of billion people on the planet; you can find enough people who need you. Look for those people, ask good questions, and you’ll do fine. If you can’t find those people, maybe it’s time to widen your target market. But that’s a rabbit hole we’re not going down here.
Just remember, if you try to shoehorn people into fitting when they don’t, it’s probably not going to work out for either of you. They’ll be dissatisfied with your services, you’ll be miserable dealing with an unhappy client, and everybody loses.
As a matter of fact, look at your past pain-in-the-ass clients. It could be that you just weren’t a fit for their needs, and so neither one of you was operating at your best.
Don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there.
The way to avoid it is by detaching yourself from a specific answer. Focus on the conversation, ask the right questions, and listen to their answers.
If they’re happy and don’t need you, awesome! Be happy for them.
There’s always other fish in the sea.