Question: I’m enjoying your book, but wonder if you ever come across people who are reluctant to sell their company’s product, and who don’t necessarily believe in what they are selling? This is an issue where staff have been drafted into telesales from other areas of the business where their skills are no longer needed. Any thoughts on how to tackle this?
Answer: Not everyone who finds themselves in sales set out to be there. I would definitely class myself as an ‘accidental sales person’ in that it wasn’t something that I set out to make a career of. But what if you find yourself in a selling environment where you don’t fully believe in the product or service you are providing? Or perhaps simply don’t believe that you should be selling or that you are any good at it? What can you do in these situations to maximise your success?
I should say that it helps dramatically to believe in what you are selling and to believe in your own abilities: self-belief is at the very heart of effectiveness along with self-awareness. But there are practical steps you can and should take if you find yourself in this situation outlined above on the basis that your mind-set and beliefs impact your behaviours which will impact your results.
Firstly, you can only change that of which you are aware. You need to stop and ask yourself what do you believe about either the sales aspect of your role or about the product or service you are selling. Clearly, it is best not to sell something that you feel is unethical or which you fundamentally disagree with but there are a lot of instances where your feelings won’t be so extreme. Once you are aware consciously of exactly how you feel you can do something with it.
A key to success is not to simply try and put the belief behind you and ignore it – that will rarely work. Also, it is unlikely to help if you simply choose to tell yourself that the product or service is great. The challenge is to think about what you can believe (something that could also really be true for you) about the product or service that would be more helpful and so that you can still remain authentic.
For example, if you were selling car insurance and did not feel positive about it, you could choose to think about the fact that the insurance would give people peace of mind or help others who’s vehicle might have been damaged in a crash. If you choose to hold that more positive thought in your mind as you engage with the activity of selling it will make you more resourceful and lead to more positive results.
Another thing that can help is setting activity based goals. Set goals around the specific things you need to do (even if they are things that you don’t want to do) to make the sale (number of calls, number of conversations or meetings etc.) and give yourself a small reward when you have hit them. Often, these small things help keep you focused and motivated.
So, mind-set is critical for sales success but in those cases where a positive mind-set doesn’t come naturally, you can take conscious action that will enhance your results and your experience. As with any skill though, it takes practice…
Do you agree? Let us know your experiences, we read all of the comments.
So here are our top tips on how to ensure that it goes as well as it can, and that both parties feel positive afterwards:
The key is in planning and preparation
- Consider what you plan to say and ensure you have objective and specific feedback or information
- Consider the outcome that you want and make it specific and achievable
- Think carefully about how the other person may feel about the conversation. If they are likely to feel uncomfortable about it what can you say to frame the conversation to minimise these feelings?
- Start with a safely statement if this is appropriate. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person – what might they think this conversation is about? Some people can mistakenly think that your feedback on one issue is actually much more than that and it calls into question lots of things they do. If you feel this might be the case construct a statement that explains what this conversation is not about before stating what it is about. For example “I have been really pleased with your work ethic and focus (possible concerns in the other person’s mind) and just want to talk about one aspect of how you write the monthly reports that I think can really make a positive difference.”
- Give objectives and specific feedback – take the emotion out and focus on the facts
- Give a clear message – resist the urge to wrap the message up in so much cotton wool that the other person doesn’t really hear the message that you want to give them
- If possible, ask questions after making a point or giving feedback to encourage the other person to contribute. This is especially important in coming to an action plan – ideally this would be co-created with them.
- Be aware of assumptions – these are dangerous. Try to ensure that you a) listen for facts, and b) report on facts
- Avoid using subjective, judgemental or emotive language.
We ran a survey recently, and having difficult conversations was one area that participants didn’t feel confident about handling well, so we hope this helps. Do you have any experiences to share?
Question: “I have been offered a sales job which will lead onto me becoming the operations director, but it’s a start up business in an industry in which I have no experience, and I have to contribute through gaining sales contracts for our service providing business.
Sales has always interested me, and I know a sales job would give me great satisfaction. Although I lack the sales experience, I can talk to people very well, it’s confidence and approach that I’m having issues with. I am unsure how to approach this sales position as we need to get contracts in soon and cold calling does not seem the right way forward. I am struggling to believe in myself in this industry and how I am going to achieve my goal of bringing in new contracts.
Is there any advice you can give me about approaching new customers, best practise and believing in myself?”
Our Answer: You are right to highlight self-belief as a critical success factor and the first step is to specifically define your current mindset and understand how this will be impacting your behaviour and, therefore, your results. Once you have done this you should identify any alternative and more supporting mindsets that you can truly believe in (but not an opposite one as this would not be truly believable for you).
There is another alternative which focuses on behaviour and that would be to just go out and start doing the work because what you will find is that you will feel more confident if you are more competent in the role, and you will grow competence through experience. So no shortcuts here, you have just got to get out and see clients.
Re the question around approaching new customers, whilst this is a big question one practical step that will also have a positive impact on mindset is to focus on how you can add real value to everybody that you come into contact with. This approach, called reciprocity, encourages the people you connect with to see you as adding value and they are therefore more likely to talk about you to their friends and networks.
In terms of approach, there is too much we could cover to do it here, but if you continue to read through Brilliant Selling there are a range of choices of how you approach them, eg.
- Turn up at their offices
- Send emails
- Send marketing materials
- Go to networking events
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Attend conferences/presentations
- Employ a cold calling expert
- Offer a taster session.
The C3 Model of InfluencingTM Field Guide (which we have sent you) will take you through a series of exercises which will help you with mindset and confidence. It will teach you how to apply practical techniques to be confident, credible and to connect naturally with people in any situation so that you can influence them more easily to your way to thinking.
Have you been in Anthony’s position? If so, do you have some tips on how to overcome it? Let us know by commenting below, we would love to hear from you.
When you are in a sales situation one of the most important things to do is to appear credible, and asking intelligent and thoughtful questions is a great way to demonstrate and build your credibility. Asking questions promotes thought in the other person – particularly if the questions you ask are open (cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and come from a state of curiosity.
When planning your questions, think about what you can ask early on in the conversation or presentation that will cause the other person to really think. Asking a question that causes thought, directs attention or encourages the other person to question their perspective can all build your credibility, providing the question is authentic (or sincere) and not simply designed to lead the other person.
Here are some ideas on devising your questions:
- Plan your questions. By planning your questions you increase the chance of asking something that really resonates with the other person. Being curious and brainstorming possible questions with a colleague will also help.
- Ensure it is authentic. Resist asking a question simply to lead the other person to your point of view. This is often ‘obvious’ to the other person and can come across as manipulative
- Leave silence. Once you have asked a good open question, resist the urge to dive into the silence that follows (which often results in you giving the other person a multiple choice answer for them to pick!) and be comfortable with the silence. Silence is a sign that the other person is truly considering your question and giving it thought
- Using framing. Make a question ‘safe’ or prepare the other person to answer it. Framing is a technique where you give an explanation for why you are asking the question before you ask it. This gives the listener the context and reason for the question along with a little time to think making it easier for them to answer. For example, instead of asking: “what has led you to that conclusion?” in a situation where the question might be taken negatively, you could frame it as follows: “In order to understand your thinking so I can give you what you need (this is the frame), could you explain what has led you to that conclusion?”
You can find out much more about how to build your credibility in The C3 Model of Influencing™ Field Guide, available on Amazon. It teaches our simple Influence Model that will enable you to be more confident, more credible and connect more easily with your sales prospects.
Here are some quotes that ring true with us and help us to keep focused. All valuable advice – enjoy them!
1. “If you are not moving closer to what you want in sales (or in life), you probably aren’t doing enough asking” – Jack Canfield, US inspirational self-help author and success coach
2. “A setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve” – Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group
3. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” – Mary Barra, CEO at General Motors Company
4. “Everyone lives by selling something” – Robert Louis Stevenson, author
6. “People rarely buy what they need. They buy what they want” – Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur and public speaker
5. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy” – Norman Vincent Peale, author and a progenitor of “positive thinking”
7. “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying ‘make me feel important’. Never forget this message when working with people” – Mary Kay Ash, businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics
8. “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination” – Fitzhugh Dodson, US clinical psychologist
9. “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
10. “Performance = Potential – Interferences” – Tim Gallwey, author