The Sales Conversation You Don't Know You're Having

This is Part Three on how to build a sales system that works. Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Four here.

How well do you know what’s really going on in your sales department?

Whether you’re a solopreneur or you’ve got a team of salespeople responsible for bringing in new business, how much do you really understand about how your sales staff (which might only be you) engages with people introduced to your products or services for the first time?

Have you ever explored what your sales process actually communicates to prospects about your values, or how that makes a difference in your sales?

If you’re looking for ways to increase your sales or your lead to sale conversions, it might help to take a look, in a very granular way, at the subtle messages you or your salespeople are sending to prospects that you may not have thought about before.

While it's never easy, you know that the first and best place to start looking is at yourself.

There’s no getting around it: your business is a reflection of you. The good news is that you matter. You make a huge difference. Everyone in your company is looking to you for their cues about how to be. Your salespeople watch how you treat people, and what they see impacts how they treat the people who are interested in what you do.

Because your company is a reflection of you, small changes in you can be felt in big ways.

One of the most effective ways I've found to help salespeople begin to understand how they impact their prospects is to ask them to look in the mirror in a very specific way, to figure out how they feel they need to be perceived by prospective customers. Even if their first response is that they don’t care how prospects perceive them, they always discover, on closer inspection, some fundamental way they want prospects to think of them in every sales situation—even when their prospects are people they’ve never met before and may never see again. When they dig even further into this question, salespeople invariably discover that most interactions with prospects are driven by this singular need.

Last week’s blog was about having vertical, meaningful conversations with prospects rather than the more traditional horizontal or superficial ones. This question—how you need to be perceived in a sales situation—is about going vertical with yourself. If this question is compelling to you, answer it for yourself before you bring it to your salespeople: What’s one word that best describes how you feel you need your prospective customers to see you? Is to be seen as knowledgeable? Smart? Insightful? Nice? Caring?

Whatever your version happens to be, you can bet that the way it plays out in sales conversations has both positive and negative consequences. Most likely, the upsides account for whatever success you’ve achieved as a salesperson. And, the downsides explain why you aren’t generating more sales.

Here’s what I mean:

It’s great to be “knowledgeable” about your product or service, except when your prospect wants to tell you what they’re feeling about an obstacle they’d like to overcome and you have no room to listen to their conflicts or concerns.

It’s a gift to be able to “share insights” about your prospects problems except when they need silence in a moment to find an answer for themselves and you’re too busy offering wisdom to get that.

It’s a dream to make your prospects “feel cared for”, except when they’re worshipping a sacred cow and it’s impossible for you to help them challenge their status quo.

If you want to immediately become more effective at selling, the task is to find your greatest strength as a salesperson and consider how it’s also your Achilles heel. Begin by noticing how this dynamic operates in your sales conversations. That requires that you accept the truth of your pattern, that you’re giving in to an impulse to be seen in a certain way in moments when meeting your prospect where they are and truly providing value to them would require something else from you.

See if you can start to feel this impulse for yourself and how powerful it actually is. When you let yourself feel it, you’ll begin to notice that the force of it is not bigger than you, that you actually have the ability to pull it back instead of giving into it. And not giving into it will help you to see what happens when you don’t.

This is where your curiosity is so important. With curiosity, you’ll start to notice what else you can bring to your prospect in specific moments that will move the sales process forward rather than stop it in its tracks. If you’re really smart, just as an example, and need prospects to validate that for you, not giving into that need in moments will help you to see when not ‘acting smart’ will allow your prospects to find their own answers and, with it, more ownership of their decision to buy.

And when you've found the freedom and breadth of engagement that being a ‘one trick pony’ can never give you, help your salespeople do the same. Your sales, their sales, your company’s sales will go up because of it.

Topics: Sales

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Ilene Gail Frahm

Written by Ilene Gail Frahm

Ilene is the co-owner of EMyth and its Board Chair. She's been innovating EMyth’s sales process for decades and writes about the essential elements of a successful sales ecosystem in any small business. She also writes about leadership.

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