In 2006 I discovered the practice of Fractional Sales Management before it became an emerging…
In my personal selling experience as well as watching others sell, I’ve come to appreciate selling conversations that are enjoyable. They’re not a struggle or stressful. There’s no guessing or worrying involved. They’re simply a series of conversations that are enjoyable. We keep the conversations enjoyable by staying in the present. When you focus on the end (the order) during a sales conversation you can easily remove yourself from being present. Of course “the order” is a point of reference and a job priority, but it’s important to keep it in the proper perspective. The order will take place at the proper time if your buyer chooses to purchase with you. Before that happens staying present in your selling conversations will keep the process enjoyable and profitable.
When you sell in the present you’ll hear and see things that went unnoticed by you in the past. You’ll come up with more intuitive questions that will stir stimulating conversations for both you and your prospective customer. Worrying about making a sale or the need to stay in control will begin to fade away. When you are selling in the present the sales conversation slows down; not literally but experientially. This slowing down or more keen awareness makes it easier to stay in step with your prospect, which they appreciate and reciprocate with more candid responses to your questions.
Selling in the present means solely focusing on the conversation you’re engaged in while having the desired outcome of your conversation clear and attainable during the conversation. When selling in the present you stop caring about the order and care 100% about what is being “communicated” by the other person as it relates to your current micro objective. You listen when it’s time to listen and choose your words when it’s time to speak. Why did I use the phrase, “choose your words”? When you choose you have to slow down; you think then speak. This choice can be as quick as a moment or as long as 15 or 20 seconds, but there is a difference when you become aware of it and are in the present.
If you want to experience selling in the present more often give these suggestions a try.
Know the purpose or intended result of your next sales conversation before you begin. These are usually micro steps in the sales process. For example your first objective might be to acquire the name of the person you want to be introduced to. Any conversation you have with someone at this point is simply to provide you with a name of someone you want to be introduced to, nothing more. Once you have that name the objective can move to being introduced. Taking things one-step at a time simplifies the conversations leaving more room mentally to stay in the present.
Stop trying to control the outcomes. We cannot, let me repeat, we cannot control what others think, do or decide on. We cannot make them buy from us, share with us or anything else. We can work toward outcomes but we can’t control them. When I embraced this concept my conversations no longer were a struggle. I began to focus more on listening, asking questions and sharing information, which were the things I could control. This emptied my mind from having to guess if I was “moving someone” closer to a purchase. It’s not for me to determine if someone is moving closer to a purchase, that’s the buyer’s priority. All I need to do is ask where they stand to know my next choice. No more guessing.
Be prepared for your meetings. Know your products and services well. Prepare a list of questions you want to gain insights and information about. Know what your micro objective is for the current conversation. When you are well prepared you do not have to control the flow of the meeting as you can always bring it back to your objective. In the past, when I was not well prepared or desired to control the sales conversation I became less flexible during meetings. When you are prepared it’s like being in a sea-worthy vessel that can stay on course in the midst of a storm. You simply focus on the next right thing to do to stay on course. When you are not prepared it’s like being in a sinking lifeboat in your swimming pool. Even in the calmest of waters you begin to sink and work on surviving.
Stop guessing or fortune telling. I have stopped looking for buying signals. In my experience they are never 100% true. The only true buying signal is when someone orders. Everything before that is part of the sales conversation. The whole concept of buying signals was designed to help us know when to move on to the next step of the sales conversation. Over time it’s evolved into an emotional gauge that gets in the way of being present. When we feel like the sale is ours we can get careless and stop listening. When we think we are losing the sale we can push too hard and stop listening. Rather than guess where you are or reading signs (buying signals), ask your prospect where they are and what they want to do next? Example: “I’m not sure where we stand at this point. Do you feel like you have enough confidence and knowledge to continue our conversation toward a possible buying decision?” Ask rather than guess.
Improve your listening skills. I don’t know if we can ever become perfect listeners as our mind is always chattering away in the background. What I have experienced is that when I apply the points listed above I can focus more on listening to the person in front of me rather than the voice in my head, which likes to guess, worry, control and more. When you listen to understand rather than listen to make points you are more likely in the present moment. If you listen to understand first, you will then be able to make better points when you speak. What a concept! To improve your listening skills requires a decision to be a better listener and consistent work to make improvements.
Sales Management Tip
I could have named this blog The Joy of Managing in The Present and everything would be applicable. Your opportunities to be present with your salespeople as well as all employees exist in any conversation with them. You don’t have control over your sales people anymore than the sales people have over their prospects. They choose to work for you each day and the more engaged you are with them by being present, the more committed they will be for you.