Sean has been in sales for nearly 12 years. He has great customers, but he wants more. He knows what he needs to do: commit to prospecting consistently, and buckling down to close more sales.
So what’s the problem? By analyzing his prospecting activity, Sean has concluded that he’s spending an inordinate amount of time doing volunteer work and building relationships. But those activities haven’t added enough new clients to justify his time and financial expenditures.
Sean isn’t the only salesperson who has difficulty transitioning from relationship-building to solid business-building. He isn’t aware of it, but he exhibits a form of sales call reluctance, and it’s interfering with his closing new business.
This type of call reluctance has been identified as “yielder” call reluctance. It is common among salespeople, although they rarely recognize it. You see, salespeople with yielder call reluctance are people-pleasers. They are approval-seekers who lack assertiveness, often to their own detriment.
People-pleasers don’t move forward unless someone gives them a crystal-clear signal to proceed. They don’t control the process of moving a prospect along the pipeline to becoming a client. They let the prospect maintain control, and hence they just can’t seem to close a deal. Perhaps these salespeople:
» Fear that the prospect would be offended by their sales efforts.
» Leave appointments without getting the prospect’s firm commitment for the next step.
» Have many unanswered questions they are afraid to ask.
» String out closing the sale.
If you aren’t turning qualified prospects into new clients, perhaps it’s time to look a little deeper.
In addition to experiencing yielder call reluctance, many salespeople who have trouble closing sales do not have a process or are deviating from their process. Seventy percent of the sale is in prospect engagement and uncovering the need. The sale is won in needs analysis. When salespeople emotionally adhere to their process with confidence and courage, the close unfolds organically.
Salespeople get their wires crossed when they believe that the buyer-seller relationship is more important than the sale. There must be a balance. In the end, relationships and friendships do not pay the bills. Selling products and services pays the bills.
Don’t get me wrong; relationships are important. But buyers primarily find and solve their own problems. Trying to gain their approval is a misspent effort. A successful salesperson finds the middle ground. She’s clear on goals and understands that it is OK to sell her services to meet her production goals.
The first step in overcoming yielder call reluctance is to understand what it is and how it could be affecting you. The following questions will help you determine whether you have this costly form of call reluctance:
» Are you not prospecting consistently because you have difficulty asserting yourself?
» Are you afraid to incite conflict by asking qualifier questions?
» Are you afraid you will appear pushy or intrusive?
» Are you afraid to bother the busy, disturb the indisposed or interrupt the otherwise engaged?
» Are you building a number of relationships but not meeting your production goals?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be suffering from yielder sales call reluctance. Here are four steps to get you moving forward:
Step 1: Awareness
Be acutely aware of the behavior. When you find yourself yielding, simply observe your actions without getting angry with yourself. If you judge and berate your actions, you are doing more harm than good. Learn to become a scientist of your behavior. Self-reflection is the capacity to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about you. It is one of the best ways to self-correct. It’s particularly helpful to reflect on your actions through writing. After a meeting, ask yourself the following four questions. Write your answers down in a notebook.
» What did I do well? The answer is: whatever you did right. You might write: “I showed up. I asked qualifying questions. I was dressed appropriately.” You get the picture, right?
» What would I do differently next time? Think about different choices you could have made. Your reflection could say: “I will ask for an appointment. I will create a sense of urgency about getting together. I will ask for their contact information.”
» What would I never do again? Dig deep. Is there anything you would never do again? You might promise yourself: “I will never walk away without asking for referrals. I will never again not have an answer to, ‘Let me think it over.’”
» What did I learn about myself as a salesperson from this event? This is a key question. Don’t give it short shrift. You could reflect: “I learned that there is a real need for my services. I learned that I am pretty good at answering tough objections. I learned that my confidence spirals downward when I walk away without asking for the business.” Allow yourself to be honest about what’s improving in your approach and what’s not working.
Step 2: Assessment
Pinpoint the extent of the problem. One way to do this is by recording your prospecting calls. Even if you use the recording for instructional purposes only, it’s a good idea to check with your compliance department or attorney before recording. Listen to the general impression your voice makes on these calls. Second, listen for any opportunities you might have missed. Third, pinpoint what you said on the calls that did land the appointment. Have someone go on an appointment with you to share their observations and constructive feedback.
Step 3: Admission
The hardest part of changing your behavior is admitting that the behavior is costing you big bucks, not to mention your self-esteem and confidence. Would you rather be humble now or experience real humility when you are scooted out the door for lack of production?
Step 4: Application
Find a motivated, goal-oriented person who will role-play key scenarios with you. It’s fun if you find someone who will throw you curve balls. You can videotape your role-plays and analyze them just as you would a phone call.
It is a fantasy to believe that you can read an article and easily overcome habit-level behavior. It takes hard work, personal commitment, introspection, positivity, fire in the belly and proper guidance. With training and coaching, it is highly probable that serious students of their craft can re-train their brain and learn to confidently prospect, self-promote and celebrate closing more sales.