Probably one of the most important lessons I have learned from working with Carole Mahoney and Rick Roberge is to play it cool. Fonzie cool. Remember Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days? Now picture the Fonz as a sales rep. Do you think he would be chasing people that didn’t want to talk to him? Do you think he would call someone just to “check in?”
I picture him at a networking event, jeans, white t-shirt and black leather jacket, standing next to the bar, jacket unzipped and a thumb up waiting for people to come to him.
There were several times during our coaching calls when I would say, “Rick, they want to look at competitors!” (The exclamation was me freaking out). He would say, “Let them. Be cool.” Or “Carole, they said they need to do a business case!” She would say, “Let them. Be cool.”
For an exact rundown of how I actually ended up handling this, see this post.
As salespeople, we are taught to “handle” objections. I remember them telling me to stop looking at each objection as something that needs to be handled and more as something that needs to be understood.
What if we quit trying to make the customer fit into our sales process and start learning their buying process and help them buy? If they need to do a business case, let them, but try to understand how you can help. If they need to check out the competition, let them, but understand, what they are hoping to get from them that they can’t get from you? One of my favorite quotes from Carole was, “If you let someone go and they come back, then they are yours. If they don’t, then they never were.”
Now here’s the lesson: When you ask enough questions in the beginning to understand the customer’s “why”, you can then let them have control and they will drive the sales process faster than you ever could.
Ready for the example of when I finally handed over the keys?
I got an email in January from a prospective client that read,
Wishing you a Happy New Year!
The project was obviously put on hold when other items were addressed.
I’m estimating we’ll pick up the torch again in 2Q2016 but no guarantees.
I think I threw my computer across the room that day.
I had my coaching call with Rick and Carole to ask how I should respond. Guess what they told me to do? Nothing. Don’t respond. This is where I had to be coachable. Everything I had been taught prior to this had made me think I needed to “handle” this. I needed to drive that sense of urgency, even if this person had no sense of urgency. I needed to start selling. But I did what I was told and did nothing.
Then, on March 31st, the day before Q2, I sent this email:
“Hi, I know I might be premature, but would rather be ready then have you think I don’t care. In your last note to me, you say, “pick up the torch in 2Q2016.” Does that mean you all are getting together for the plan, or all of us?”
April 19, I forward my last email again, adding this to the body:
I get this response:
“No reply” meant I’m buried. I’m still planning on kicking off something in Q2, but May seems more realistic. Nothing for you to do at this point.”
I sent this:
“Ok. I will set a reminder for June. Let me know if you need me prior.”
Guess who called me in May? Guess what project is being fast tracked now? Guess who has executive sponsorship? Guess who is paying my expenses for onsite meetings during the selling process? And guess who is now reviewing contracts for signature?
Pretty cool huh? All because I stopped selling and just let them buy. I let them do their job instead of me trying to do it for them.
Want to learn how to do this? Sure, you can copy and paste the above and fire it off. You probably have an opportunity in your pipeline where this could fit. But I bet right before you hit “Send” you’ll get butterflies. You might chicken out. I know I would have. But I had coaches. People in my corner explaining the why and being patient when I stumbled along the way.
That’s how coaching will help you and where the newest training or growth hack can’t. Unlearning what I knew or thought I knew required behavioral change. That’s the value that a coach can bring. But you have to want it bad enough to put aside what you think you know and be willing to admit that someone might know more than you. That’s when the real growth will happen.
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