Trust-Based Selling: Finding and Keeping Customers for Life (2015)
Chapter 10. Power in Sales
Don’t Give It Away
Wherever there is a man who exercises authority, there is a man who will follow it.
There is sure fire way to cut your sales in half with the very first sentence out of your mouth. I’ll get to that in a moment. But first let me say that I included this chapter because there are a few simple behaviors that you might not be aware of that can sabotage your results. And there are, likewise, a few things you can do to multiply your results.
Power, or authority, is required if you want to join the ranks of the best salespeople. The salespeople who take control of the sales cycle are most likely to win any given deal. There are many reasons this is true. In Chapter 5, “Trust,” for example, you learned about the elements of trust. Each of those elements leads to a position of power over the customer.
There’s more. Whenever you meet with customers, you should adopt a mentality that you are the most powerful person in the room. After all, you are there to help, educate, and ultimately allow the customer to execute the company’s business more efficiently. You bring insight from the entire industry, as well as insight from other customers who have dealt with similar situations.
Your customers not only respond to the power you bring, but they crave it. The last thing you want to be is a burden to your customer; instead, be someone they want to hear from. That someone has power and isn’t afraid to use it.
Killing Power with One Line
It is amazing how many salespeople do not take pride in their sales careers. You can spot them within the first five seconds of a meeting, because they start with something like:
· “I am just the sales guy.”
· “My job is to bring the smart people into the room.”
· “I am just the guy who buys lunch.”
· “I will be your cruise director during this meeting.”
· “Don’t pay attention to me; I am only the salesperson.”
· “Let me stop and let the smart people talk.”
· “I am just a facilitator.”
· “I am just the person who schedules the resources.”
These type of behaviors are even more prevalent in technical sales, where salespeople work with a team of product experts. It is okay to let your customer know that, for the technical details, you will defer to the technical experts. But, do not downplay your value in a wholesale way with sweeping statements like those.
You must think of yourself as a doctor. You are there to help diagnose issues and solve problems. How would you feel if your doctor walked into the room and said, “I am not an expert in this, but let’s get started.”? The doctor may not be a specialist in cardiology for example, but he can still listen to the heart and recommend that the patient see a specialist after the exam. However, if he starts with, “I am not a specialist,” then the patient will think, “Then why are you even listening to my heart?”
The same holds true for salespeople. It is okay not to be a technical expert. However, everything you sell should bring business value. You are the business expert in the room, so project that confidence.
Your Time Is Important
Making the best use of your time is an important mantra for you to practice from day one. It is also important that your customer sees that your time is important. Powerful people have busy schedules. If you allow yourself to let your customers dictate your schedule, your customers will sense that you do not have power. Statements like, “I am open all next week,” “I will rearrange my schedule to accommodate you,” and “Pick a time, I will make it work” are all examples of how a simple statement can diminish your power, thus reducing the trust your customer has. When scheduling, be specific about your available times. “I have an opening on Friday at 10:00, or next Wednesday at 1:30.” Even if your calendar is wide open, show your customer that your time is valuable.
It will help you set a precedent with your customer that you are important, and that your time is precious. If they sense your time is free, the customer will be more apt to make you jump through hoops. “We need this,” “Can you be here next week?,” “We have a an urgent request,” or “We need you here tomorrow!” Once you start falling into these traps, they are hard to get out of. Once customers start giving you hoops to jump through, you know they either don’t respect your power, or are testing it.
I had just hired Kevin, whom I had known for years. I was more than happy to have him on my team. He was very well respected, and had a proven track record, as he has been in our industry for over 20 years.
We were meeting with a junior engineer barely out of college. We entered our names on the sign-in sheet that every customer has, got our badges, and sat down to wait for the person to come escort us to the meeting room. We reviewed our objectives for the call one more time. I was impressed with the agenda Kevin had for the meeting. Everything was looking professional, and I was feeling more confident in my decision to hire him. My only concern was this was a pretty low-level engineer we were about to meet. A few minutes passed, and the junior engineer came out to greet us. I extended my hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you; I am Dave.”
Kevin extended his hand and said with a sweet-as-molasses tone, “I am Kevin, and thank you so much for your time; thank you.”
As we walked down the hallway toward the meeting room, there was some idle conversation, and Kevin slipped in another, “Thank you so much for meeting us.” We arrived at the meeting room, and as we sat down, Kevin again said, “Thank you; Thank you for your time.” I was glaring at Kevin trying to will him to stop!
I teased Kevin for years about this, because I wanted him to stop this way-too-nice behavior. He was giving up all his power to an administrative engineer. What I wanted to convey was that a salesperson’s time is more important than a customer’s. Most of your customers are getting paid whether they sit there or not. You get paid for what you sell. You could be in front of more important people, making more money. Your time is valuable.
Respect your customer’s time, but don’t put it on a pedestal. Your time is actually more valuable, because you get paid only for performance.
Jumping Through Hoops
Again, you must show that your time is important. You need to convey that you are willing to help your customers, but they have to put as much skin in the game as you do. Do not blindly jump through hoops. Especially be aware of hoops that are meant to blow you off, like the “Please send me some literature” hoop.
I believe that sales is a profession in which you help and educate customers. This does not mean being subservient. Your customers will request administrative items from you, such as proofs of concept, new quotes, more quotes, and answers to RFPs. Sometimes customers don’t know the effort some of these tasks require. It is okay to push back some and to ask for clarification as to why they are requesting something from you. It is also okay to negotiate with the customer. Give into the request reluctantly, and for something in return. At a minimum, put the task on your timetable.
If you have been in sales long enough, you will recognize the salesperson who runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. “I need to get this quote to the customer yesterday, and you need to drop everything you are doing to help me.” This is a salesperson who is not in control of the sales cycle; they have given up all their power to the customer. Do not assume your customers need everything immediately. It is okay to tell the customer that her request will take a certain amount of time. Set the expectation that your time is important.
There are many techniques for establishing power with customers, including the way you hold your hands, how you enter a room, how you stand, how you shake hands, and so on. This chapter was not about techniques you can use to project power. The point here was to point out simple mistakes that many salespeople make that are very easy to avoid. You are working hard to establish trust with your customer, so do not let your power wane with seemingly harmless statements. I am not asking you to change your personality or use gimmicks to get power, but just be aware of the self-worth you project to your customers.
You are two-thirds the way through the book, and finally you get to meet with the customer in the next chapter. I will cover some “selling skills and strategies,” and discuss a small shift in focus from opportunity qualification to qualifying the customer as someone with the potential to become a long-term buyer of your products or services.