I find it interesting that when you ask people to describe a typical salesperson, the words we get are usually not very flattering. Pushy, dishonest, slick, arrogant are words likely to be found on the list. I mean, how many young kids when asked by their parents what they want to be when they grow up say they want to grow up to be a salesperson. Maybe it is all the amateur salespeople your prospect has been exposed to prior to you knocking on their door that has established this negative stereotype. So much hype, so much over promising, so much inauthenticity of past sales experiences have hardened your prospect to be highly defensive when you show up. Regardless, these prospects are the ones that you are trying to sell your products and/or services and you must call on them, but if they see you as the “typical” salesperson, your likelihood of having success will be much less. If only we could flip this stereotype on its head! If only we the sales professional could behave in a way that makes us look less like a salesperson. . .
Here are two different descriptions of a salesperson that might come knocking on your door:
Salesperson A : Confident, Confident, Smiley, Eager, Talkative
Salesperson B: Uncertain, Humble, Sober-minded, Reluctant, Reserved/Quiet
After reviewing the two lists of adjectives, which salesperson would you rather have call on you.? Which one would you be more comfortable with during a sales call. The correct answer is Salesperson B. Genuine humility is just more attractive to people than energetic overconfidence. But find me a sales training program out there that tries to raise up sales professionals that are reluctant, and humble, and at times uncertain when in the call. In fact, almost all training programs try to develop salespeople that are consistent with Salesperson A and as a result we continue to produce “typical” salespeople that for the most part, fit the stereotype.
Let’s examine Salesperson B. This salesperson is in complete contrast with what our prospects expect to see. This person is non-threatening and more authentic in how they handle themselves. Prospects can feel more relaxed around Salesperson B and thus be more forthcoming with the truth and less defensive during the call. Because of this posture, Salesperson B is able to be more effective in dialogue with the prospect and is able to establish high levels of rapport. This equates to competitive advantage!
Maybe you are old enough to remember the TV show “Columbo”. Peter Faulk flawlessly played the detective that always seemed like he didn’t really know what he was doing. His character was in stark contrast to all the other TV detectives. Since his suspects saw him as less than capable, they were less concerned and worried that Columbo could find them guilty of anything. Of course, Columbo knew exactly what he was doing. His outward behavior was designed to relax his suspects so they would be less defensive during the interrogation and thus offer up more of the truth than they should. But on the inside, Columbo was in the zone. He was brilliant and highly effective at solving the case and putting the criminal behind bars or, better said in sales language . . . closing the deal.
During your next sales call, instead of being outwardly fired up because you have a really great solution to offer the prospect, be somewhat in doubt if you can help the prospect at all. Instead of beaming with energy, be subdued with a genuine concern for the prospect’s challenges. When the prospect asks you “So, how can you help me?”, don’t launch into your awesome sound bite about your solution. Instead, respond with “I am not sure I can. Maybe you could tell me a little bit about the challenges you are facing.” Now you are starting to sound believable and authentic. And yes, you are now starting to break the stereotype of the typical salesperson.
by Karl Schaphorst, President
Sandler Training is a global training organization with over three decades of experience and proven results. Sandler provides sales and management training and consulting services for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as well as corporate training for Fortune 1000 companies. For more information about Sandler Training, please contact Karl Schaphorst at (402) 403-4334 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow his blog at karlschaphorst.sandler.com.