Pushiness is not sexy. Are you scaring your prospects away with unwanted sales pressure?
In my many years as a Director of Sales, and then later as a sales trainer and coach; one principle has always been front and center with my approach – you need to eliminate sales pressure.
In the old days (yes, I’m dating myself), sales pressure was what salespeople were taught. I remember going to a sales seminar in the early ‘90’s where one of the topics was “64 Ways To Close The Deal.” It was full of closing techniques that salespeople were taught to employ; you simply chose the best one for the occasion.
In my humble opinion, this is one of the primary reasons why salespeople got a bad reputation over the years. Applying pressure actually worked better in the old days, mainly because buyers usually had limited purchasing options. With the internet at our buyers’ fingertips and global competition in full force, that’s obviously not the case any more.
Typically, one of two things happens when you apply sales pressure. The buyer backs away (sometimes running as fast as they can) or if they succumb to the pressure, they often have buyer’s remorse. Neither option bodes well for establishing a long-term relationship with your customer.
While most of us in the business development arena, don’t consider ourselves high-pressure salespeople; I’m amazed at how much subtle pressure is still applied. While it may seem less distasteful, subtle pressure is still pressure and should be eliminated in your conversations and exchanges with prospects and clients.
So how can you tell if you cross the line from advising or even challenging, to being pushy? Here are four ways to eliminate pressure, be more authentic and yield better results:
1. Get Rid Of Ammunition Questions
One of the easiest ways to know if you crossed the line is to pay close attention to your language. If you are asking questions that push a buyer into a “yes” or “no” decision before they’ve made a purchasing decision, then you are probably applying pressure. “If I could get this vehicle in midnight blue, would you be ready to buy today?” No wonder car salespeople are considered the worst!
Instead of ammunition questions, substitute information questions. These are open-ended questions that allow you to discover what’s important to the customer without being pushy or asking questions that you already know the answer to.
2. Stay Out of Vendorville
Similarly, asking other type of “salesy” questions of the customer is not going to get you the “Salesperson of the Year” Award. I include questions in this category that are cliché and sound like every other salesperson. The ones I’ve heard a million times are the same ones that your customers have heard just as often; avoid them like the plague if you don’t want to sound like another sleezy salesperson. These include:
• What do you like most/least about your current vendor/supplier?
• If I gave you a magic wand, what would you like to fix in your business?
• What keeps you up at night?
Please, please, please…at least be more original if you are going to ask lame questions.
Vendorville is a place where average salespeople reside. It’s a place where you are not valued and you’re viewed as just another typical pushy salesperson. Better to distinguish yourself and the value you bring to the table as a partner and a resource in the exchange.
3. Avoid Boxing In Customers
Similar to asking ammunition questions, “boxing in” a buyer is forcing him to make a decision that you are controlling, without his prior consent. A classic example is a salesperson calling to set up and appointment who asks, “What would be better for you to set up an appointment, Tuesday at 2:00 or Wednesday at 10:00?
Your long-term success will skyrocket if you drop the pushy sales persona and act like an interested partner. Instead of forcing decisions without permission, engage in the conversation to come to mutual agreement. The exchange may go more like this:
Salesperson: “Does this sound like something you’re interested in learning more about?
Customer: It does, actually.
Salesperson: If you’re interested, I can come by your office to discuss further. Does that work?
In which of the scenarios above, do you think you’ll have a more positive reception when you arrive?
4. Eliminate Closing Techniques
I think this is one of the hardest areas for salespeople. We’ve been conditioned to make the sale and our exuberance sometimes gets the best of us. Employing closing techniques, in my view, goes beyond the 64 different techniques mentioned above. It includes applying any pressure to coerce a buying decision. For example, at the end of a conversation, you may want to avoid saying something like, “Are you ready to get started?” or “I’ve got an application for you to fill out.”
To eliminate unwanted sales pressure, a simple open-ended question will suffice every time. “Where would you like to go from here?” If they are not ready to make a buying decision yet, you will find out and be able to address it accordingly (with no sales pressure). If they are interested in what you have, you given them control without any pressure applied. Voila! Wasn’t that easy?. Either way, you have the advantage of a “win” without being another pushy salesperson.
I’ve always found it ironic that when you eliminate sales pressure (which we’re taught to make the sale), we actually see our sales increase. The fact is that people like to buy from people they like and trust. And if you are falling back on old-school closing techniques or employing other forms of sales pressure, your trust factor is pretty low.