I hate selling

I hate selling

People who say they hate selling forget that they do so all the time. They have no option. Nor do you. Nor do I. Selling is not the extraction of money from a reluctant buyer for something they do not want. It is the process of connecting and engaging so that there is useful, hopefully even pleasant, communication between two or more people. We do it when we want a door closed. We have the option to say “Close that door!” in a loud, commanding voice or we can say “Please will you close the door, it’s causing rather a draft.”

You don’t need telling which approach is more likely to be effective. Most of us are not asking for doors to be closed but for them to be opened. We are aware that to do so with imperial order will fail, so we soften our tone, smile, ask politely, possibly throw in an egregious compliment. The response will probably be positive but that is in spite of the way the request is made, not because of it. Creepy requests are even worse than orders.

How are we to judge the way to make a request? Not everyone is rational and intelligent. Occasionally a creepy plea does work. Often a simple, straightforward question is the best way to get an answer. Depends on the person, doesn’t it? Well, yes and no. Certainly, some people are even tempered and predictable but far fewer than we think. ‘Circumstances alter cases’ was a famous phrase at one time. It was never more true than today.

When we get to work we try to present a professional, confident presence, sometimes rather vulgarly called Executive Presence by those who must turn the simplest phrase into jargon. Our exterior appearance masks lots of internal conflicts, concerns and crises. Everything from a sleepless night to worries about a member of the family, from fear of loss of job to terror of retirement, from hating the work to hating the home, all these are hidden under a calm exterior.

Someone trying to communicate with us, whether selling or not, needs to be able to imagine these and similar distractions that cause us not to listen – or to forget as soon as we have heard. And here’s the thing. If we devote our brain to imagining what problems might be driving our contact as s/he talks to us we lose focus on what they are actually saying. How often have you been attending a meeting, even a one-on-one, and suddenly realised that you haven’t taken in a word of what is being said? It happens to the best.

Multi-tasking – clearly what is needed here – is known to be a choppy way to get things done. We have to learn to do it if we are to communicate well, especially if we are to sell ideas, products, ourselves. How can we master this seemingly impossible task? In a word, curiosity. When we develop an instinct to find out everything we can about everything we deal with, we become insatiably curious. We are becoming a good salesperson.

There are six rules to doing this.

[1] Notice everything. Many years ago a photographer attending some royal occasion in London noticed that Princess Margaret brushed a speck off the uniform of one of the palace equerries. It was a tiny, almost imperceptible, gesture. The photographer noticed. It broke the story of the Princess’s love for Group Captain Peter Townsend.

[2] Imagine wildly. What could this person, situation, event mean for the world, for me? What may be going on in the minds of those taking part in what I see? When TMI write roleplays for our clients we try to think of extreme situations they may find themselves in. It makes roleplays livelier, more interesting and more fun. It is amazing how often these roleplays later turn out to be real situations. What you imagine today may be real tomorrow.

[3] Forget about you. The tendency to focus on ourselves is a hazard when we are trying to communicate with others. You are who you are and the current conversation is not going to change that. Concentrate on the other person. Catch their eye and hold it. This is someone of immense value and interest. You have this unique opportunity to learn about them.

[4] Imagine your contact in funny, weird situations. These can be as hilarious as you like. Doing so will help you remember them and what they have said. For example, talking to someone recently about his slightly amateur presentation skills I imagined him hanging upside down from the ceiling with a huge magnifying glass trying to read his illegible charts. Whenever I see this fellow again I shall remember what one of his problems was.

[5] Ask and listen. Especially true when you are selling. Every moment that our sales target is talking s/he is selling your proposition to themselves. Every moment you are talking, there is about a 50% chance that they are being moved to buy.

[6] Think ahead. Think of the people you are going to have to influence. Cultivate them in advance of when you need their attention. Strong trees grow in well prepared ground.

Make sure your ground is ready and you will reap a big harvest.