I am luck in the fact that I work with sales professionals, at all levels of their organisations, and as a result learn almost daily. I also see many similarities in B2B sellers regardless of the industry that they serve. One interesting characteristic many share is confusing ability with will.
I find there are two common reasons for this, one is the fear of change, of the unknown, and the discomfort of breakthroughs. The second reason usually has to do with conditioning, and life experience, “built in” notions of “how” we are supposed to do in certain things given specific circumstances. And since some things in sales are by nature counter intuitive, it makes it difficult for some to act that way. This is compounded when people are focused more on relationship than revenue. I for one do not feel that there are mutually exclusive, but I do think that sometimes people are unnecessarily fixated on the sequence, some feeling they need to have a relationship before there can be talk of revenue. It’s so much better for both parties when that pressure is absent, some buyers do want to be your friend, but are ready to have a long and loyal business relationship if you help them achieve their objectives.
Overcoming fear of change, fear of the unknown is not easy, yet we ask our buyers to do it every day. So why not look at how you go about helping your buyers deal with the same challenge, and apply that to yourself. I would argue that if it truly works for them, it should work for you. So when someone offers up a new way of doing something in your sales cycle, something foreign to you, and you find yourself questioning it and saying “I don’t know if I could do that”, how would you help a buyer deal with it a similar challenge and help them overcome it?
I find having a plan with various contingencies is a start. Ask the same questions you would of a reluctant prospect. Just as it helps buyers articulate their doubts or concerns, making it easier for them to be broken down and dealt with. Do the same with your challenge to get the same results. Many like to present some form of ROI, and a good ROI discussion also looks at the risk and cost of inaction. As a sales rep reluctant to try something, that would be the biggest question to answer. If the road you are on now is not getting you what you want, how much worse can the alternative be, what is the upside to trying the alternate?
The question of conditioning is a bigger challenge, especially since we view everything through the filters of our own experiences. Sometimes reps or managers tell me not only that they can’t do something, they make it universal, applying their standard on all, they tell me “you can’t do that”, as though it was law. Thanks to the internet, I can now research federal, state and provincial laws, and counter this by letting them know that based on the law of the land indeed you can, your competitor probably did and won the deal as a result. But I understand, lifelong habits are hard to change, lifelong fears are hard to face, doing unnecessary work, losing deals in the process seems the easier choice.
But I would argue it is not. Think in your own life of a time when you had a real breakthrough, I bet like me, as soon as the breakthrough takes place, we never see what all the fuss, fear and reluctance was in advance. So as long as it is legal, moral, and helps both you and your buyer, invest your energy in building your abilities. Remember there are million reasons why something won’t work, but there is one reason it will, you doing it.