If you follow the news, odds are you’ve heard the phrase “soft power” getting used a lot more lately. The term refers to using appeal and attraction rather than force and coercion to get what you want. It applies to sales, too: If you always feel the need to push in order to make a deal, consider whether you could do better if you learned to pull an agreement toward you rather than always trying to dominate. Here are four ways to do that.
Accept instead of control. It surprises my clients to hear that I offer no training program for “overcoming objections.” An objection is just an opinion, not necessarily a deal breaker, until the salesperson tries to “overcome” and pushes an agenda. I believe it’s important to calmly accept the viewpoints of your clients rather than overcome them. Listening is not waiting to talk and debate; listening means actually hearing how the client feels. Offer options when facing conflict. Let buyers choose.
Understand instead of qualify. Salespeople typically infer that “qualifying” means they should determine a buyer’s worthiness. This leads to quickly establishing credit, analyzing product needs, and pushing to take the business from the competition. A complete “understanding,” however, means recognizing how your clients market, manage staff, schedule, sell, and generally make money. Instead of pushing to qualify, pull information to understand and you’ll sell more.
Collaborate instead of conquer. Builders don’t just build for a living; they’re also busy dealing with sales tasks, subcontractors, clients, inspectors, labor management, and more. The salesperson who behaves as if the builder is someone merely snapping a bunch of parts together to “build” a house ends up pushing products, desperate for sales.
Collaboration is an offer of business resources and ideas that are unrelated to your products and services. It includes careful selection of the right products and services when the timing is right for the buyer. It means bringing people together from your network who can help your customers succeed.
Take the order when the timing is right. The biggest sales mistake in our industry is the push to get a sale when you want (or need) it. Most salespeople agree the easiest time to get a new client is when something goes wrong with the prospect’s existing supplier. In the absence of any problems, the only weapon you have to push for a sale is a lower price. Instead, be willing to pull people toward you and allow them to give you the order when the timing is right.
I have been a proud “order taker” for years and recommend it highly. Traditionally, we think of order takers as namby-pamby service representatives incapable of generating transactions because they aren’t pushing hard enough. The enlightened sales approach is to position yourself as the first choice in suppliers when something goes wrong with the existing one.
Push less and pull more to understand and collaborate. This will make you the supplier of choice when a buyer wants to write an order.