If you truly understand, don’t say this…

Last month I was working with a sales rep when he said to a potential customer, “I understand, but…”

My heart sank, and I had to bite my tongue. Do you really understand the person’s concerns if you say “but”? That word invalidates everything you said before it.

“I was going to clean my room, but…”

“I like your outfit, but…”

“Your cooking was excellent, but…”

If I say “but”, I haven’t really heard your concern. All I’m trying to do is to overcome your objection, quickly close the sale, and move on.

How much more powerful would it be to say, “I understand, AND…” If I truly understand where you’re coming from and want to help you, changing one word can open the door to a conversation. The word “and” lets us get on the same side of the issue and start to work together collaboratively.

Just last week I was giving a presentation when one of the attendees asked a good question about the product. Instead of reverting back to the standard overcoming objections (I understand, but…), I realized I had an opportunity to show empathy and make a connection.

“I understand your concern, and that is exactly the same thing question that ‘Jane’ at ‘University X’ had. In working with their team, we were able to address the issue by…”

If we truly understand, then we can put real people in a real story that empowers prospects and makes them the hero and us the guide.

In my presentation, instead of simply overcoming an objection, we opened a dialogue and started a collaborative conversation.

Changing the word from “but” to “and” helps us transition from just another salesperson to a trusted consultant and guide. Although it may not win every deal, it’s a step in the right direction. And once we build trust, we move closer to helping our customers with a product or service that advances their mission.

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Stop Leading with the Right Hook and Start Jabbing

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For those of us in sales, please stop leading with the right hook. We are passionate about our product or service, but we’ve got to learn more about our customers. Engage your customers and prospects in a meaningful conversation. Find out what makes them tic. Learn their history and challenges. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk and make your pitch. (Here’s the link to the book on Amazon)

Today at a conference, I watched prospects approach vendors. What I witnessed was disheartening, and almost painful. These unsuspecting prospects never had a chance.  Vendors exchanged pleasantries and begin their pitch about why he or she should sign up/commit/or purchase a product or service. Not once did the sales folks stop to ask open ended questions. 

If you haven’t listened to or read Gary Vaynerchuck, start right now. Whether in sales, marketing, design, leadership, customer service, or any other part of business, we have to stop our first interaction being a request to buy or product or service. Instead, we have to jab with our prospects – provide them value, create meaningful content, start to learn about their needs – and if you serve your customers, you’ll not only convert prospects to leads to sales, but you’ll start to develop a tribe and build influential followers. 

Donald Miller crafts it beautifully – our customers are the heroes of the story, and our job is to serve as the guide. Uncover their challenges, or even better, help them discover challenges that they didn’t realize they had. And as you guide your prospects through the story, continue to write the story with he/she as the hero/heroine. 

As salespeople, we know our product or service. We know the value, and we know how it can solve our customers’ problems. If we don’t believe in it, we shouldn’t be selling it. If we’ll take the time to slow down and wait for the right hook, I believe we’ll be successful – both in the short term and for the long haul. 

– Patrick