Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shut Up and Wait

Too often, sales people don’t know when to stop selling. There is an old adage for this (as there often is for practical advice): “If you’re still talking after the client says ‘yes,’ you’re buying it back.” The idea is that once the client agrees to move forward, there is no need to keep explaining why they should move forward! In fact, you might undo their decision.

I have found a related behavior among sales people, and that is the desire to get to a final answer in the room. While working on an important issue, we try to persuade the client to consider our point of view and the client disagrees. Our perspective is so obvious we can’t believe the client is not agreeing! We try again and again to persuade, and the client holds firm.

If the answer to the problem is that obvious, and the client is a rational business person, the client will eventually agree.

They just want to agree in private.

If a client puts a point of view on the table, and is suddenly asked to take it back, often there is a fear of losing face. Especially if they are so clearly wrong. The next step for the salesperson is to design a way for the client to back off their position and not hurt their standing or status. In sales, this is called “building a golden bridge” to allow the client a glorious retreat.

If you don’t know how to build a golden bridge, here’s some simple advice: make your point, and then shut up and wait.

Often the client will go into a caucus with the team, come back and agree with you. The time alone allows the client to rationalize a change in position. Perhaps they will seek other changes in the deal to balance their decision and give legitimacy to the change.

This occurs in personal relationships as well. A discussion can get emotional and people lock in on positions. Once the situation cools down, and everyone can think rationally, the answer becomes clear. The key is to make it easy for people to agree with you and solve the issue. If we focus on being “right” or “winning the argument” a client (or significant other) will remember our behavior solving the issue more then they will remember the solution.

Don’t strive to be the smartest person in the room; strive to be the best problem solver in the room.