Managing a sales course this week and if there’s one thing I hope to instill in the class, it’s a message about intent. People smell your intent like a dog smells fear. Don’t believe me? Consider what happens each time you sit down on the airplane next to someone else. Whether you realize it or not, you’re summing up the person next to you at the same moment that they’re summing you up.
Both parties are deciding the other person’s intent. And we don’t do this through higher-level thought. It happens in what some call our ‘reptilian brain’, which is that part at the base of our skull where we evolved to have fight or flight instincts. We have a built-in ability to decide if we should engage with the other person based on an instinct that comes to us quickly and, it seems, without conscious thought.
It goes well and you think, “I can trust them” and you engage. And you’re usually right.
Selling our intent
Selling is absolutely no different. Sales people can have all of the exact right questions (technique) but will be judged on how well they listen and care (intent). This is exactly why some sell repeatedly and others can’t despite having the very same training. It comes down to that instinctive feeling the customer had when they met the sales person. The ones who don’t sell gave the prospect the impression, “You’re not here to help me out.”
So what’s the best intent to have others feel/perceive from you?
- I’m here to make you successful
- Who I am and my resume doesn’t matter
- I’m here to listen, not talk
- I can be TRUSTED
When it doesn’t go well, we all know what happens
- Too much talking
- Lost focus and/or focus on own agenda
Seem familiar? Every sales study out there validates that intent is a core part of great selling. Yet sales folks are overwhelmingly ‘Type A’ personalities that struggle to contain their ego and simply want to win more than be empathetic.
How to change
If you want or need to be successful, you’ll need to change the way you telegraph your intent…or somehow find your better intent. There are techniques that can help you get there that you should start employing today.
First, have open-ended (prepared in advance) questions that will allow you to listen for the answers. The more the other person talks, the more they’ll hear themselves providing their own needs to you.
Secondly, let them tell you what they want to buy instead of selling to them. It may sound hard but with the right intent, the right listening skills and patience, this will happen.
Lastly, be honest when it isn’t going down your predetermined path. Thank them and leave. You’ll be honest, your intent will be clear, and you’ll be back when the problem is one you can solve. It isn’t easy to walk away but it will allow you to use limited resources in places where they can make a difference. That’s our goal anyway, right?