This paragraph is a warning. In my experience of sales professionals (and I have been one for more than 40 years) they are, in general, intelligent and interested in learning how to do their job better.
That is why they buy the books and read magazines like this one. But they are disappointed to find that almost everything they read they knew already. All the new books and ideas are just rehashes of what has been said before, with clever titles and exasperatingly glib stories of how the writer succeeded to land a deal in the face of massively stiff competition and aggressive buying techniques. If you want another 700-word piece like those, this isn’t it. This one is different.
Instead, I’m going to tell you five things you don’t know about yourself – if you agree with me you’ll get to the end of the article and do something about them.
You don’t know how good you are. I mean in comparison with other salespeople. You may not be the biggest revenue or profit generator in your team, or even in your company, but those who are might simply be blessed with more productive customers. How would you fare if you had those customers – possibly even better than those blessed organisations. Was anyone ever able to tell you that, as a negotiator , you were a 6.3 or a 7.9, on a scale which would measure your competency objectively against the competency of others?
You don’t know how bad you are. When you walk back to the car at the end of a sales appointment having achieved the objective you set or not, and you replay the encounter in your mind, who tells you what might have been if you had been able to do it better? You do. And just how accurate is that as an analysis tool? Or maybe your boss does; is he/she likely to be any better as an objective analyst?
Your timing could be better. I know this because it can always be better. The timing of a proposal, or the trading a concession, or breaking the vacuum of silence. They are all so difficult to anticipate, and after the event so difficult to know what might have happened if you had moved earlier and pre-empted, or just waited a few extra seconds and, maybe, witnessed the buyer caving in.
Your persuasive skills are above average. But they still don’t work most of the time. If you can’t put a good argument together to extoll the virtues of your product or defend your commercial position then either you are a masochist or you’re in the wrong job. They don’t work for you as well as they should because they don’t work for anybody – the buyer has seen and heard it all before.
There are at least six negotiating variables you don’t use and could. I know this because I have never been with a sales professional who couldn’t generate at least six things that are either taken for granted or never thought about which, when introduced into the mix, give more texture to a negotiation. OK – so if you agree with my analysis (and remember, I have never met you), you need to do something about it. There is no article that can help. This is because we are dealing here with skills, not information, and you can’t learn skills by reading. How do I know? You are the evidence – unless this is the first article you have ever read. If you have already found the pitch-perfect article which solves your problems, you would never have to read another one, including this one. But, instead, you continue the relentless search.
Take a tip from the sports professionals. Andy Murray doesn’t read books on tennis and Victoria Pendleton doesn’t read books on cycling. They have coaches and they practice with their coaches for hours every day.
That’s what you need, a coach who will show you where you are good and where you could be better. A coach who will iron out your timing problems, improve your persuasive skills and your creativity. And you had to read a magazine article to find that out!