What Separates A Sales Professional from a Sleazeball?

“I don’t trust you!”

It doesn’t matter what industry or product we talk about, sales is an inescapable component of any transaction experience. It is communication exchange, and education / information process, and the art of ‘giving and receiving’ between two parties. Money is not required to convey between hands for a sale to occur. The world’s oldest profession — no, not that one — is Selling. Babies sell their mothers on caring for them. Children sell their mothers on one more cookie before bed. Teens sell their parents on privileges. There is a demand, a request, and a response that works between parties to satisfy needs and wants.

As Realtors® in the 21st Century, the only customer who isn’t a stranger to us is one we have already done business with. Whether sourced through a referring party, a sign call, or a web-based advertisement, each and every prospect relationship begins at the same place — ground zero.

As conversations take place, prospective customers seem to quickly fall into one of three categories: 1) they’ve done their homework and have hand-selected us to be their agent already; 2) they open up to us because we have been the first responder to their need and have gained their confidence; or, 3) they are clam shells and skeptics, and practice ‘hit and run’ to get information in bits and pieces to supplement their other sources so they can do it all themselves.

Category 3 — The Skeptic

The one question new salespeople have when they encounter a skeptic is, “Why doesn’t he trust me?” The guarded nature of a skeptic is not easily overcome by pretty smiles, a fast response, or even third party credibility sources (such as testimonials). And while it is easy for a salesperson to assume that the prospect must not be serious or is probably just working with someone else, it is a short sighted and rookie mistake to make that assumption and write off the opportunity. 

What a Skeptic needs is a perception-changing experience, and it usually takes a skilled sales professional to lead him to that experience, even if it is reluctantly at first.  Successful conversion with an initial Skeptic often yields a very deep and loyal source of referrals and repeat business.

Why Are Prospects Skeptical? 

Photo Credit: Reddit Member, Biddooo

The Skeptic believes that a salesperson will hawk wares and be pushy.  He is always suspicious of being played and doesn’t expect the truth. Instead, he expects to be manipulated emotionally and intellectually, for the ultimate benefit of the salesperson.

Why? In short, the Skeptic lacks trust because his experiences have taught him to withhold trust as a form of self protection. One or more experiences with over-eager and under-trained sales people — or worse (shysters) — have caused this imprinting. He was ‘victimized’ by a ‘ sleazeball predator’ who sought only to satisfy his own needs without taking the prospect’s needs into consideration.

What Does A Skeptic Need?

Just like prospects in Categories 1 and 2, these customers need SERVICE. A professional salesperson starts by professionally interviewing the prospect to lean about his buying goals and time line, and uses open ended questions — followed by SILENCE & LISTENING — to accomplish this. The interview is not harshly scripted. It follows the information shared, and a professional salesperson is comfortable with the same pace that the prospect adopts.

The moment a salesperson starts talking about themselves or tries to advance in a direction that doesn’t serve the prospect’s needs, the Skeptic begins to withdraw and suspect foul play.

Salespeople cannot make any prospect’s transaction about themselves and claim professionalism. Imagine going to a doctor’s office and having your MD take 15 minutes of your appointment time trying to get you to read the numerous diplomas on the wall. Or worse yet — suffering his chatter about how the bookkeepers in his accounting department are ‘world class’ and how his medical staff received the ‘best training’. It might matter on some level, sure… but it isn’t the reason why most people who have made the appointment to see him.

And yet, this is a bad habit that particularly newer salespeople fall into when they sense a prospect doubts them. They leap into defense mode to overcome the perceived objection, resulting in pushing the Skeptic further away. And then they nurse their fragile egos back into a repeat performance by convincing themselves the prospect was to blame.

A New Dance

Human nature dictates that we enjoy working with people that we like and trust. We can build trust with all prospect categories by learning the one thing the Skeptic can teach us… excellent interviewing skills.

Knowing how to ask questions — whether by text, email, in person, or by phone — is an inherent component of a professional salesperson’s bedside manner. Several ways to ask questions include:

  • Open-ended questions — 5Ws and 1H – Designed to cultivate information gathering and cannot be answered with a “Yes” or “No” only
  • Closed-ended questions — answered with “Yes” or “No” -designed to understand position or attitue
  • Speculative – uses “What if” or Suppose” beginnings to explore options and alternatives
  • Soft Command — “Tell me”, “Describe”, “Help me understand…”

Zig Ziglar said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It starts by wanting to know more about the prospect, and responding to & engaging what is important to THEM.

If we are capable of creating an environment where a Skeptic is comfortable to trrust us, then how much more will this enhance interaction with folks who fall in the other two categories?

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