Twenty- five years ago I was going door to door working for a consumer protection organization in Boston. Every day we would meet about 3 pm go over a little training and then walk the neighborhoods in and around Boston from 5-9pm. In my time there, I met a fellow who was a master canvasser which in the non-profit world basically means a master door to door fundraiser. He was an ex-Harvard Law grad who had found his niche in the non-profit world of canvassing. It was not uncommon for him to come back to our office with $300 or $400. Though the amount may seem small, this was not easy.
From the savant canvasser I learned the art of persuasively communicating enough information in a couple of minutes that resulted in people reaching for their checkbook. He would tell me that you do not want to be so overly friendly at the door that you forget why you’re there. He would emphasize and share, “You are not their friend, a little tension is ok, sometimes this is what it takes for them to make a decision.” Now over two decades later, I deeply understand his teaching that tension and even conflict are normal and a natural part of selling.
Today, the salespeople I work with and coach struggle immensely with this concept. Many feel the need to go overboard ingratiating themselves to the customer. It’s unnecessary if they are clear about the value their solution will provide and willing to ask tough questions. In these moments, people reveal critical information that helps sales professionals understand their customer’s situation and how their organization operates.
Gathering this type of information gives the salesperson an incredible advantage over competitors who choose to avoid these questions. In fact, great salespeople look for these moments and embrace them. They welcome deep significant conversations which reveal the true reality of their prospect’s situation. This enables them to offer solutions that take into account the customer’s real problems.
Being liked is not the secret ingredient that produces sales. The secret recipe of my success is asking tough and probing questions, a willingness to embrace tension and conflict and solving real problems for my customers.