Every sales meeting you go to is really an ambush in disguise. The clients, prospects or customers you're going to see know precisely why you're arriving on the scene and what your intentions are: to sell them something.
Seems fine, right? All is above board, there are no secrets, everyone knows what to expect. What could be wrong with that?
Just the simple, powerful and undeniable fact that no one wants to be sold.
This is critical to understand. Once people believe others are coming in to sell them, they recoil, put up defenses and begin to rehearse reasons they don't need whatever it is you're selling. They may disguise this or do it under the surface, but it's there. Chalk it up to a basic human emotion: We don't want others to push things on us that we haven't decided we need.
Interestingly and paradoxically, inside the problem lies a solution. Overall, the idea is to disarm and surprise prospects so what they actually experience during a sales call isn't even close to what they expected.
Consider the following:
- Avoid Willy Loman salesmanship. No handouts. No documents to read. No PowerPoint presentations. Enter the room stripped of these crutches and you send an immediate message that something different is about to happen.
- Control the agenda by opening with a statement that demonstrates your knowledge and that quickly dissuades your prospects that you're on the scene to ask for a deal.
I can still see the shock on people's faces--not only of my prospects, but also of my employees--when I opened a sales call with a tech company that I knew would be a difficult prospect to land by saying, "Thank you for inviting us. Allow me to start by saying that our culture is not to do what you want us to do, but what we think is the right thing to do. You are technologists. We are marketers. That fusion is where the power can lie."
- Put ideas on the table that you're confident your prospects have never heard and have the potential to be of true value to them.
When my company was selling an automobile diagnostic device to potential business partners, we knew they weren't in the mood for another piece of machinery in their business models. So we turned the tables on the sale by offering the partners a way to keep their customers--and their own families--safe from thousands of auto accidents that never have to happen.
A device? That they didn't want. Safety? Well, that was another matter. And it gave us the wedge we needed to cut through the wall of resistance against what we were selling. It allowed us to control the agenda, to make our case and ultimately to make the sale.
People don't want to be sold. But they do want to be educated, informed and surprised. They want to be the first to know. They want a competitive advantage.
If you reverse engines, rethink how you enter the room; what you'll say and how you'll say it; chances are good that the would-be ambush will turn into an embrace.
You're not the prey. You're the trusted adviser. The eye opener. And when that happens, you won't have to sell them--they'll ask to buy whatever you have.
Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a management and marketing firm based in New York, and the author of Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman. He's a regular media commentator on business matters including marketing, management and sales. He's also the author of the marketing blog, Unconventional Thinking.