Do your clients treat you the way you want to be treated?

By Colleen Francis

Never underestimate how important personal responsibility can be in influencing our lives, and how much power it gives us to effect change. Remember this: we train and condition people to treat us the way we want to be treated.

Consider, for example, the use of sales and discounts. How often do you hold yourself true to your word when you offer someone a limited-time discount? It's a time-honored tradition to offer a customer a discount on a sale when nearing month's end—an incentive to buy now rather than later. It comes implicitly with a threat:

I can only offer you this discount if you buy before April 30th, after that, it's back to full price.

Let's be honest: if that customer calls back on May 5th demanding the discounted price, how likely are you to give it to them? This behavior is the kind that conditions customers—establishing a precedent that they'll expect again and again—that your limited-time offers are anything but limited and that a lower price is something they can demand all the time.

In our society, another way that we can inadvertently train others is when we don't appear to respond at all to undesirable behavior—when we're silent. For example:

A banker—let's call him John—was having staff problems at his branch. When his employees did something that he didn't like, John wouldn't say anything, hoping that his silence would make a point. Instead, it had the opposite effect—employees kept repeating the undesirable behavior.

Likewise, if a customer yells at us and we don't say anything, we've just rewarded this person's behavior—signaling that it's okay to treat us that way. Customers notice silence. Often, they interpret it as agreement or consent when, in fact, it's meant to convey disagreement. That's why many people who have an aversion to conflict often find themselves knee-deep in one, despite their best efforts.

We can even train ourselves as well as others to deny the truth. Have you ever intentionally arrived late for a meeting because you knew from past experience that it wouldn't start on-time? If you're nodding your head in agreement, congratulations: the person who chairs those meetings has trained you and the other attendees. Your behavior has changed because of an expected outcome.

Here's another example:

Laurie, a government sales rep for a major software company was overseeing the implementation of a new software system at her client's site. This project required weekly project meetings that required the attendance of the entire project team. People were regularly late, so the meetings were never constructive. Laurie set her mind to fixing this problem. First, she admitted to her customer that she was responsible for the meetings starting late. Second, she emphasized that, in the future, meetings would always start on time, regardless of the number of attendees. Third, she started all meetings at the exact designated time—even if hardly anyone was present—and continued through the agenda without any retracing for the late attendees. When the late arrivals requested a review of the missed information, Laurie refused. This action trained the entire project team about how to deal with Laurie's meetings. It took only a few meetings before everyone began showing up on time.

Look at your own work habits. How are you training people to deal with you? What are you training people at work and your customers to do? For example, if you ask your manager to be honest with you and subsequently become defensive when they do…what happens? Your action (or reaction) might train someone to be dishonest with you.

Bill had a sales manager who was lying to him repeatedly. While he kept demanding that the manager tell him the truth, it never seemed to work. After discussing the matter with Engage Selling Solutions, Bill spoke to the sales manager and asked him: "What is it about me that makes you feel uncomfortable about telling me the truth?" The answers to this question gave Bill some important insights about what he could do differently to develop a more truthful and productive relationship with his manager.

Getting to the truth…

In sales, by realizing how much you train and condition clients and colleagues and by taking ownership of our assumptions, you can regain control of difficult situations. It puts an end to the blame game. When we don't blame someone, that person will be less likely to become defensive and more receptive to what we have to say.

In a conversation with someone, instead of saying "You make me think this," try saying: "I have allowed myself to think this," or "I have chosen to think this," or even "I find myself thinking this."

There are plenty of ways to convey ownership of your feelings and assumptions. Just do it in a style that feels right. Let's apply that skill to everyday situations that we face as salespeople.

Here are two examples:

"I noticed that you didn't have anything to say during the presentation. I have been thinking that you're unhappy with the solution? What are your thoughts?"

 

"I noticed that you told me the proposal was okay. I'm thinking that you're not really that pleased with it. Do you have any feedback to give me about it?"

…and if that doesn't work, how to confront a prospect who may be lying

Remember the TV show Columbo—Peter Falk's humble and unassuming character who had a knack for getting at the truth? If Columbo thought he was hearing a conflicting or inconsistent story, he would rub his head and say: "I notice you said this and now you are saying that... I'm confused," or "Could you clarify this?" It was a clever strategy. By taking responsibility for his confusion, he disarmed the other person, making them feel comfortable enough to tell him the things he needed to know.

When you think a prospect may not be telling you the truth, remember the Columbo Method. Stick to the facts, approach a situation from the position that you are confused or unclear, give your prospect the benefit of the doubt and ask questions sincerely to gain clarification.

Here are some examples:

"I noticed yesterday that you mentioned you were looking for a product that would do X, Y and Z. Today, you are telling me that getting the lowest price is the only consideration for your purchase. Did something change?

When you say you need a discount, how much do you need?

When you say you need it next week, does that mean it has to be installed next week or just that it has to arrive on your premises to be ready for installation?

I'm confused. Could you help me understand your new purchasing process?

When you say we are too expensive, what do you mean by that?

I notice that you are hesitating over my proposal. Maybe I missed something that was important to you. What are your thoughts about this?

Regardless of the point you wish to clarify, the Columbo Method will help you get to the bottom of an issue quickly. Remember, much of what makes this approach work (and made it work for Columbo) is that you have to genuinely want to find the answers and demonstrate that it may well be your fault for not understanding. Only with this attitude of responsibility will your questions be perceived as sincere. If you are asking these questions as a technique to trick your prospect into telling the truth—to catch them in a lie—your tonality will be interpreted as patronizing and disrespectful.

Take ownership of your behavior and assumptions. Remember, no one made you come up with those thoughts, opinions, assumptions and conclusions. And only you can steer things right.

This article is an excerpt from our book Honesty Sells published by Steven Gaffney and Colleen Francis. If you liked this article you can purchase the e-book for 50% off the regular on-line store price by visiting www.HonestySells.com

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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