I’m sitting in Panera Bread last Friday talking with a very nice and interesting man about selling. He has been a top performer at all of the national and international companies he has worked for. His name is Jeff. Jeff now owns his own consulting company and is using his business expertise to help companies be efficient and save money in their mail systems.
Jeff related a story about a sale he almost didn’t get. Jeff is a master at fact finding and knows his industry extremely well. He had done his homework for this prospect and had put together a solution that was literally a no brainer. The company would save enough money from the efficiencies gained from his solution to pay for the new mail system in a very short period of time. In addition, the company would also improve customer service. The only problem was the owner of the company keep saying “no!” Jeff tried everything he knew about selling, which was vast, to powerfully convey why the prospect should implement his solution. Yet the prospect wouldn’t budge.
Jeff finally determined that he was not going to make the sale and told the prospect he was sorry he had not done his job. He went on to say that what he was proposing was right for the company. He finalized his comments by stating the only reason the company was not going to benefit from his solution was because he had not done his job well enough of conveying the value of his solution. After making his heart felt apology the prospect told him to sit down. The prospect then said he wanted to buy.
Jeff asked me what I thought happened that caused the prospect to change his mind. I told Jeff that something shifted for the prospect when he apologized; he got that Jeff really had his best interest in mind. Jeff was not out to just sell his products and services, he recognized his solutions made a difference in companies that implemented his solutions. His apology was not about making the prospect wrong for not buying. Instead, in his apology he took responsibility for the prospect not buying and that triggered something in the prospect. My guess is that what got triggered is: “here is a sales person who has given me a solution that meets my needs, saves me money, and improves my customer service. He has shown me in a compelling way what this solution will do for me and I haven’t committed to implement and he is apologizing for not doing his job. If he is willing to take responsibility like that, I would have a very good relationship with him and his company.”
There is a big lesson to be learned from this story. If your prospect isn’t buying, you, the sales person, have to take responsibility for the prospect not buying. Taking responsibility clears a space to help you and your prospect see what can be done to move the sale forward.