Sales Training Article: The Art (and Payoff) of Patience in Selling

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Early in my sales consulting and training career I encountered an irreverent, funny and deceptively intelligent person named Bob Populorum. He defined selling as a hurt and rescue mission. When sellers call on executives they must establish sufficient credibility so buyers will share goals or admit problems they are willing to spend money to achieve or address. It’s a watershed event in their relationships with buyers. The first core concept of CCS® applies: No goal, no prospect.

Mistakes sellers make stem from their impatience. Once goals or problems are shared, many sellers immediately try to rescue buyers by telling them the solution, a phenomenon I call “premature elaboration.” Sellers are well intentioned but there are two (2) problems in jumping to the rescue:

1. Sellers are shooting blind because they have no way of knowing if their generic “solution” will address a buyer’s needs.

2. Buyers aren’t ready to be rescued until they and the seller calling on them understand the shortcomings of how things are done without the offering being discussed.

Taking a step back, if buyers knew why desired business outcomes couldn’t be achieved they would try to address them without help from salespeople. The “hurt” amounts to asking questions to help buyers understand what’s broken in the way they currently operate. One further caveat: Sellers should uncover areas that are broken that can be addressed by capabilities within their offerings.

Having the patience to ask relevant diagnostic questions allows sellers to:

1. Understand the buyer’s situation before discussing their offerings.

2. Share only those capabilities that address barriers to achieving the desired outcome so that they share specific rather than generic solutions.

3. Help buyers quantify the potential value of achieving the goal being discussed by finding out how much problems cost buyers that are uncovered.

Being patient can be especially difficult for experienced sellers. They’ve had these conversations several times before and therefore see “solutions” long before buyers do. Understanding it’s the first time through for buyers can allow sellers to do thorough diagnoses (hurts) before earning the right to present solutions (rescues). Buyers want to know how things are broken, the specific capabilities they need to address them and the value of fixing them.

Ben Franklin said: People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover. As it relates to selling I think Bob Populorum would agree to tack onto Franklin’s phrase: by answering relevant questions posed by patient salespeople.

Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you.