Psychology & Business

Many senior sales managers have advised us over the years that ‘Sales’ is a number game, and our focus should be in putting more energy in selling and not in any posthaste analysis. We should reach out to as many prospects as possible to ensure returns and keep on moving away from the ones who turned ‘cold’ along the way.

Prospects in the markets normally give unpleasant surprises to sales people who suddenly see the prospect slipping away, hitting their sales plans and performances. The prospect declares his inability to pursue the engagement with the sales person. So…what happened? Why did he lose interest? Should we deliberate on such dropouts and move on to the next one?

Perhaps not! The answer lies in our ability to understand and harness the concept of ‘sales psychology’; developing the ability and insight to such events in a sales person’s life. We need to be in a position to reinvent our approach and position ourselves to minimize such recurrences. We need to develop the ability to stop, sense, analyze, and ask such questions as – Where are we going, What are we doing, Is it working etc. If not, what can we do about it?

I deliberately focused only on the list of cold prospects left behind by my sales team. The study revealed a unique pattern in these cases. Both the sales executives and the prospects seemed to engage in the same steps and present the same challenges and obstacles at the same point in the sales cycle. In almost all of these cases, the sales personnel invariably engaged with the IT manager, who normally reports to the company chief.

The reasons for disengagement were evident. IT managers excel in technology and not in other business aspects. They focus mainly on supporting the existing systems, and are averse to taking risks with newer stuff that sales people push at them. Since their participation in the executive strategy meetings is normally limited, they are not skilled in selling their own ideas to their superiors. They strive for security, detailed documentation, solid references, serious research, and concise presentations. How can they take purchase decisions independently? This is true in most of the cases.

To avoid failures, they preferred to stall decisions citing reasons like: “This is going to be difficult to sell to my boss” or “No budget for this service” or “I am not convinced of the effectiveness” or “I will have to think about this” or “Your price is too high” or “The project is shelved”…and so on.

A little deliberation on some successful closures showed that success was more evident when our sales people included other functional managers, together with the IT manager, in their discussions. The sales person seriously needs to know that he or she should not invest more energy when circumstances are not right, like:

– If the key contact at the prospect is less than 45 days on his job, his likely intention would be to gain more knowledge or work for preparing broader budgets. One should focus less on such leads.
– Multiple cancelled meetings – They reflect poor intention and most likely an exercise to improve self-importance.
– Personality conflict – Many times, the prospect has a personality that makes it hard for a sales person to interact positively with him. Such an account should be reallocated to a more aggressive sales person.

Persistent use of Sales Psychology makes us understand the parameters that compel prospects to buy. Some parameters have shown a huge relevance in most cases:

– Giving more choice to prospects normally lessens the focus and the chances of sale. Instead, if sales people funnel them to the right places by using select ‘choice buckets’, they may be compelled to pick one choice and move ahead.
– Prospects pay for convenience AND results. One should not be scared to sell what one is already giving away free. Even if you give away your best information, chances are that they will happily pay to implement that information for them.
– Prospects respond better to telling them what they are missing over telling them what benefits they stand to gain. Just because losses loom larger than gains, does not mean one should focus on loss. One should explain what prospect stand to gain as well as what they stand to lose for best results.
– Is the sales person diluting the message to cater to everyone? That is a mistake. One cannot please everyone. You can only please the right prospect. Instead of working to please everyone, cater to the main market movers.

A combination of simple research, understanding of human psychology in business, and a review of the trends within the sales team will give a deeper and meaningful understanding of the company’s unique sales challenges and solutions that are required to turn the tables around.

I continue to drill these concepts in my sales team even today. Newer studies reveal more insights only convincing me that each company has to learn its own sales lessons. The journey is always dynamic. Happy selling folks!

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