The Sales Masochist and the £1,000,000.00 Chewing-Gum

It is funny how we, human beings, sometimes almost purposely choose to not see the road-sign that clearly indicates “Success” and choose the one that very clearly states “Failure” instead. We all do it at some point in our lives and, more often than not, more than just once.

Have you ever talked to someone who, although was trying to solve a problem or somehow better his/her situation, was doing things which not only would not have helped but surely made things worse? If you think about it, you may even realise that the same happened to you; it certainly happened to me several times.

Although this can, and often does, happen in more complicated situations, I will make a very simple example to simplify the concept: Imagine a man who falls down from his bike and hurts his leg. The leg is hurt but nothing too bad; just a light trauma which, although very painful at the time of the incident, will not carry other consequences.  The man begins to scream; some would also swear and become angry, agitated and tense. Perhaps the man will remain on the floor, rolling, tossing and screaming. If you think about it, this behaviour will only make things worse. The rolling on the floor, the tension, the agitation, will cause the muscles and the tendons of the leg to become less relaxed, more tense and thus the leg will hurt more.

If the man stood up or sat up, took a few deep breaths and focused on relaxing for a few seconds, the pain will decrease considerably and there will be no danger of aggravating the injury. Still, most of us would react in the least favourable way. We know what to do but we simply do not do it, engaging in “sadomasochist’s behaviours”.

The business equivalent of this example could be us with a client who would not buy. Picture this in your mind for a moment: A lead that we have picked up form a networking event, we call them and say something like:

  • You “Hi Mr Lead this is Caller, remember me, we met at Networking Event X&Y”
  • Lead: “Oh yeah yeah I remember. How are you?”
  • You: “Excellent thank you. How are you?”
  • Lead: “Yeah yeah, I am alright. How can I help you?”
  • You: “So, as agreed, I am calling you to arrange a meeting to see if we can help you with the SEO of your website; would Monday at 3pm be okay or would Tuesday at after lunch be better?”
  • Lead:”Mmmm, I don’t know. Listen, I don’t have my diary with me at the moment, can I call you back tomorrow when I have it with me?”

At this point a big red warning sign would have come up right in behind or above your frontal lobe but, as we often do, you have ignored it. Think about it, you have met this person at a networking event and Mr Lead told you that he needed some help with the SEO of his website then, when you call as agreed, he sounds less than even remotely excited about the potential solution. This means, most of the times, that either the need to solve the problems is not imminent or the prospect does not believe that you are “the man for the job”.

Needless to say that after two days from the telephone call, you have not heard from Mr Lead and so decided to give him a call. Depending on your personality, industry, product/service, culture and importance of these particular lead, this could be the third mistake that you are making.

You call and he picks up and, after the initial greetings, the conversation continues along these lines:

  • You: “So, you were going to check your diary and then call me to arrange an appointment. Can we do this now?”
  • Lead: “Sure, what is it again that we are meeting for?”
  • You: “At  Networking Event X&Y you told me that you wanted your website to be on the first page of Google for a few keywords and so we agreed to arrange a meeting to look at how we could help”
  • Lead: “Ah yes of course. I am going to be crazy busy for the next 3 or 4 weeks, can you call me back next month, say after the 10th?”

Second warning light… Ignored again! You agree to call back.

So you put in your diary on the 10th of following month to call Mr Lead to arrange a meeting. The day comes and you call but no luck, you are greeted by an automated message that tells you that Mr Lead is on holiday until the 14th, back in the office on the 15th. Of course at this point you think that, being as busy as he is, he must have forgotten about this holiday when he first asked you to call after the 10th and so, like a good obedient boy, you make a note in your diary to call back on the 16th so that Mr Lead can settle after his break.

On the 16th you call and Mr Lead tells you the holiday he went back to piles and pile of work and so right now is not the time. He tells you that he still wants to meet but now is really a crazy time. Could you please call me at the end of next week?

By the time you finally get to meet him, you have gone to a great Sales Training Event during which you have learnt great techniques and this is a great opportunity to practice them. Mr Lead comes to your office, you make him a good cup of tea and after having gone through the illustration of how you can solve his SEO needs he tells you that he is indeed very interested and he definitely wants you to work on his website. He just needs to think about the time scale and minor other details and so Mr Lead asks if you could call him next week, He reassures you that this is a “done deal”, he just needs to check these things.

You don’t need me to tell you at this point that the deal was never done and will never be done; do you?! We have all gone through situations like this one and, although it is hard to admit, many people I know still do it all the time! I know because sometimes I purposely play Mr Lead to see what the person does and see if I have a prospect. Well, I do find a new prospect nearly everytime I do this.

Let’s look at what the mistakes were here:

If Mr Lead manifested interest/need for our services at a networking event, unless you could not do this for whatever reason, the meeting should have been finalised then.

When you have made the first call and Mr Lead told you that he could not make an appointment with you because he did not have his diary which, although it may be true, it’s a commonly used excuse to not commit, you should have openly asked something like: “Sure I can definitely call you tomorrow but I do not want to waste your time; is improving the SEO of your website something that you are still keen to resolve now or would it be better if I left you my number and you call me when you are ready to look at it in the future? “ This is a polite, professional and conclusive way of clarifying everybody’s position and would have saved you (and them) the time that you have wasted to get a no. Also, this kind of approaches often help the person realise that an issue had been procrastinated on and so he or she may decide to actually change that now and agree to meet you to do business.

When you called and you got a voicemail greeting message telling you that Mr Lead was on holiday, you should have left a message to call if you still interested in meeting you and then simply stop chasing.

There is no need to analyse all the mistakes that followed as, if you read this article and implement its advice, you will not be making those mistakes again (that is if you feel that you ever made them in the first instance of course). What we need to look at however, is the masochist patterns that we followed throughout this process. When Mr Lead was not keen to make an appointment because he did not have his diary and, at the same time, did not sound excited about solving the SEO problems of his website, we knew, deep inside, that something was not right. Deep within we felt that there was something not right and that is why, when we find ourselves in similar situations, we don’t feel excited about the fact that someone will call us tomorrow to arrange a meeting to buy our services; we already know, at the unconscious level, that this is a time-wasting situation. Still we carry on with it. We waste more and more time until we are either told that something happened and so the meeting/sale cannot go ahead or the lead disappears.

We often recognise these masochist patterns from the early stage, we know, at least unconsciously, that this is no good news and still we go on with it; why? Reasons include:

  • Lack of confidence in asking for the close or the “real” reason for the appointment
  • Excessive, unnecessary and counter-productive politeness wanting to be not too “in your face”
  • Fear of getting a “no”  – a maybe or an excuse (something unforeseen happened) is less frightening and less embarrassing
  • Fear of wasting an “opportunity” – ”maybe he will buy” – without realising that even he does buy the extra time invested in that sale literally kills the profits

What to do to avoid this:

  • Don’t be afraid to politely ask the lead to call you when he/she is ready. “You know what Mr Lead, I understand how busy you are right now and, whilst I truly believe that SEO of you website will really make a massive difference to your sales, I don’t want to bother you. This is my number, call me when you are ready to solve the SEO issues of the website and I would be happy to help your company increase the sales with good SEO
  • Don’t be too diplomatic – If you meet someone at a networking event, it is clear that we are all there to do business and so, if you honestly see that a fellow networker needs something that you have, there is no reason to shy away just because you are scared of being too “in your face”
  • Always remember that selling is a numbers game – depending on what you sell and to whom, the numbers may change but it is always a numbers game. Okay, maybe 95% of the time
  • Remember that a “maybe” is like a lit candle in your hand. You can only hold so many before you start to drop the lot
  • You will always get more “nos” than “yeses”; the secret is to get the “nos” quickly and the yeses smoothly
  • There are no exceptions and even if in the long run you might find a long-worked –for “yes”, unless you have particular interest for a specific client, whether that’s for political reasons, portfolio or whatever else which makes the time investment worth it (in which case this would not be a sales process but a strategic move), the long-worked-for “yes” was not worth it

So, when we feel that we should let go, chances are that it is really time to let go; don’t be a sales masochist 😉

Have fun…

Oh yes, I forgot about the £1,000,000.00 chewing-gum… it will be live from 7 June 2011 HERE


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