How to Sell More by Thinking

I have been involved in selling for my entire career.  One of the things that I have always tried to remind myself of, is “you have to speak to the listening” in order to be heard by prospects and customers.  This is true in life in general, but even more so in a sales environment.  The challenge is to overcome how our brain naturally works so we are able to do that.

You see, we have a tendency to respond based on all of things that have happened to us in the past. Our brain sees, hears, smells, feels and then instantly searches through a lifetime of old files to determine what the proper response should be.  As a result, we spend most of our time in the domain of representation and not the domain of action. Our prejudices our past experiences, our points of view, our associations and relationships often determine how we see things and how we respond to them.

We expect that when we see “A” followed by “B” then “C” will certainly follow. Unfortunately, because of old files and the automatic responses that come from them we often miss key messages from prospects and customers and on a larger scale, from entire markets.  Our brain tells us to act in a certain way because what we see represents something we have seen in the past and we have a ready response on file. The obvious is hidden from us because the situation has been given no real thought.

In reality, one customer’s needs don’t match another customer’s needs.  One prospect’s level of understanding is not the same as another’s.  The situations and business environments of our customer and the markets we work in are changing on a daily basis, especially in the world of technology.  If we allow ourselves to fall prey to automatic responses, we will lose sales and miss out on market opportunities. As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

If you have ever been in a meeting after a major sale has been lost or an opportunity has been missed, you have probably heard these words. “How did that happen, it’s obvious that…”.  So how do we solve the problem?  How do we see the obvious and prevent ourselves from acting on representations and responding with old files?

First, it isn’t easy.  It requires that we think. Pulling old files and responding to what is happening, is not thinking.  It may feel like thinking but it isn’t.  Thinking means we are formulating, questioning, reasoning and reflecting on what is going on. In order to actively think, we need to get out of the domain of representation and into the domain of action.

Next time you catch yourself walking into a customer’s office or a company meeting telling yourself “this is what is going to happen and when it does this is what I will do or say”, remind yourself that you need to actively listen to what is being said and participate, instead of observing and responding.  A real key that we are pulling old files from the archives comes when we find ourselves formulating an answer to something someone is saying while they are still speaking.  It is a clear indication we are not really in the conversation, that we are not really there on the field of play.

Being present, being there right now is what really allows us to listen and understand customers, markets and opportunities.

About John Rice

John Rice, senior director, partner community at Intermedia, is a computer industry channel sales and marketing executive with more than 25 years of experience in distribution, technology sales, channel management and professional services. He owned and managed a value-added reseller business for 12 years and has worked as a channel executive for Intelligent Electronics, MicroAge and Gateway computers. John was also the principal consultant for The Business Management Group, a channel consulting company focused on reseller operations and service management. He currently serves as the Chairman of the CompTIA Cloud / SaaS Community and is also a member of the CompTIA Community Executive Board.