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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH

The STORY:

“Sally, we need to make sure that I understand why you haven’t adopted the new prospect calling policy,” said Mark, while she sat across from him at the desk.”

“Well,” began Sally, but then stopped when she saw him hold up his hand.

“Time out,” he responded. “My goal for each salesperson is to adopt the new calling policy. Informally, it seems that the rest have and you haven’t. Is that a fair statement?”

“Yes, but I can . . .” she stopped again when he once more raised his hand.

“Look, the times someone has sat where you are and didn’t go along . . . there have been one of two reasons. Either you don’t think the new approach will work or you are just dead set against changing. Which is it?”

Sally stared over his shoulder at a spot on the wall for a minute. Mark was determined to wait. He could see her struggling for an answer.

“I don’t think,” she began looking at him, “I just don’t think it will work.”

A silent moment passed. “I appreciate that.” responded Mark. “When you said ‘don’t think it will work,’ did you mean for you or for all the other salespeople?”

“I guess,” she said and paused for a moment, “that I mean for me. From what I hear, the other salespeople are really getting results.”

“By getting results, you mean?”

“Well, each one of them now has more appointments than ever before.”

“I know this may sound . . . but don’t you want more appointments?”

“Sure,” she quickly said.

“So . . . what am I missing then?”

“It’s just,” pausing for the words, “well, what we are supposed to say sounds so odd. It’s not me.”

“It’s not me . . . what do you mean?”

“Beth said the same thing a week ago,” replied Sally, “but she went ahead. She has five appointments now. I guess it’s worth a shot.”

“And the shot will be?” asked Mark.

“All right, all right. I’ll shoot the rest of the day.”

The RESULT:

Mark modified behavior.

DISCUSSION:

There are a thousand and one reasons why someone does not modify his behavior. Had Mark responded to Sally’s comments in a typical fashion, would the conversation have veered off into a pointless exchange of words?

By Mark giving Sally one of two choices for responding at the beginning of the conversation, Mark maintained control of how the conversation would go. Regardless of which choice she made, Mark was prepared to go down either path. The conclusion would have been the same.

Further, much like he assesses a customer’s specific pain, Mark did the same by not accepting Sally’s ambiguous responses. He truly didn’t know what she meant when she said “I don’t think it will work.” While you could assume you know, unless you ask for clarification, you don’t know.

The second time he asked for clarification was regarding the “getting results” response. Yes, he probably could figure that one out, but why take the chance by mind reading? Instead, by asking for clarification, Sally stated what her goal was—getting more appointments.

Finally, it turned out that her “pain” for not changing was that the script was “odd sounding.” Once more responding to Mark’s request for clarification, Sally responded that Beth said the same thing, yet, went ahead and got appointments. Then Sally said, “I guess it’s worth a shot.”

At that moment, Sally was modifying her behavior. Then Mark reinforced the modified behavior by asking when the shot would be.

APPROACH:

Learn what the “pain” is that is preventing the salesperson from doing what is expected. Just as with a salesperson and a prospect, you can only learn what the pain is by asking questions.

By setting up a conversation, where you ask the salesperson which of the following two reasons is the reason she isn’t doing as expected, you force her to respond in a controlled manner.

Once you have whichever reason it is, ask her, by using her own words, for further clarification. Resist the urge to lecture since lecturing will never work.

In most instances, by the time you ask for the third or fourth clarification, she will have told you the pain. Now you can manage the real problem.

THOUGHT:

Manage the pain, not the results of the pain.

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S Sandler Training Finding Power In Reinforcement (with design) and Tactics for Sales Managers are registered service marks of Sandler Systems, Inc.

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