We’ve all heard it before: “Buyers are liars,” the old notion that if something in the buying process doesn’t go according to plan, it’s always the buyers fault. The buyer told you this, that and the other and then didn’t fulfill on their promises. Sales people on the other hand are nothing but honest and they never stretch the truth. Unlike the buyer, they never over-promise and under-deliver and they are perfect in every way! Say it with me now….REALLY?
As a sales guy, I am here to tell you that in reality, what exists between buyer and seller is almost always convoluted at best. In most cases, it’s even worst than convoluted — going into mystical, mystical mysticism. The buyer assumes one thing, while the seller assumes another. How do we bridge the gap? How do we make it so that both the buyer and the seller are both on the same page, following the same rules and sharing the same expectations?
The answer is quite simple actually: Clear communication! It seems too easy, right? But it’s not. Because all too often, as sales people we are actually afraid to ask the tough questions, direct questions. Instead we beat around the bush.
Here’s a great exercise: I was once asked to guess the name of a state that a colleague wrote on a piece of paper and then put behind her back. She then proceeded to tell me to guess the name of the state by asking things like, does it border an ocean? Is it east or West of the Mississippi? Is it a northern or southern state? After asking about 7 questions, I finally guessed the name of the state that was written. Victory! The lesson, however, was instead of beating around the bush to get the answer, why not just ask the question. I could have just asked: “Hey Tina, what is the name of the state that you just wrote on that piece of paper and put behind your back”? By asking direct questions, you will get direct answers.
So why don’t we do it? It’s pretty simple, really: As salespeople we strive to be liked rather than respected. Need for social approval is greater than the desire for financial success. That my friend is the cold hard truth. We think, “If I ask a tough question, then the buyer may not like me.” The challenge is it’s typically an unconscious decision made by the salesperson. We don’t want to sound pushy, we don’t want to sound needy but most of all we want to be liked by the buyer.
Buyers have the same desire. They too want to be liked by the seller, and that’s why they tell the sales person what he or she wants to hear. The buyer will say things like, “yes, this is a great product, I could absolutely see us using this.” Buyers don’t ever want to disappoint the seller so they avoid situations, they don’t show up for follow-up meetings, they make commitments they know they will not keep and then simply go dark.
When you bring two parties together, buyer and seller, you must set clear ground rules. Be up front about the fact that this is just business, not personal. Make a commitment on your first call that honesty is the best policy. This will open the door in the early stages for free flowing communication without fear of disappointment and quite possibly squash the notion that “buyers are liars” once and for all.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.