It is easy to fear the wrong danger. By allowing your fear of damaging client relationships and dealing directly with difficult issues to prevent you from taking action, you lose their trust instead of building it.
If your prospective client asks you to skip most of the commitments they really need to make to produce the results they need, it is your job to push back. If they attempt to skip these required commitments by asking you to go directly to presenting a solution or demo of your offering prematurely, not pushing back and asking them to go through a process that serves them better makes you something less than consultative, and less than a trusted advisor.
During the process, when your dream client asks you not to engage other stakeholders because they fear losing control of some initiative, your willingness to go along with that plan without objection makes you complicit in the mistake they are making when consensus is necessary. Your contact might like you, but later on, you will both realize that your fear of engaging the people necessary to a decision was poor choice. Perhaps you’ll still be friends, even though you won’t be working together on their problem.
At some point, you are going to have to talk about money. It’s inevitable, and your prospective clients are going to ask you to sharpen your pencil. Allowing them underinvest stems from the fear of talking about the concessions they are going to be making by taking money out of their solution. Maybe you win, and maybe you lose. But when you allow them to underinvest and they fail to produce the results that you sold them, your position as a peer has been greatly diminished.
You don’t gain trust by avoiding difficult issues. Being likable is a competitive advantage, but it’s only a fraction of an age-old recipe that also includes being known, being trusted, and being able to create economic value. Avoiding conflict subtracts from trust.
You can’t trade being liked for creating trust and creating economic value. But these two things are not mutually exclusive. If you are skillful, you can deal with difficult issues and still be liked.
If you want trust, you gain it by helping your client deal with difficult issues and face reality. Avoiding these issues subtracts from trust.
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