There are a lot of people who believe that selling well requires that you paint a picture of a desired better future without sharing the challenges that it is going to take to make that future a reality. They believe that sharing anything that might even hint at being challenging or difficult will chase their prospective client right into the arms of their competitor. So, they sell only the journey down the primrose path, leaving out all the obstacles that are part of a real change initiative.
The truth of the matter is that being transparent about the challenges creates trust, makes your advice informed and realistic, and create a preference to work with you.
After I had sold for a decade, I started to tell my clients that “We tend to get things right after the third or fourth try, after we’ve made a few mistakes, learned a few things, and had a chance to make adjustments.” Clients would respond, “Three or four tries? Really? . . . it takes us eight or ten tries to get things right.” As it turns out, mature business people trust the fact that you know it isn’t going to be easy, that you know you are going to have to work at things, and that you are going to have to make adjustments as proof that you can be trusted. What they struggle with is the story that you are going to make everything better by taking over the challenges that the client and your competitor have struggled with for a long time, possibly years.
When results are difficult to produce, disclosing the fact that there will be challenges means your perspective is informed by experience, realistic, and that you have figured out how to figure things out. It’s proof positive that you are not afraid of dealing with problems and challenges and that you are not going to run and hide at the first sign of trouble.
If you want to create a preference, you start by being the kind of person that other people want to do business with, and that starts with being trusted. If you are always transparent, you will gain that trust because your client knows that you aren’t afraid of the truth. If your prospective client runs away because you have told them how much work it is going to take to give them the result they need, then you are better off allowing your competitor to serve them while they get the education that comes from experiencing the better, faster, cheaper lie first hand (in my experience, it takes three changes of partners before they seek the truth).
Painting a pretty and unrealistic picture is how you stay small. A consultative salesperson and trusted advisor is not afraid to tell the truth—or speak truth to power. That’s why they are trusted.
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Filed under: Sales Acumen