Truth in the sales process revisited: Controlled Messaging

Recently, I spoke to someone who had followed my advice about being completely truthful in the sales process, and was finding that he wasn’t getting as many sales from it as he thought.  I started digging into his process, and instantly realized the problem.

Truthfulness does not mean “reveal everything at once” – nor does it mean that you don’t control what information you give at any time. You need truth in every step of the process, but that doesn’t mean that you have to show your entire hand from the get-go.  You should be offering up information in snack-sizes and when it is required to move the process along.  You should always be managing the process towards the end goal that you want – a close.

Think of it this way…  Go back to your single days (or if you are single.. go back to last weekend), and imagine yourself in a bar and seeing an attractive person.  You certainly don’t walk up to them and say, “I just saw you, had a mental fantasy about us together, and thought I would come over here and talk to you.  I think we are likely quite compatible and would make very attractive children.”

While this may be a very truthful comment about your intentions, it sort of reveals WAY too much information at once and perhaps reveals your ultimate goal without really getting any feedback, or easing into the “sale”

What should you say?  Probably something closer to, “Hi, can I buy you a drink?”

When you ask that, the person most likely KNOWS that you find them attractive.  They probably KNOW you are trying to get closer to them to potentially find out if there are any “next steps” to the relationship, but its WAY less threatening than the first approach.

As your relationship develops, IF it develops, you can reveal the other information at appropriate points so that you ultimately both wind up in the same place and live happily ever after with your attractive children.

Sales is exactly the same.  First, you need to understand your end goal, and then you need to map out your process to get there.  You need to then think about how your prospect sees the world and what things are important to them.

In the example that prompted this article, the salesperson was cold calling and then traversing the organization to get to the right person and was striking out most of the time.  The problem was, he was revealing everything he planned on pushing to the people for whom he needed an introduction.  So the call went something like this, “Hi, Fred.  Can you introduce me to Mary, your CFO?   I’m going to try to sell her our product.  You guys are a great organization and a great candidate for our enterprise package.”   Well… that indeed was truthful… but scary!  He essentially asked for an introduction and revealed that he was going to be a pushy salesperson.  Who wants to pass on that referral!?  Too truthful.

What should his call have been?  “Hi Fred.  I was hoping you could help me get an introduction to Mary, your CFO.  My company sells a very interesting solution that may have applicability for her, and I’d like to set up an exploratory call with her to discuss.”  Fred should know from this conversation that Mary is going to get a sales pitch.  That was obvious, but nothing was revealed about the fact that the enterprise product would be pushed.

Changing to this strategy is yielding much better results.

There is actually much more to be written about pushiness and sales, but I’m listing this example here because this particular salesperson was taking “be truthful” to heart and using it in every message that they conveyed – thinking they were doing a good thing – and not realizing that they were likely being perceived as pushy.