Sales is a Dance, Not a Wrestling Match

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket Magazine Week of Feb. 12th)

One of the determining factors to whether you’re going to have an enjoyable sales career or quickly burn out can be seen by how you view and interact with clients during the sales process. It offers such empirical evidence that one should do a self-evaluation whenever that feeling of “Nothing seems to be going my way” becomes overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to sales, or a veteran. This should be the place to start when things just seem to not be working.

So many newcomers to the world of sales are inadequately trained. They get a quick study course by some “Sales Trainer” hired by the firm who is now showing the 475th class of new hires this month why everyone on the planet is just waiting to hear about your offerings because they need what you have to sell. All you need to do is get in the door.

Others are what I like to call the “Semi-Veteran.” This is a person who’s been in sales just long enough to have a few success stories under their belt but now thinks to close more sales all they need to do is learn how to land the “Knock-Out Punch” at the close. Finally there are the “Dinosaurs.” The ones that have been selling forever but just can’t seem to move about the changing landscape any longer. You know their demise is near when they say “Well I can’t seem to sell anymore, might as well go into management!”

Time and time again during these progressions in one’s career a salesperson looks to some form of wrestling technique as a prescriptive method for their consternation. They hear one guru after another tout they need to learn techniques such as, The tie down, The throw back, The flip, and so on. Although it maybe useful in understanding these terms and techniques if you’re applying them in the context of pinning an opponent rather than dancing with one. Trust me, it won’t be long until it’s you with your back on the mat.

Sales is a dance of discovery. It’s an interaction where both can swap leads during the process. It’s about asking relevant questions to fulfill real needs with real offerings that both parties find mutually beneficial. One can learn and adjust dance moves to changing times or tastes in music. You may find it’s better to look for another partner because one is tone-deaf, or has two left feet. Or maybe you’ll choose to see just how skilled you’ve become and try dancing with them anyway because now not only can you see how to improve their situation, but you have garnered the skills needed to demonstrate it through improved techniques. But that won’t happen if you’re wrestling.

Wrestling is a game of one wins, one loses. It’s a style of sales that should be left to the “Snake Oil” sales teams. Using high-pressure tactics to make an opponent’s strengths work against them in order to pin them down into signing or agreeing to buy something takes an inordinate amount of energy and sooner or later results in exhaustion. And just like a fight, it ends with one side losing and not too happy whether it be the salesperson themselves or the client. It’s far too taxing on both and unsustainable.

So next time you’re feeling like things just aren’t going the way you would like ask yourself, “When calling on clients do you hear 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, in your head? Or, are you waiting to hear the mat being slapped 1, 2, 3?” If it’s the latter you need to unlace your wrestling boots and slip back into your dancing shoes.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr