This weekend I heard an interesting story that reminded me of a particular sales challenge that almost all salespeople encounter.
The story comes from a podcast interview with Peter Noone, lead singer of the ’60’s musical group, Herman’s Hermits (I’m dating myself with this reference). Noone had an opportunity to meet Elvis Presley, his band, his manager Colonel Tom Parker and heard many interesting stories about the ‘King’.
Here’s the story–In the process of putting together the music for the film, “King Creole”, Presley and one of his band members got into an argument about how to play a certain song. The disagreement went back and forth for awhile and then in Noone’s telling of the story, Presley asked the band member a question–“Which one of us is Elvis?” End of argument.
With six words, Elvis established who was in control of the conversation and who had the authority over the decision on how to play the piece of music.
This anecdote got me to thinking about how salespeople react to prospects who, with a heavy hand, take control of the sales call, dictate the conversation and turn the salesperson into a facilitator instead of a consultative seller and advisor.
How many of us have been in a sales meeting with a prospect with a ‘strong’ personality who has it all worked out in their minds what it is they think they want from us and when we’ve tried to slow them down and employ a consultative approach, they proceeded to attempt to bowl us over with a “Which one of us is Elvis?” move? I would guess we’ve all been there. But the key question is which salespeople are capable of defending themselves from this type of prospect, keeping control of the sales process and still getting the outcome from the call that they want?
Looking at our data, we know that 62% of salespeople will not be able to deal effectively with this challenge and will default to the facilitator role. They aren’t able to push back and challenge these ‘driver’ personalities and regain control. Their need for approval prevents them from doing this. Need for approval is defined as the salesperson’s need to be liked, the need to fit in, the need for ‘strokes’ from people with whom they deal. It becomes a problem when a salesperson’s need for approval is stronger than their need to close the sale. They will avoid saying or doing those things which, in their mind, would change how the prospect feels about them. This includes, but is not limited to tough questions, legitimate confrontation and the potential inability to handle rejection or a ‘no’.
So if you recognize some of your salespeople as having need for approval, what should you do?
Step One – Evaluate your salespeople with a sales specific assessment that will determine who on your team has need for approval and how severe it is.
Step Two – Use the assessment results to craft a coaching plan for your salesperson to help them fix their need for approval.
Step Three – Conduct a disciplined, consistent coaching process with your salesperson.
An important reminder–when coaching a salesperson who has a severe case of need for approval, be patient. Very patient. Need for approval is the second most powerful sales weaknesses we find in salespeople so it takes a minimum of six months to see improvement.