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“Which One of Us is Elvis?”

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.



“Play It Again, Sam!” – Top Self-Limiting Records of Salespeople

Too many salespeople in the sales profession suffer from what we call "self-limiting records". A mentor of mine, Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group explains that a self-limiting record is really a belief by a salesperson that sabotages rather than supports their efforts for a successful sales outcome. As a result, the salesperson's failure will be predestined in many selling situations.

The best way to think about self-limiting records is this:  the belief behind it is like a 'record' that begins to play in a salesperson's mind whenever they find themselves in a certain situation and the record will dictate their thinking and behavior.

Here is a short list (there are more) of some of the most common self-limiting beliefs of underachieving salespeople. See if you can relate them to the situations you or your salespeople encounter.

1)  I need my prospects to like me.

A salesperson who suffers from this belief winds up losing control of the sales process, doing a lot of free consulting or closing too few sales whenever a situation requires them to do anything, at least in their mind, that could cause the prospect to get upset with them.

2)  Prospects are honest.

Salespeople who have this self-limiting belief lack the personal selling power to deal with the 'little white lies' that prospects use to protect themselves or hide their true intentions or agenda.

3)  I must educate the prospect.

This self-limiting record is usually held by a salesperson who educates themselves before making a major purchase. They view their prospects as having the same need and wind up getting their brains picked and giving away their knowledge and expertise.

4)  It's OK if my prospect thinks it over.

Overachieving salespeople never accept a 'think it over'. They always take the 'think it over' to a 'yes' or 'no'. By doing so, they save tons of time not chasing opportunities that are never going to happen. Underachievers hang on to the 'think it over' until the last dog dies and even then won't let go. A dead giveaway of this limiting belief is a bloated sales pipeline where nothing ever seems to close.

5)  I'm uncomfortable talking with prospects about their money.

Having this belief leads to a lack of information on what the prospect is capable of and willing to invest in the salesperson's solution. The result is underquoting, overquoting, misquoting and giving quotes to prospects who may not deserve one.

The good news is that these self-limiting records can be changed by 'taping' over them with new, more supportive beliefs. Accomplishing this requires time, effort and focus. The payoff for going through the process is a better performing, more effective salesperson.


“I Need Your Approval…No, I Really Do!”

As a leader of a sales organization, has one of your salespeople ever found themselves in one of these sales situations?

-The prospect requests more time to think before making a decision.

-The prospect has been leading the salesperson on.

-The prospect talks out of both sides of their mouth ("I'm happy but we do have some problems with our current supplier.")

I'm sure you can think of more challenges. Each of these situations can be deadly for a salesperson who has a strong need for approval which is primarily a need to be liked by their prospects. Now it's okay to like people. However, some salespeople can like people a little too much and work for their approval rather than to move the sales process forward and close the sale. Need for approval can be even more debilitating in a tough sales environment such as we currently experiencing.

Need for approval prevents a salesperson from closing a prospect who wants more time to think it over, from confronting (professionally) a prospect who is leading them on and from dealing with a prospect who doesn't sound like they are being truthful.

This need for approval is based in the salesperson's belief system. They feel they need the prospect's approval to feel like they are doing a good job. Anything other than the prospect's approval leads them to feel like they have failed and even feel rejected.

For those that have it, need for approval is a major weakness that must be overcome for a salesperson to be effective in the sales process. The bad news–it takes a long time to accomplish this, especially if the need is strong. The good news–it can be fixed, with hard work, discipline and coaching.

The first step is for the salesperson to change their belief system from a belief of "I need prospects to like me" to a more supportive belief of "My prospects must respect me in order to be my customer". This new belief, if consistently followed and combined with the supportive sales behavior, will dramatically improve a case of need for approval.

As a reminder for leaders of sales organizations (and for any individual salespeople who may be reading this post) the old thinking is "I need prospects to like me, then love me, then they will buy from me and respect me". The new thinking should be "My prospects respect me, they can like me when they decide to do business with me and then when they experience the value of my product or service, they can love me".

Remember, first 'respect, then 'like', then 'love'.

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