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Sales shame kills your prospecting

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Aug 6, 2009 6:54 pm
someone said in another thread they couldn't pick up the phone this morning... happens to the best. This may help some...   How Sales Shame Kills Your Prospecting—And How to Stop It

You may assume it's only natural to think angry or contemptuous thoughts when someone tries to "sell" you. This is a trap. Don't do it. It's essential to your own prospecting success that you view sales people from a neutral position. Here's the how and why.

Picture this: You're in your office, concentrating hard on a financial plan for a new client. Your telephone rings. Your focus disrupted, you pick up the phone and half-heartedly greet your caller—only to find yourself talking to a salesperson pitching a time management system for FAs. Not only is he interrupting you, but he is awkward and unprofessional to boot. He mispronounces your name and is obviously reading from a script.

You're caught off guard—and worse, you feel annoyed and resentful, maybe even angry. You gruffly tell the salesman you are "not interested" and hang up before he can utter another word.

Welcome to the world of prospecting and sales!

The negativity trap

How do you feel when a salesperson prospects you or solicits your business?

Come on, fess up—because your candid answer to that question may hold the key to whether or not you'll become wildly successful.

Do you feel irritated and annoyed when someone else prospects or attempts to sell to you? If you do, you may have what's been termed role-rejection call reluctance. This type of call reluctance is fueled by feelings of shame about selling or even outright denial that selling is part of your job.

When we advisors associate salespeople and selling with negative emotions, that association can't help but carry over into our own prospecting. Why? Because, when we view other salespeople in a bad light, some part of our brain (even if we're not aware of it) projects that viewpoint onto others, including ourselves.

We become convinced that our own prospective clients must feel the same negative feelings we do about being prospected—and that subtle or even unconscious certainty stops us in our tracks. After all, who wants to irritate or annoy people? Who wants to be the very thing they themselves find annoying, irritating, or even downright offensive? It's only natural to want to avoid those feelings. That causes us to procrastinate or avoid making calls—and that prevents our business from growing.

"Selling" really is part of the job

Some financial advisors want so badly to avoid these negative feelings that they actually deny to themselves and to others that they sell at all. Only used-car salespeople, they insist adamantly, would sink so low as to sell.

In fact, the very title "financial advisor," while it captures an important part of our role, also makes it easier for FAs who suffer from role rejection to deny that selling is part of their job.

Let's get real. Being a salesperson does not mean pitching product. Selling is simply a business process of exchanging goods and services for money. Nothing happens (including your first appointment with a prospective client) until something gets sold. FAs do not make one red cent unless they sell their ideas, their expertise, and their services—and yes, in some cases, even some product.

Even if you are a fee-only financial planner working on an hourly basis, you must find prospective clients—and when you get in front of them, you must sell yourself before they're going to hire you.

Thoughts = destiny

Prospecting is a core competency of any FA. Prospecting is vital. It's that simple. If you're going to be any good at prospecting and become consistently comfortable with it, you need to accept the truth that you are, at least in part, a salesperson. You need to question and quite possibly change your own assumptions about sales and selling.

Oddly enough, one of the easiest ways to start the process of changing ourselves is by changing how we view others. That's because we tend to project our feelings about ourselves onto other people.

If you want relief from role-rejection call reluctance, you can take a big step in the right direction by choosing to view salespeople who prospect you from a different perspective. Believe it or not, doing that will eventually transform your feelings about your own prospecting.

There's an old aphorism that goes, "Your thought becomes your action, your action becomes your habit, your habit becomes your character, and your character becomes your destiny."

It follows that if you can control your thoughts, you can control your destiny. Learning to change your thought patterns is a first and vital part of overcoming role rejection.

Allowing yourself to feel resentment or contempt for other salespeople is a destructive habit that can only sabotage your success.

Note that I used the word "habit." That means you learned it—and you can unlearn it.

Shifting into neutral

But how do we do this?

Consider this: it is not a situation that causes annoyance and irritation. It is how you choose to think about that situation.

It is not the salesperson on the other end of the phone (or in the office next to ours) that causes us to feel resentful, annoyed, or downright angry. It is the thought we choose to think about that salesperson that triggers our negative emotions.

As simple as that sounds, it is very profound. You may assume it's only natural to think angry or contemptuous thoughts when someone tries to "sell" you. In fact, though, there are many possible reactions to that experience.

Let's go back to that earlier scenario of the salesperson interrupting your concentration, and look at some of the very different perspectives through which one could view a sales call. Here are some different ways of thinking about the call—and the salesperson who made it.

·         Annoyance: These telemarketers are so frustrating. They just have no respect for other people's time.<?: prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

·         Contempt: Why can't these people get a real job and stop interrupting people who are trying to make an honest living?

·         Neutrality: He's just an ordinary guy, maybe even an interesting guy with a decent product. He's obviously just new at the job and needs some pointers.

·         Willingness: He caught me at a bad time. But maybe I'll give him a call back later and give him a chance to tell me more about this time management thing—maybe it's something I could use.

·         Compassion: The guy's call was not well-timed, but he was just doing his job. I'm sure he has a mother and children who love him and think he is a nice person.

·         Peace: Calling people is part of my job too, and I'm a nice, decent person who genuinely wants to help others—so maybe this guy is really interested in helping others, too. He reveals a side of me. (This is probably how the Dalai Lama would view the prospecting call!)

I will not insult you by suggesting you should shift immediately from intense dislike of salespeople to loving it when someone tries to prospect you (although at some point in your career, you may actually find yourself feeling that way!). You don't need to make such an extreme change. All you need to do is shift your thought process into neutral.

Take two

You're in your office, concentrating hard on a financial plan for a new client. Your telephone rings. Your focus disrupted, you pick up the phone and half-heartedly greet your caller—and find yourself talking to a salesperson pitching a time management system for FAs.

You are caught off guard. But you immediately remind yourself that this salesperson is doing exactly what you do to be successful: prospecting.

You think to yourself, "He is doing his job. He is seeking success, just like me. He has children to support, just like me. He has mortgage payments, just like me. He is learning about prospecting, just like me. He has feelings, just like me. He makes mistakes, just like me. He fumbles his words once in a while, just like me. He mispronounces difficult names, just like me. He is prospecting, and I respect that."

You politely listen to his scripted message without judgment, and ascertain if you want to know more. If not, you kindly thank him for calling, hang up the phone, and get back to your work without any negative feelings.

Doesn't that feel better than being annoyed or irritated?

Over time, as you practice this shift in your thought pattern and assumptions, you will start to notice a subtle shift in your feelings about prospecting, and its role in your business.

A side note: many salespeople say that they respect other salespeople who prospect them, as long as the salesperson is professional, engaging, and pronounces their name correctly.

This is a trap. Avoid it. Do not allow yourself to be judgmental. You cannot afford to have negative feelings and resentment toward other salespeople, regardless of their level of competence. The only purpose those feelings will serve is to undermine your own business development efforts.

Instead, work to achieve a stance of neutral observation that you can use to improve your own skill set. "Wow, that salesperson really turned me off. Why? What was it about that call that did not engage me? And what can I personally learn from that?"

Even if you encounter a salesperson who behaves in a questionable or unethical way, you can maintain this neutral stance. This doesn't mean you condone the behavior or seek to replicate it. It means simply that you acknowledge what is inappropriate and learn from it. You can even use the experience as a tool to fortify your own ethical position, perhaps as an inspiration to codify your core beliefs.

Will you commit to change?

Remember: the only thing we can change is our perspective. Are you willing to shift your thinking so that you can get more comfortable and consistent with prospecting? Challenge yourself to make that change. When you do, you will take a dramatic step toward success.

Aug 6, 2009 7:07 pm

Great post, ubermensch!

Aug 6, 2009 7:56 pm

Thanks, aquaman!