Digital media and technology sellers — and, for that matter, most people who sell anything — make it harder on themselves than it needs to be. We weigh ourselves down with elaborate demonstrations, mountains of statistics and detailed battle plans for how we’ll emerge victorious from the next sales call. We then plug all this into a PowerPoint — “the deck” — and rest our hopes and dreams on our ability to blow them away with a truly awesome presentation.
But unfortunately sales is not performance art. And a great many promising sales opportunities never come to fruition because of the bad assumptions we make in preparing for them. Too much of our advance work ends up having little effect, and some even works against us.
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Let’s start with the assumption that you need to “present” at all. Sales leaders and training managers spend millions every year hiring coaches who promise to improve their sellers’ ability to ‘stand and deliver.’ But in reality, the percentage of the population who can ever stand up in front of a room full of strangers and actually change an outcome is infinitesimally small….way below zero. As Jerry Seinfeld observed, “statistically the number one fear humans have is public speaking. Number two is death. So if you’re at a funeral, odds are you’d rather be in the box than delivering the eulogy.” Yet inertia, nostalgia and an outdated image of the seller as some sort of gladiator figure keeps us going back to the presentation.
Here’s an alternative. Focus instead on fostering one simple quality within your sales team: curiosity. While almost no one can “present a customer into buying,” virtually everyone can improve sales outcomes through genuine curiosity. And to be perfectly clear, I’m not suggesting they act curious; I want them to actually be curious. Those who truly want to know and understand more about their client’s businesses and challenges are the ones who end up succeeding. Their natural curiosity makes their customers feel respected and interesting. It breaks down the artificial role barriers between buyer and seller. It opens doors and it opens minds.
Curiosity is to the success of a sales team what defense is to the success of a basketball team. It’s not some rare gift that only a tiny percentage of virtuoso performers can display. It’s something that every member of the team can get better at and put to work every single game. And being curious — like playing good defense — is just a matter of desire, discipline and will. So put away your slides. Stop trying to be interesting. And start being interested.