Authentic Selling

Authentic Selling

For sales professionals experiencing a dip in their sales momentum, there could be an opportunity to reassess strategies beyond external factors like product quality, market competition, or economic conditions. Past tactics that were once effective may no longer yield the same results. Embracing change and revisiting approaches could be pivotal. Sales dynamics evolve rapidly, prompting the need for professionals to adapt, refine techniques, and reclaim lost momentum. This article explores how sales professionals can embrace change, refine their methods, and recapture their sales momentum.

Recently, a CEO said, “We are closing 50% of our opportunities. Our challenge is generating enough opportunities.” Generating new opportunities is becoming more challenging. This means the opening is the new closing. Decision-makers have become more guarded and discerning. More and more people are involved in decisions. Sales strategies need to shift to focus on the art of initiating and nurturing relationships.

Why are decision-makers evoking a higher level of scrutiny? According to various estimates, the average person is subjected to between 250 and 2,000 commercial messages daily. This number has only increased with the use of sales automation software and AI-generated content.

A second factor impacting sales reps’ ability to create opportunities is human nature. During periods of uncertainty, we entrench ourselves with what we have. We prepare for the storm. We lock our doors, close our windows, and ensure everything is secure. Decision-makers are entrenching themselves with their current solution.

A third factor limiting our ability to generate opportunities is the concept of cognitive dissonance. Buyers become entrenched after making a purchase decision. They continually tell themselves they made the right decision, and if their decision is right, everyone else is wrong.

Change the Narrative

Have you ever watched two minutes of a movie and were instantly drawn into the storyline? The opening dialogue of Pulp Fiction does just that. In the opening scene, a couple debate the merits of their life of crime while sitting in a diner. Then, there is a plot twist: they jump on the table and yell, “This is a stick-up.”

What is critical about this scene, and any scene that captures our attention, is the actors’ crisp dialogue. Their speech is exact and compelling. They recite complete, articulate sentences. Their words carry emotional weight beyond their dictionary meaning.

For sales professionals struggling to build momentum, this means not just providing information but creating an authentic dialogue that captures attention. One thing is certain in sales: it all starts with the decision-maker. If you don’t understand them, how can you get their attention?

Atticus Finch, the fictional trial lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird, said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” As sales professionals, when we match our sales messaging with our customers’ current cautious perspective, they are more likely to listen.

For example, Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, uses a strategy he calls an accusation audit. For sales professionals, this entails addressing the negative assumptions a decision-maker could have before they voice them. This can be a powerful technique for reluctant decision-makers because it proactively addresses their objections and shows you understand their situation. It could sound like this:

  • You weren’t expecting my call…
  • You likely are not looking to add providers in this environment…
  • You might be thinking taking a meeting will take up too much of your time…
  • Your prudence is understandable…

Notice how each sentence starts with “YOU”? By removing “I” statements, you are centering the conversation on the decision-maker. This shift makes the decision-maker feel heard and understood, creating a more engaging and personalized conversation. This is the opposite of what most sales reps say:

  • I was just calling to…
  • I was hoping…
  • I was curious…

By putting yourself in your clients’ shoes, you can address their concerns upfront. This change makes the conversation less about the salesperson’s opinions and more about the decision-maker’s actual situation. At this stage, you can smoothly transition into why you’re calling. It could sound like this in a prospecting scenario:

  • Our clients faced similar concerns.
  • What they found was [specific benefit]…
  • For instance [detailed result from similar client]…
  • Do you think it would make sense to schedule a brief call?

This concise dialogue demonstrates your understanding of their position. It also empowers them by asking, “Do you think it makes sense?” This approach subtly hints at unmet needs, prompting the decision-maker to think, “There could be better options available.” The goal of outreach is not to sell the solution on the first call. The goal is to sell the appointment for further conversation.

Leveraging Personal Strengths in Sales

One of our greatest strengths as salespeople is our uniqueness. David Ogilvy, often called the “Father of Advertising,” said, “Give the facts and don’t be a copycat.” His advice highlights the importance of truthfulness and transparency in sales. It also emphasizes the importance of salespeople being their authentic selves when talking with clients.

Brene Brown, a researcher on vulnerability and courage, calls this having the “courageous conversation.” This translates into the willingness to confront and address what we are avoiding. It could include discussing the prospect’s reluctance to have a conversation, pricing, or even the competition. By acknowledging the conversations that make us uncomfortable, sales professionals can transform their weaknesses into strengths, foster genuine connections, and stand out from competitors.

Here’s why finding your authentic voice is so critical. Decision-makers rely on something other than left-brain, logical, process thinking. Emotions play a pivotal role. These emotions can be positive or negative. To create positive emotions, there must be a connection. To create a connection, you must be authentic. Otherwise, the decision-makers may say to themselves, “I don’t know. Something feels off.” Yes, decision-makers have feelings, and discounting this can be costly.

Compounding the challenge of being ourselves is the pressure of slowing sales. This creates the tendency to fall back on our old sales scripts. That’s not necessarily bad, but when we all start sounding the same, we get similar results. Being yourself in sales takes guts. It means looking inward and tackling those tough conversations you’d rather avoid.

Finding one’s unique voice can be challenging for new salespeople. Often, the default mode is to rely on scripts taught in training. There is one commonality among high-performing sales reps: they are authentic. This authenticity is the harbinger of trust. We are all unique, bringing our thoughts and ideas. Yet, in sales, finding your voice can be challenging, especially when the market is changing.

Getting Uncomfortable

Now, it is time we talk about being uncomfortable. Producing new sales results requires new sales behaviors. Anytime we are asked to change, we get uncomfortable. We then create resistance to the new behavior. Have you ever watched yourself in a video and thought, ouch? You may avoid listening to yourself on recorded sales calls. This resistance is an indicator for self-improvement.

The fact is that until behavior changes, we can’t expect different results. That’s the definition of insanity. As professional sellers, we must take ownership of our results. We all know what we should do. It’s called improvement. Doing it is the difference between success and struggling.

Think about the actors in Pulp Fiction. Not only did they have great dialogue, but their delivery was Oscar-worthy. As sales professionals, we have that ability, too. We can direct ourselves.

How? Listen to our recorded phone calls with clients. If you sell face-to-face, review the video recordings of our role-plays. The video does not lie. If you do not practice and record your role-play, you will only practice with real clients, which is costly.

Self-analysis through video recordings or listening to our sales calls is an invaluable tool for improving our sales results. Video provides a front-row seat to observe our body language, gestures, facial expressions, and tonality. These elements play a significant role in communication, often conveying more than words alone.

Similarly, listening to recorded phone calls allows us to dissect verbal communication. We can focus on our word choices, tone of voice, pacing, and overall communication style. This enables us to identify areas of improvement in our language, pronunciation, and clarity of explanations. Embracing self-analysis might feel uncomfortable initially, but the growth it facilitates is worth the initial discomfort.

In Conclusion

When sales slow in a challenging market, it demands more than just attributing slow sales to external factors. It compels us to scrutinize our methods and adapt accordingly. There is a dichotomy in changing our sales behaviors. We have to put ourselves in our client’s shoes while at the same time being authentic selves.

Decision-makers today can detect insincere sales tactics. They can also feel genuineness. Our self-awareness makes us human and credible.

Understanding our customers starts with understanding ourselves. Being authentic in sales means having the courage to be yourself.

Customers can tell when you care. Caring is a contagious emotion. Caring is also the building block of trust. This makes caring one of our greatest skills in selling. When customers sense that you care, you will have success selling in any market.