A recent survey by the American Management Association asked buyers what they dislike most about salespeople. (Hey, AMA, when are we going to see a survey of what buyers like about salespeople?)
The results, in order, are as follows:
- Being too pushy (24% of respondents)
- Not taking no for an answer (23%)
- Not listening (18%)
- Talking too much (9%)
- Baiting and switching (8%)
- Reading from a script (7%)
- Using meaningless jargon (5%)
- Upselling (4%)
- Impatience (2%)
Before we conclude that the profession is doomed, let’s keep in mind that the survey didn’t ask how often customers experience these behaviors. If customers encounter just one pushy salesperson out of a thousand, that’s the one they’re going to complain about.
Even so, the predominance of “pushiness” on this list raises an interesting question for sales trainers: Should we be training salespeople to be less pushy?
At first glance, the answer seems obvious. Nobody likes a pushy salesperson. So salespeople shouldn’t push.
But at the end of the day, the salesperson’s objective isn’t to be liked. It’s to get the sale. The world is full of nonpushy, likable salespeople who can’t sell for beans. They bring doughnuts. They tell jokes. But they don’t push. So nothing happens.
The right kind of pushy
As a buyer, I’m okay with a pushy salesperson — as long as it’s the right kind of pushy. I don’t want my arm twisted, of course. Nor do I want to be manipulated. But, hey, if you’ve got something of value to offer, let’s get to it. And don’t expect me, the buyer, to do the heavy lifting. If I need a friendly nudge to keep the process moving along, by all means nudge. (In fact, you don’t even have to be that friendly. Just deliver the value.)
We’ve published several modules in Selling Essentials lately based on research that clarifies the distinction between “good” pushing and “bad” pushing. When buyers say they don’t want to be pushed, what they’re really saying is that they don’t want to surrender control. If they perceive that the salesperson is trying to seize control, they’ll push back hard. If they feel in control, they won’t resent a rep’s efforts to move the ball forward.
Here are three techniques from Selling Essentials that can help give buyers a sense of control, while allowing reps to maintain momentum toward the sale:
1. The “but you are free” technique. When reps ask for the sale, they say something like this: “Of course, you are free to say yes or no.” Sounds like a way to lose a sale, but research shows it has a powerful positive impact on closing rates.
2. Offering choices. Giving buyers more choices helps them feel empowered. Again, research shows that buyers who are offered choices feel a greater sense of control and are less likely to push back.
3. Ask buyers how they’d like to be sold to. Ask them specifically about their expectations for the buying process — for example, how often should follow-up happen? Would they prefer phone calls, texts or e-mail? When these expectations are understood and met, research shows, buyers rate their sellers much more highly.
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