Do tough buyers make lousy sellers?
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Do tough buyers make lousy sellers?

One of the most intriguing pieces of research I’ve encountered related to sales performance comes from Dave Kurlan, whose company has an assessment tool for hiring sales talent. For many years, Objective Management Group has tracked what happens after the hire to candidates who took the assessment. From there, they’ve isolated key factors that predict whether someone is likely to be successful in sales.

One of the strongest predictors is also one of the most counterintuitive: According to OMG’s research, people who like to comparison shop, take their time and think things over before they buy are likely to make lousy salespeople.

Surprised? I was. I would have assumed that good salespeople would make for tough customers. Knowing all the ins and outs of the sales process, I thought, they’d be able to bend that process to their will and get a great deal.

The problem, says Kurlan, is that people who like to shop around, think things over and delay their decision making will expect their prospects to buy that way as well. So when the buyer says, “I need to look at some other options,” the seller will respond, “By all means; take your time.”

A fine line

Now, I hope Kurlan isn’t advocating that salespeople engage in the kind of high-pressure, arm-twisting sales tactics that give sales such a bad name, because there’s plenty of evidence showing that these approaches don’t work. What I think he’s saying, however, is that salespeople need to embrace their role, which is to make something happen. They’re more than order takers and product demonstrators. If they see a potential buyer sailing off into the sunset, they need to do more than smile and wave goodbye. Assuming they have a qualified prospect, they need to engage that prospect in an active process that leads toward a sale — one that delivers value to the buyer, but also to the seller.

So, for example, Selling Essentials offers a module showing that it sometimes makes sense to let the buyer “sleep on it.” At a certain point in the process, a period of reflection improves the odds of getting the sale. But sellers need to keep their eye on the ball, which is still to get the sale.

That’s different than a salesperson who isn’t willing to fight for a sale and just lets a buyer drift away. Good salespeople don’t let that happen. They’re committed. They have a strategy for keeping the customer engaged. For example, they help buyers understand that buying from a trustworthy vendor is more important than price. They can demonstrate to buyers that they’re getting a good deal at a fair price, without sending them into the arms of competitors. They can give buyers a reason to say yes.

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