Olsen on Sales: Friction


“You can’t start a fire without a spark.”
         – Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark”

Change is difficult. People like things to stay the same. Especially people with a real or (in our case) perceived advantage. In history, the ruling party never gives up its power without political, physical, or economic pressure, from the real or (as in our case), perceived underdog.

The “status quo” in sales is: salespeople give the customer their price or their proposal and the customer says, “I’ll let you know.” Sadly, most salespeople—80%—go along with this way of thinking and doing business. This status quo doesn’t work for us. Master Sellers understand this and work from the first contact/conversation with customers to establish a give-and-take/partnership relationship vs. a “give me the price and I’ll let you know” relationship.
As salespeople, we need to embrace our roles as change agents. Change by definition creates friction. Master Sellers understand this and get down to doing it. They don’t hold back. They are not passive participants in the sales process. They are committed advocates for their proposal.

What people want is a life of smoothness. This is not our role. Many salespeople look at the person who is killing it and think, “I can’t wait until I have the accounts and relationships Susan has; then sales will be fun and profitable.”  

This is a myth. Susan may look like she has zero friction with her customers, but I guarantee that she does. Susan makes it look easy, because she is confident and professional, but she still has to navigate the same situations that the struggling seller does. She actually has more because she asks for and expects to get the business (way) more often than the seller who is afraid of friction.

In many cases we are seeing a relationship between Master Seller and client at the mature stage. The Master Seller has already done the “friction work.” The result is a smooth partnership. But it was not given, it was earned.  

If we do “sales” the wrong way we will have little, if any, friction in our livesbut we won’t sell much either.

When Friction Happens
Customer: “I’m happy with my current supplier.”

Master Seller: “I understand you have great suppliers. You are a great company and I’d expect nothing less. But we are working with customers just like you that also have a strong network of suppliers. We are helping them compete in this hyper-competitive market and we will do the same for you. Give us 90 days to prove we can help you.”

Customer: “I’ve got to check my inventory.” 

Or “I’ve got to walk the yard.” (Not true. About 95% of the customers we talk to every day are sitting at their desks and are looking at a real-time inventory system!)

Master Seller:    “Okay, John, I’ll wait. You’re just going to pull it up on your computer, right?” Or “How do you check your inventory?”

Customer: “I’ll let you know. I’ve got to get a couple more numbers.”

Master Seller:    “Why don’t we put it together right now?”

Or “I’d love to let you get back to me, Zach, but this won’t be here in 15 minutes.”

Or “Hey, Sara, you don’t need to check it, we’ve already scoured the market for you; this is without a doubt your best deal. What’s your order number?”

Or “I know you want to shop this and get your best price, which in some cases makes sense, but right now, shopping is going to cost you money. This is the last truck we have at this price for this shipment. There is no better deal.  Let’s put this one together.”

Sellers who struggle do everything in their power to avoid friction. And they succeed. They have little friction in their daily (sales) lives, but underachieve because of it. Master Sellers realize that causing and diffusing friction is a good thing. They are not afraid of the NO–they search it out. The sooner the customer says no, the sooner they will say yes. We are the straw that stirs the drink. It will not stir itself. 

– James Olsen, Reality Sales Training, Portland, Or., can be reached at james@realitysalestraining.com.

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