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Setting an Appropriate Tone for Selling

“Setting an Appropriate Tone for Selling”

Your bad attitude can cause sales to slide by 57%.

"I don’t sell. I have people who do that." If these words of dismissal have crossed your lips recently, watch out.

For better or worse, an entrepreneur’s mindset about selling greatly influences his organization. Even if you’re not actively pursuing accounts, your attitude will filter through the organization at all levels — and a conflicted one can cramp the style of even your best salespeople.

Three Faces of Call Reluctance

Conflicting attitudes about selling can result in 12 different types of call reluctance, which vary in their fallout and impact on a company culture. Here’s a quick look at a trio of types:

  • The Over-Preparer. Someone who spends too much time writing proposals, brochures or getting ready for the pitch rather than selling. Encyclopedias of product knowledge, they overanalyze — and underact.

    As a boss, an over-preparer produces a culture of administration. Instead of optimizing behavior and resources to produce results, over-preparers produce compliance. They’re very big on meetings, which they equate to shareholder results. Salespeople are reduced to clerks and forced to spend too much time on reports and paperwork instead of generating business.

  • The Yielder. Doesn’t want to seem pushy. This type puts a lot of emphasis on building relationships instead of asking for the order. Promoting a culture of charm and endearment, yielders believe that "if you love me, you’ll buy from me." Well, you may get the client’s love, but someone else is sure to get the business.

    In an organization led by a yielder, relationships are more important than results, and nothing is straightforward. Yielder bosses are uncomfortable asserting themselves, which leads to feelings of powerlessness. To cope, they dole out information in a piecemeal fashion; thus gossip and rumors abound. Employees are tense because they’re not sure what to expect.

  • Oppositional Reflex. It doesn’t matter what is said, an oppositional-reflex type will add to it or subtract from it. They never allow anyone but themselves to be right.

    With an oppositional-reflex type in charge, it’s management by terror and temper tantrum. The salesforce learns to distrust anything senior management says or does because they know it will only be a matter of time before the rug is pulled out from under them. Arguments are ongoing; conflict, fear and survival take precedence over new business.

Fallout from call reluctance is frightening. Studies at some companies show that over-preparers sell an average of only 43% of their annual sales quota and oppositional-reflex types lose nine large accounts each year per infected salesperson.

Cleaning Up Your Act

Take a cold, hard look at yourself. What message about selling are you sending to your staff? Admitting to a conflicted attitude is difficult; most behaviors operate in denial. Meet with senior officers and ask them for candid feedback about how your behavior influences the salesforce — and the entire organization.

Take a critical review of all sales and training materials, and sanitize any unintentional negative attitudes that shape your approach to selling. For example, in your training manual, there might be a couple of lines about how to approach a prospect, followed by four forms to fill out and send back to the home office. (This signals an over-preparer at work, making administration more important than drumming up new business.)

And stay away from your salesforce. Delegate to a surrogate while you clean up your act.

Ideally, you want to foster a culture of no-excuses selling. That doesn’t mean hard-boiled, but rather a nonapologetic approach where you’re convinced of the worth of your product or service and convey that attitude to prospects.

Writer: TJ Becker interviewed George Dudley, a research psychologist and co-founder of Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Dallas.