Is the “Wuss Factor” Hindering Your Sales Success?

May 3, 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting Ed Rendell when he was the mayor of Philadelphia. He was pointed and direct, quite different from the other politicians I have met over the years. So it came as little surprise when early this winter, Rendell, then Governor of Pennsylvania, called NFL officials “wimps” for canceling a game between the Eagles and Vikings due to snow.

When asked about the NFL’s decision the next day, Governor Rendell made his stance clear: “My biggest beef is that this is part of what’s happened in this country. We’ve become a nation of wusses.”

This nation of wusses has extended into the field of sales. There’s no hiding that sales is difficult. Day in and day out you face rejection, you must constantly be filling the pipeline with new leads, you have quotas you must meet, and results are often inconsistent.

Yet too many sales people use these difficulties as excuses and let them hinder their own success – they wuss out.

How can you tell if the wuss factor is dragging you down? Look out for these five symptoms: 

1. Need for Approval

Everyone wants to be liked, but when it gets in the way of asking the tough questions, it deters your ability to move the prospect along the sales process and close the deal. If you are constantly seeking approval from your prospects, you don’t ask about budgets, never understand the buying process, and generally don’t probe deep enough. You avoid any hard questions that you think might negatively affect the relationship and end up making too many assumptions, never fully understanding the prospect’s situation well enough to craft an appropriate solution.

Don’t confuse need for approval with relationship and rapport building. Rapport is essential and relationships are important. But relationships are ultimately built on professionalism and respect, not acquiescing to every circumstance that might lead to a confrontational moment.

2. Difficulty with Rejection

How you respond after hearing a “no” greatly affects your sales success. This is especially important in prospecting. Prospecting, even for the best, is a losing proposition; you will obviously hear “no” many more times than you will hear “yes.”

Good salespeople accept this, and realize that a “no” from a qualified prospect means no for now. It allows you to put them back in the pipeline as a long term lead and focus your efforts on more fruitful opportunities. Prospecting is a numbers game at a certain level, and if you never seek rejection, you will spend too much time chasing unqualified prospects when you could have moved on.

3. Buy Cycle Issues

The way you make major purchases affects the way you sell. If you like to comparison shop, look at a years’ worth of consumer reports, read hundreds of reviews, and consult with friends before making a major purchase, you’ll think it’s normal for your prospect to do the same. You’ll accept put-offs and allow the sales process to drag well beyond what is normal.

Time kills sales and the longer you let the prospect hem and haw over the decision, the less likely you are to win the deal. Be prescriptive, and your prospects will benefit. Always lay out a next step and don’t accept prospect put-offs when they say they want to check other prices or consult with a colleague.

4. Discomfort Talking about Money

“Don’t talk about money; it’s not polite conversation.” I’m sure we can all remember our parents saying this to us when we were young. However, at the right time in the sales process, it’s a necessary conversation to have. All too many salespeople simply avoid this conversation because they are uncomfortable talking about money.

This is deadly. Flying blind – not knowing if there is money, where the money is coming from, and most importantly, what the prospect is thinking of spending – will result in wasting a lot of time with unqualified prospects. You don’t want to be writing Cadillac proposals when the prospect is shopping for a Chevrolet.

5. Self Limiting Beliefs

We all intuitively feel we are good at some things and not so good at others. You may think:

  • I am not good at making cold calls.
  • I have difficulty getting referrals.
  • I have to discount.
  • I can’t get past gatekeepers.
  • I can’t sell to CEOs.
  • I don’t need goals to succeed.

We call these self-limiting beliefs. These beliefs manifest themselves over time and don’t always correlate to reality. In fact, self-limiting beliefs tend to develop from a germ of an idea and grow because you don’t do anything to stop them. They become self-fulfilling. You don’t like cold calling so you avoid it, then over time you start to believe you are not good at it. You simply accept the belief without ever validating it, examining it, or creating a strategy to overcome it.

The more you tell yourself these things, the more they become true.

Despite what you think of Ed Rendell, his fearless attitude and obvious lack of need for approval would have made him an excellent salesperson. This type of determination will serve you well.

Unfortunately, Rendell may have been on to something when he called us a “nation of wusses.” I’ve seen my fair share of salespeople fall victim to these 5 symptoms.

So if you or anyone on your team is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to get help. A coach, a sales manager, or a change of mindset can go a long way to help treating and overcoming the wuss factor. At a minimum, it’s time to try something new – roll the dice and be bold; you don’t have much to lose and have everything to win.

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