4 Ways to Be More Assertive In Sales
Attention is a limited resource. Priorities compete for the customer’s time, leaving little for sales professionals. This characteristic of modern selling comes at a time when activities like attending meetings, responding to emails and taking calls demand about 80 percent of the customer’s time, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review.
This relentless routine might explain why some sales professionals have resorted to aggressive tactics to earn the customer’s attention.
These aggressive tactics are characterized by leading the sales conversation with ready-made assertions designed to push the customer into an agreement. While such an approach may grab the customer’s attention early, it lacks the sustainability of a more thoughtful approach: asserting a point of view.
Asserting a point of view in sales helps reframe and illuminate the customer’s thinking to deepen the discussion. In doing so, the customer can arrive at an understanding of the solution’s value in a way that is more resonant with their thinking.
Sales professionals need to engage, not just impress. At Richardson Sales Performance, we believe there is a smarter way to earn the customer’s attention and make the sale. We believe the answer is asserting a point of view.
Asserting a Point of View in Sales
An aggressive approach instructs the customer on how to think. In contrast, an assertive approach to selling aims to shape the customer’s thinking by revealing the full scope of risks and opportunities.
Asserting a point of view, however, requires a thoughtful approach. The reason: the customer’s thinking represents the sum of their experiences and biases accrued over a career. Shaping these contours requires several strategies working in conjunction with one another.
Here, we break down the four key behaviors sales professionals need to assert a point of view.
1. Normalize Discussions of Risk
A sense of risk pervades every buying decision. The customer faces reputational risk and financial risk. In the urge to win the sale, it is tempting to assure the customer that all risks have been identified and eliminated. In truth, risk can never be fully removed. Sales professionals must help acclimate the customer to an environment in which a degree of risk is commonplace. Discussing concerns in an open manner makes the risks less abstract. Bringing clarity to these issues helps the customer develop more comfort with the decision to move forward.
2. Ask Reflection Questions
Reflection questions encourage the customer to think more deeply about the topic and fully consider the sales professional’s viewpoint. These questions serve both parties. The sales professional learns more about what matters to the customer. At the same time, the customer is engaging in an exercise designed to help them crystalize their understanding of the challenges and goals they’re facing.
3. Use Specific, Nontechnical Language
Assertiveness in sales is about making your position known. The best way to do so is with language free of jargon that makes the messaging clear. The value of this approach is evident in a study exploring the use of technical vs. everyday language. Researchers examined how participants gauged an author’s credibility using different word choices. Their results showed that “technical language use negatively affected authors’ integrity and the credibility” of their information.
4. Build Trust Through Transparency
Asserting a point of view is of little use if it goes unnoticed by senior decision-makers. Therefore, sales professionals must gain access to this group. To do so, they must build trust. Building trust is difficult in selling scenarios because customers are aware that they are being sold to. Sales professionals can overcome this challenge by becoming transparent. They must show the customer their intent and the value it has for both parties. Sales professionals should not hesitate to become an open book. For many customers, the fact that the sales professional is willing to share information is more important than the content of the information.
Aggressive tactics are a short sprint in a long race. They earn attention early, then falter fast. Effective sales professionals are prepared for the length of the buyer’s journey, which is a force unto itself and refuses to take orders from anyone demanding control. Sales professionals must keep pace with and anticipate the twists and turns in the journey. Entering the sales conversation with an expectation that the customer’s challenge is in focus and fully understood ignores the reality that the customer needs change throughout the sale. Normalized risks, reflection questions, clear language and transparency all work to help the sales professional assert a point of view without resorting to aggressiveness.
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