Three Common Sales Behaviors that Create DISTRUST


As we explored in other articles (Click Here: Vendor to Trusted Advisor in your First Meeting), you earn the position of Trusted Advisor when another feels you’re not holding your own self-interest above theirs. Unfortunately, earning this is not as common, or as easy, as one might hope. The human survival instinct drives us to hold our own self-interest above all things, and this self-interested agenda is reflected in almost all human behavior. Making the challenge worse is that the mission of sales and business develop is a fundamentally self-interested in nature, and adding rewards and incentives on top of that only further reinforces the self-interested agenda.

Compounding the problem is that all sales books and training programs unknowingly encourage specific behaviors that actually erode Trust, and in fact, create Distrust. The foundation of all sales behavior is built around presenting how you, your company, and your offerings are highly differentiated and offer superior value. When the prospective client sees this self-absorbed behavior pattern, they can only conclude that we will never be able to hold their self-interest above our own, and therefore, cannot give us trusted advisor status.

However, if you can break this pattern of behavior, it’s amazing how quickly you will be seen as a trusted advisor.

Remember that your prospective clients have likely been a part of more sales meetings than you ever will, and they are all too familiar with the sales behavior pattern. Fortunately, sales and business development professionals follow this pattern very consistently, so the opportunity to differentiate through a non-sales behavior is huge. The highest performing rainmakers, the top 1% in their industry, are doing just that.

Exactly what is the specific sales behavior we’re trying to avoid, and what are the top performers replacing it with? The three dominant behaviors of the sales pattern are Asking Questions, Presenting Features and Benefits, and attempting to Overcome Resistance or Objections, and they are the cornerstones of every sales methodology. Ironically, from a behavioral science perspective, each of these behaviors systematically promotes distrust, which is exactly the opposite reaction the salesperson wants.

“Questions” are also called inquiries and interrogatory statements, and there is a reason they share the same origins as the words “inquisition” and “interrogation”. They are fundamentally invasive and do not promote trust. When someone uses the phrase, “Boy, you sure ask a lot of questions,” or “What, are you writing a book?”, it’s not a compliment. All too often we know the questioner is seeking information to be used to further their self-serving agenda. Fundamentally, we all recognize the wisdom in the philosopher Sun Tsu’s statement that he who knows his opponent as well as himself can predict the outcome of a hundred battles. The answers to the questions cause an imbalance in information and insight about the other, making one party feel more exposed and vulnerable. We know this intuitively, and even in childhood we learned that revealing something about ourselves helps others feel more comfortable in doing the same.

“Presenting” is when you say one more word about yourself, your company, and your offerings than the prospective client wants to hear, or describe features and benefit they don’t relate to. That happens more often and far sooner in the conversation than salespeople will ever believe. Not only is this behavior inherently self-focused, it telegraphs a self-interested agenda. and promotes more suspicion. Why else would someone be working so hard to convince?

When someone attempts to “Overcome Objections”, or our resistance their agenda, we recognize it as an even stronger attempt to convince and push us to reverse our opinions. Our experience tell us this behavior is motivated by a self-interested agenda. Sales and business development people intuitively know this, so they often attempt to avoid objections by even more “presenting” in an attempt to explain away all potential objections before they arise, further feeding suspicion and a behavioral death spiral.

For the extreme performing rainmakers, the objective is to avoid all of these behaviors, and build trust and influence that differentiates them above all of their competitors. There are a number of trusted advisor behaviors and skills that accomplish this, and they are described in a number of related articles.

Learn these skills and you’ll quickly see you haven’t been building the level of trust you thought you were, or as quickly as you could have. There are dozens of powerful psychological dynamics taking place in all your client and prospect meetings, whether you’re aware of them or not. If you aren’t making them work for you, they’re probably working against you. Are you ready to start operating at a higher level?

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