The Cart Before The Horse?

My prospect walked out without saying a word, and the look of disapproval from the sales manager confirmed my own thoughts of inadequacy and failure. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this line of work.

Evidently I was getting the cart before the horse and talking customers out of the sale as a result. At least that is what my supervisor told me.

The customer had come in, interested and qualified, and after talking with me, left to find another dealer. I had lost another sale and my job was on the line. I had to figure out what I was doing wrong.

On the advice of my supervisor, I made an appointment to talk with the company’s new sales consultant. I knew it was time to change something; I just had to find out what it was!

Well, when I met him, I knew something was different. He didn’t talk down to me or just point out what I was doing wrong. He was genuinely interested in me, and what I had to say. He listened while I vented my frustrations over my inadequacies.

Then to my surprise, he wanted to know what I was doing right, in addition to the things that I wanted to change.

The more we talked, the more I found my confidence growing. It was clear this was his way of getting me “on my mettle” – by focusing on my strengths and improving my ability to cope with what I needed to handle. And it was working.

With some subtle guidance, I was able to see what was causing me a lot of trouble.

First, I had always been taught to just get the customer behind the wheel, and the deal would close automatically. Dutifully, I had been following this advice, but it wasn’t working. The consultant pointed out that any prospective sale starts out with a delicate potential connection between the sales rep and the customer, something that is easily broken and hard to repair.

Establishing a line of trust first is the most important place to focus my attention before trying to get a prospect to do anything. Further, he said that trust was something that can’t be forced. It is either freely given or it doesn’t exist – and it can’t be rushed; it takes as long as it takes to develop it.

It dawned on me that by ignoring the vital steps of getting the customer to know me and trust me first, I was reversing the natural order of things – creating hostility and resentment that wasn’t there in the first place.

Now, that made sense. It was something I could use right now!

Second, I began to see that I was mostly thinking about me first and the prospect last. It should have been the reverse. I had been getting the cart before the horse there, too.

By shifting this to thinking about the customer first, I had my priorities in order. If I were interested in the customer, they would tell me how they wanted to be sold. If I were only interested in me, I’d miss all the signals that told me how to close the deal.

No wonder my prospects had been drifting off without saying a word. I had been creating my own problems by only thinking about myself, not really being interested in them.

I had been forcing my prospects to fit my mold rather than adjusting to what they were telling me they needed and wanted.

And I even realized that my old saying, “Just get them behind the wheel,” might work if it was done at the right time.

Finally, I saw how I could control the sales process, rather than letting it control me. I didn’t have to follow some rote, robotic procedure.

Instead, I could adjust my sales process depending on what the customer was telling me they wanted, but only if I was interested and listening to what they told me.

Maybe I was in the right profession after all.

daniel w. jacobs
(c) 2002-2030, all rights reserved


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