Salesperson: “Sign here. Press hard and make three copies.”
Real life is not so simple and easy, of course. But it is possible to have a conversation with a buyer that is even better than that—one in which you establish an immediate connection, have a meaningful discussion that uncovers pressing needs, and agree on a way forward that leaves both sides happier and better off.
The first step in achieving this ideal is to get a clear view of what needs to be in place for it to happen. The ideal sales conversation is one that contains:
Genuine and productive dialogue between individuals who share a common purpose.
What does genuine mean? It means that the flow of ideas, information and insight moves along so naturally that it feels like two minds are in synch, like both sides have figuratively moved to the same side of the desk to solve a common problem together. You feel like you’re talking to a trusted friend, because you respect their competence and you sense their real concern for your interests. It’s informal and professional at the same time. It’s comfortable, but still contains creative tension.
What does productive mean? It moves the interests of both sides along, closer to an intelligent decision. While both sides may personally enjoy the dialogue, neither side loses sight of the fact that they are in the meeting to serve the interests of their employers. At the same time, both sides approach the conversation in a non-zero sum and long term spirit. To borrow a phrase from the real estate industry, it is the “highest and best use” of time for both sides.
What does dialogue mean? It’s not a monologue, and it’s not an interrogation. Both sides talk in proper proportion. We like to say that the best sales dialogues are those in which the customer talks far more than the salesperson, but that is not an absolute necessity. It’s one in which your questions get answered without you even asking. It’s kind of like a tennis match, because each side knows which court the ball is in without having to think about it, except it’s more like a long rally than anyone trying to score a quick point, and we usually let the customer bounce the ball on their side as long as they want. Listening is easy, speaking does not feel forced, and even silence adds to the forward flow.
What does common purpose mean? The common purpose is the improvement of the customer’s situation, which is reached by jointly developing insights about what they need to:
In pursuing the common purpose, both sides think and learn.
In summary, you know the sales conversation has been ideal when both sides perceive the discussion as having been profitable and pleasurable. You know it has been ideal if both sides are proud to report it back to their managers.