I got quite a bit of feedback from my recent writing on the subject of what a good selling relationship is. Some took offense to the idea that being friends isn’t necessarily the most effective relationship to have with clients, and others just took it as a suggestion to be rude. Anytime I get that much feedback on my weekly messaging, it makes me consider that I may not have expressed myself correctly. So I’ll clarify the point I was trying to make.
I am not endorsing rudeness towards clients and prospects. Rudeness isn’t an effective ploy for winning trust either. I’m stipulating that there is a difference between being likeable and trying to be liked. That is because trying to be liked often manifests itself as excessive politeness, and that is the real enemy in sales situations, because excessive politeness often leads to not speaking the truth.
Last weekend, I watched the English language remake of the Swedish film “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. (Spoiler alert, if you have not seen the movie, I am about to ruin one of the plot twists.) In the movie, the protagonist is trying to solve a single murder, only to discover the existence of a serial killer. He eventually figures out who that serial killer is. The killer catches the protagonist snooping on his property, and innocently invites him for a drink, eventually trapping him. There follows a conversation, with the protagonist tied up at the killer’s mercy, where the killer (hauntingly acted by Stellan Skarsgard) asks a question, somewhat rhetorically. “Why don’t people trust their instincts….you knew something was wrong but you came into the house….I didn’t force you, all I had to do was offer you a drink…It’s hard to believe that the fear of offending can be stronger than the fear of pain, but it is.”
And there it is. I’ve read many books on this idea. People sense something is off. Someone is following them too closely on a dark street, or demonstrating some sort of suspect behavior. Yet out of politeness, or the fear of being rude, they ignore their observations and walk right into the danger.
This fear of being impolite handcuffs us as sales people. It prevents us from asking the right questions. It prevents us from helping our prospects challenge their thinking. Many of us can often see where a client is going wrong, yet we won’t say anything because of that handcuff. When we don’t challenge the thinking of our clients, especially in our area of expertise, we fail them. We’ve deleted the greatest value we can possibly provide them, which is the value of detached expertise.
While you may not be facing the threat of a serial killer, caving in to the need to be excessively polite is a serial killer of sales. Truth is the big trust creator. You still need to be polite in HOW you deliver challenges, but challenging thinking is the core competency of successful sales professionals.