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The Opportunity That You Gain by "Not Taking It Personally"

Years ago when I first started my investment firm, I cultivated a prospect with a modest amount of wealth to invest. I pursued her, though, because I thought she had potential to accumulate much more wealth down the line. During the initial meeting, she bluntly asked in a haughty tone, “Sara, if you’re also an adjunct professor, why should I choose you over someone who doesn’t do anything else during the day but watch my money? Shouldn’t I take them more seriously than you?” This being one of the first sales calls I ever made, I took it a bit personally. I was put off by how direct she was, and by her icy manner. Moreover, the initial investment amount was well below my minimum. I was giving her a break by offering to manager her money in the first place! I wanted to respond back “AND WHO ARE YOU WITH YOUR MEAGER LITTLE TWO CENTS NET WORTH?” but instead I graciously finished the meeting and retreated home to put together the follow up.

When I reflected upon the interaction, though, I became courageous. It hit me that she asked the question because she was curious. Prospects with no questions aren’t going to buy anything from you. A question indicates interest and that is one of the first steps to making them intrigued by you. I didn’t care for her arrogant tone, but if I got past the subconscious dissonance and stopped focusing on that, I knew there was a way to transform her doubt into a compelling reason to choose me. My professorship, after all, was something that she recognized as making me different from the rest.

I worked diligently to prepare an explanation of my approach to money management, citing how strong communication with the client was a focus of my service. I told her that being a professor, I liked to empower my clients through financial education just as I had done for my students. She would be my co-pilot, in a sense, as I managed her account. I offered my ability to connect with my students as an example of my engaging communication skills and even offered them as references. I explained my in depth process for managing her portfolio risk and how it meant I didn’t have to be glued to a screen all day. All of this managed to turn her confusion into intrigue. The way I fought to respond well to the question made me win her trust. She thought about it a while, and eventually decided to work with me.

You can’t take anything personally in business and in sales. You cannot blame the client, even subconsciously. There are no bad questions.

You have to take every interaction, good or bad, and use it as a tool to your advantage. Sulking is for wannabe players. The real players will rise up and use resistance as a way to demonstrate the value of what they have to offer. Do you see how powerful it can be when you can turn things around? Making a negative into a positive can put you in an even better position than where you started from.

So they next time you are trying to persuade somebody to do something and they fire a big ugly one back at you, silently the bell of opportunity is ringing. Every question can be answered in a way that demonstrates your value if you are prepared to show it. The more probing the question, the deeper the client is asking you to dig, and the more value has the potential to be created. Be ready to do this (instead of sulking), and you’ll gain power in the negotiation.