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Killing Your Sales Darlings

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Killing Your Sales Darlings

We received a coaching call this week concerning a big prospect who was completely unresponsive to a salesperson in spite of years of solicitation. The fact that there had been a flirtatious expression of interest the year prior in the midst of a product shortage only intensified the attraction of the elusive prospect to the salesperson.

“Kill your darlings” was the literary advice given to aspiring writers by the turn-of-the-century author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. In his book “On the Art of Writing”, Couch explained that whenever one is driven to write something particularly brilliant – so much so that he is captivated with the beauty and appeal of his own words, working it over and over because it just doesn’t seem to fit, it’s probably a signal that it’s time to “…murder your darling”, a dramatic form of – “just delete it!”.  Better to press on with the utility work that gets the job done and communicate the story coherently and effectively than to get stuck in a piece of writing that you’ve convinced yourself is much better than it really is to the reader.

The same rule applies in Sales. We’ve all gotten stuck on a prospect that we’ve worked and worked and kept in the pipeline long after the opportunity should have been declared dead, or at least declared sufficiently critical that we called our sales coach to get a different perspective how to approach it. There’s even a good chance that the prospect never really qualified for us from the start.

To a prospect the sales person often is the company, and in a competitive field one only gets one chance to make the right impression. If our sales approach lacks relevance to what’s on the authority’s desktop we are summarily dismissed and relegated to a file cabinet drawer, as do the emails and phone messages that follow. We would have been better off not sending them anything than continuing along the same course of behavior and activity. Like being obsessed with our own brilliant writing, sales obsession is the condition of being so captivated with a particular account you can’t see your way clear to make an objective decision about what to do next, but won’t let go, either. In the worst form you become so emotionally attached to the account that you see it as “your account” despite the fact that the prospect doesn’t even respond to our calls or emails!

Related: 8 Winning Questions You Should Be Asking Every Prospect

Salespeople waste a lot of energy and resources in sales obsession so be alert to the problem, and the first alert is the word “Big” drifting into our description of the account. Many salespeople evaluate accounts from a distance the same way Wiley Coyote evaluates a steak in cartoons; the larger the account the more appealing it looks.  In GFS salespeople look at prospects with dispassionate objectivity; the prospect is just another marble in the jar.  Whether an account is big or small, or important or not, maintain a neutral mindset and stay in control expertly running the GFS process in the same manner as you would with any other prospect.  The key is to maintain a Dragnet Joe Friday indifference to every prospect in particular and to focus on “The facts ma’am, just the facts.” Save your emotional connection until after they send in the first check.

There are various safeguards for keeping your head right, but the first is to be expert in the Guess Free Selling process so that the energy you invest in your work is focused on your personal sales craft as opposed to a particular prospect or client.

Rather than obsess and see an account as big and important, focus on your own stature and that of your company. If you want to get emotional, get emotional about your personal skill using the GFS process, your ability using Realty Testing Questions to get to the truth, and your ability to maintain persistence on the call-in order to take things as far as you can.

Never forget that you qualify for everyone and everyone doesn’t qualify for you.  Then they’ll start obsessing about doing business with you!

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