We recently discussed the growing influence of inside sales, what with myriad electronic devices that make it easier to reach prospects and execute sales via your smart phone and laptop. Apple’s new iPad, which was introduced on Wednesday, is just the latest gadget that has the media all atwitter.
But in the b-to-b arena, with long sales cycles, you have to get out into the field and press the flesh. In some cases, b-to-b sellers may not even be able to make a legitimate pitch for business unless they meet face-to-face with the buyer, or, increasingly, a committee of buyers.
Indeed, a talent for being able to “read” a room – and spot non-verbal communication, which is most of human communication, anyway – still trumps all. “One of the biggest myths is that buying and selling is a logical process,” said Sharí Alexander, founder and president of Presenting Matters, which offers executive coaching and business training and whose clients range from Canadian football player Casey Printers to Devon Energy. “As humans, we act on emotions and justify the logic later.”
We had an eye-opening chat with Alexander about some of the less-than-obvious clues buyers unwittingly send sellers about their behavior and intent and how sellers can respond to such tics without alienating the person or putting the relationship in jeopardy. (Read Alexander’s blog here.)
Alexander said before sellers attach any profound meaning to non-verbal signals, which can range from a toothless smile (not good) to a shifting torso (worse), sellers first have to “norm” the person. “Everybody’s habits and behaviors are unique to them,” Alexander said. “Some people like to stand with their arms crossed; some people like to lean to one side. You have to determine what the ‘norm’ is for this person before you can determine if [he or she] is sending signals that break away from the norm.”
While a fake smile and fidgetiness are relatively easy to spot, Alexander said it is a “universal truth” that feet are the most honest part of the human body. “The feet point to where the body wants to lead,” she said. “If they’re interested their feet will be pointed to you. If they’re not buying into what you’re saying they’ll point their feet in any other direction.”
Alexander stressed that when buyers display non-verbal signs that indicate that they are cool to a potential sale, sales reps should address the doubt head-on. “If the plane is going down fast, just ask outright: ‘I get the feeling part of this isn’t resonating with you. Tell me which part isn’t resonating and maybe I can come up with a different solution,’” she said.
And don’t use buyers’ negative signals as an excuse to curry favor with them. “You don’t want to say, ‘Yea, I know this part of the proposal is pretty weak,’” Alexander said. “Just ask questions about how you can improve whatever the buyer doesn’t seem happy about.”