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Sell Like You Don’t Need the Business

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You may have heard the old saying that 90 percent of success happens between the ears. That’s easy enough to say. But what does putting this principle into practice really mean? What does it look like when it shows up, in a discussion with a prospective buyer, as part of who we really are?

As a practical matter, this principle means we learn to take on, occupy, and consistently re-occupy, a set of constructive beliefs about ourselves, our company, and our marketplace.

Put simply, we design beliefs that support us, and we choose those beliefs over others that don’t. We make a conscious choice to cultivate a healthy self-concept, day after day after day, no matter what obstacles may come our way.

This is what we mean when we talk about succeeding between the ears. Among the most important pieces of evidence of this success is the ability to step back and do our job as though we are facing no financial pressure whatsoever…even if we are under financial pressure.

Notice that we are still talking about establishing and sustaining equal business stature. If we carry head trash into our discussions with buyers, the best meeting agenda in the world won’t do us much good.

Equal business stature is something that should be evident in every single interaction we have with a prospective buyer, no matter what. Why? Because our self-concept must be strong enough to maturely walk away from relationships and negotiations that don’t support our goals. That’s what leaders do. And so that’s what we do.

David Sandler, the founder of our company, understood that when salespeople become desperate, they find ways to self-sabotage. When they really, really want the sale, they get what might be called “commission breath” – the stink of fear that they’re going to lose the deal.

This turns people off. When salespeople are desperate, they waste their time chasing down people who aren’t ready to buy from them – or who try to take advantage of them. They agree to deals they shouldn’t agree to, and they sacrifice margins they shouldn’t sacrifice.

Selling like you don’t need the business means making a conscious choice not to be desperate and not to do dumb things. Bottom line: If you want the deal more than the buyer does, you have a problem… and as a professional, you want to find a way to fix that problem.

This is your life, your profession, and your career. You don’t need to do anything that isn’t in your mutual interests – and in your own best interests and of your organization. You don’t have to do all the work. You don’t have to make all the sacrifices. And you certainly don’t have to cave when someone demands a concession. You can sit back and give the thumbs-up to relationships that make sense, or you can give the thumbs-down to relationships that don’t. And yes, you can move on, even if you’re under some kind of financial pressure.

It may take a bit of practice to build up the muscle memory that allows you to do this, but putting the pressure you’re feeling into a separate compartment and selling like you don’t need the business really is the best and quickest way to address any short-term financial problem.

Think of your best, happiest customer. Now, think of the biggest problem they had that you solved for them. Next, take just a few minutes to identify exactly how much that problem was costing them, and would have continued to cost them, if you hadn’t implemented your solution.

Don’t skip anything. Figure out roughly how much money they would have lost or would have had to spend, in terms of both direct costs (like lost sales and onboarding costs that connect to employee turnover) and indirect costs (like damage to the company’s reputation and goodwill among existing customers), to close the gap if you hadn’t come along and solved that problem. Find the number. Figure out just how many dollars your solution ended up being worth to your best customer. What was their return on investment?

You want to know that figure. You want them to know that figure. Once you know the numbers, you will be in a much better position to have an adult-to-adult conversation with prospective buyers about whether it makes sense to work together. The buyer, after all, is focused on the bottom line. When you are focused on it too, you’ll find that your communication improves – and you both make better decisions.

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Scott Bailey

Scott Bailey

Scott is a recognized sales consultant and trainer of the Sandler Sales System with over 30 years of sales and management experience.