Sales: Use non-traditional words for better results

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

Who hasn’t heard the saying, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotω”

Translated for the selling profession: If you keep selling in the traditional way, you’ll keep getting traditional results. First, what do I mean by traditional resultsω In a word: Price!

And “non-traditional resultsω” Profitable revenue!

But defining the two types of results is easy. Let me provide a little context around what I mean by traditional and non-traditional selling.

I often refer to traditional salespeople being sort of “pre-wired” with an “unconscious DNA” or “sales genetics.” That’s not an insult. It’s simply a reference to the reality that most salespeople do indeed have an almost genetic predisposition to think certain ways about certain aspects of their job, through no fault of their own. It’s not necessarily even wrong. It’s just how the profession has evolved based on the historical needs that companies have had for salespeople.

Those historical needs defined the job description of salespeople around functions like matching solutions to customers’ needs, facilitating transactions (the words, “quoting” and “closing” come to mind), and to various, sometimes ill-defined notions of “relationship building.”

In turn, that historical job description has done much to form the mindset of salespeople.

At Stapleton, we talk about non-traditional salespeople having a “Seek Mode” mindset. A Seek Mode mindset is a general way of thinking that is characterized by, “The more I understand about the customer’s business, the more successful I will be.”

Most salespeople, however, come “pre-wired” with a “Tell Mode” mindset — which, of course, is Seek Mode’s polar opposite. A Tell Mode mindset is characterized by, “The more the customer understands about my company and product, the more successful I will be.”

That’s not to suggest that all Tell Mode salespeople are “show up and throw up” types (if you’ll forgive the use of that familiar but fitting expression). Tell Mode is just a way to describe the empirical reality that most salespeople tend to define themselves by what they know and how well they communicate that to customers. Who hasn’t heard, “Gee, you ought to be in sales, you’ve got the gift of gab”ω

There’s another key mindset difference between traditional and non-traditional salespeople. We regularly exhort sales professionals to transform their “master/servant” or “customer advocate” mindset to a “business peer” or “mutual advocate” mindset.

Consider for a second that nearly 100 percent of salespeople regularly — though in almost all cases, quite unconsciously — thank customers for their time. This friendly social expression, while not wrong or bad in itself, is however, one of the many strong-but-subtle indicators of the “master/servant” mindset that is part of the DNA of traditional salespeople, who tend to think, usually in an unconscious way, that customers are doing salespeople a favor simply by giving them their time.

The implications of this mindset are profound. I think it’s easy to see, for example, how this could make it very difficult for salespeople to avoid over-committing time and other resources and to chasing bad opportunities (two classic traditional sales results).

Those are the traditional and non-traditional mindsets. But how do they manifest themselvesω In a word (quite literally): Language! What salespeople say and how they say it.

I believe that words are to selling what numbers are to accounting: the building blocks of the discipline. Not surprisingly, traditional selling has its own “language.”

So does non-traditional selling. For example, while the traditional salesperson might say to a contact at the start of an information-gathering meeting, “The better we understand your needs, the better we can meet them,” the non-traditional version of that same statement would be, “The better we understand your business the more value we can bring you.”

These end up being two very different meetings and yield very different — traditional vs. non-traditional — results.

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