Aggressive Style Seen As Turnoff

Aggressive Style Seen As Turnoff

A good salesperson is aggressive, solves customer problems and can sell anything to anybody. Right?

Wrong, says sales expert Dick Canada. The executive director of the Institute for Global Sales Studies at Indiana University and chairman of the Dartmouth Group, Ltd., Canada says that a lot of sales "givens" are not borne out by research or by results.

In his new book, The 24 Sales Traps and How to Avoid Them: Recognizing the Pitfalls that Mislead Even the Best Performers, Canada dissects several hidden roadblocks in the typical sales approach that can be keeping kitchen and bath specialists from achieving real success.

"When salespeople believe they need to be aggressive, and when they are aggressive, they focus 
on the wrong thing: themselves," observes Canada. "Aggressiveness reduces sales efficiency because it reduces what should be your outside focus on the customer."

Customers consider salespeople to be guilty of being aggressive until proven innocent, says Canada, who notes that research shows that aggressive salespeople turn buyers off. In fact, explains Canada, buyers rank dominance as one of the least preferred qualities in salespeople. Instead, they want salespeople who are confident and assertive.

Above everything else, clients want a professional relationship, and they want salespeople who are trustworthy, composed and task-oriented. The salesperson has to view value from the customer's viewpoint, and the best way to display concern for the customer's viewpoint is to ask questions, according to Canada.

"It is difficult to be aggressive if you are asking lots of good questions," notes Canada. "And, it is always better to show concern for the customer than to talk about how wonderful your product or service is."

Another fallacy is that, if a salesperson can help customers understand their problems clearly enough, then they will buy what the salesperson is selling. But, says Canada, contrary to the conventional wisdom, it's generally not a good idea to offer your solutions to customer problems unless the customer recognizes these problems. This trap causes the salesperson to focus on himself or herself and not on the customer, which results in fewer successful sales.

Research shows that people buy when the pain of making a change is less than the pain of staying the same. "What seems to you a serious problem may not be perceived as serious by the buyer," Canada comments. "People differ in how they will adjust to, adapt to and live with their problems."

Canada says it's helpful for salespeople to separate customer problems into two categories: problems that the customer is willing to live with and problems that the customer wants to solve. "If a salesperson wants to aggravate somebody, just let them try to solve a problem that the customer isn't ready to solve yet," he says. 

Offer solutions only to those problems that the client is interested in solving. Listen, test your understanding, and clarify what the speaker says. Use the customer's actual words, not a paraphrase. And always display concern for the customer's problems and respect for the customer's perception of these problems.

People often say things like "She can sell ice to Eskimos," as a compliment to a salesperson. But a salesperson who persuades and pushes will not create value for customers, and high-ticket sales such as kitchens or baths will not occur unless the prospect sees the value in what is being offered.

Canada notes that there are two types of salespeople "pushers" and "pullers." Most sales training produces pushers that is, people who dump information on their prospects. The energy comes from the persuader, who "tells." 

"Because the push style is about telling, it's easy to practice and repeat," Canada notes. "You get really good at a presentation when you've made it 100 times. So, push sellers gravitate to a standard pitch that becomes overpracticed and therefore hard to change. The push style requires power, with expertise or knowledge being a type of power."

In the pull style, Canada says, the energy comes from the customer through the questions the seller asks. Pullers elicit information from their customers by asking lots of good questions, then customize the solutions around what customers say they need.

The push style works best when you are making low-value sales, like magazine subscriptions. People buy on impulse because the sale is small-impact, simple and low risk.

But when perceived cost and perceived risk is high, like ripping out part of a home for a new kitchen or bath, the pull style works best. If the salesperson doesn't do an effective job of pulling information from the customer, the value won't appear to offset the cost and no business will be transacted.

"Pushers are walking brochures that communicate value instead of creating it," says Canada. "Pushers are a dying breed."