The immediate response someone has on hearing the words ‘I wonder if you can help me?’ is; ‘If I can, I will’. They won’t verbalise this response but it is an automatic thought to the request. This is because people ‘Respond In Kind’. It is a golden rule of Human Nature, and why life can often be a self fulfilling prophecy. For example; if one goes to a party deciding it won’t be any good, it won’t be. The body language and messages we will subconsciously put out will be negative. People will automatically ‘Respond in Kind’ by keeping their distance.
What does this mean for us in Sales? It means that if we are not being received the way we would like, it is our fault. For example; if we visit a potential customer and are nervous and hesitant, we will not come across as very competent. Our potential customer will respond in kind, and treat us as incompetent.
Similarly, if we ask stupid questions we will often get a rude or curt reply. For example; if we call an existing customer, without a pretext, and then open the conversation by asking if they would be interested in buying more of a product, the answer will be ‘No’ – and we will be treated as stupid, because it is, indeed, a stupid question. If they were interested in more of our product, they would have called us. No one sits by the phone in desperate need of something hoping someone calls us to offer that exact product. Yet, mistakes of this kind are made all the time without people realising it.
Questions that lead people down a certain path, where they have no choice, have the same effect. So for example; saying in a sales meeting, “If I could save you money would you be interested?” will elicit a negative reaction from the client. They will treat you like a fool because that is how you are treating them. Of course people are interested in saving money but nothing is ever that simple. There will be other considerations to take into account before people start making buying decisions. This question, however, tries to get them to agree to a sales proposition when they know they are not ready to do so.
Most of us automatically ask for directions in an amenable way and therefore get a similar response. What is interesting, is if someone can’t help us they will often apologise. “Sorry, I don’t know where that is” or “Sorry I’m not from round here”. Think how powerful that is. You interrupt someone, who is busy, and within a few seconds they are apologising to you because they can’t help.
If we understand this, it can help us when we are selling. If we know how we want a potential client to react, it is up to us to ensure we elicit that response.
If you are not getting the reaction you hope for, in meetings, or on calls, it is important to analyse where it is going wrong. Is it what you are saying, or the manner in which it is being said? By understanding that people respond in kind, a Salesperson can, to a large extent, influence the reaction they will receive and take some of the unknown out of the process.
Grant Leboff is Principal of The Intelligent Sales Club working with companies on effective sales and marketing strategies and lead generation; creating a steady stream of sales opportunities for businesses. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0844 478 0044.