Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Don't Touch A Hot Stove - March 4, 2017

How many times have you either been told this statement directly, overheard the statement being made, or even made the statement yourself: “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot”? And, how many times have you, or someone else, touched the hot stove? After the ouch factor, you then look at the person that warned you with a stare of wonderment, in a “why didn’t you warn me” manner, only to get the “I TOLD YOU SO”.


It’s happened to all of us at some point in our lives. This type of scenario even happened to me recently. I was traveling with my family and my kids told me the pool water was cold, but I jumped in any way, and it was freezing. My reaction, of course, was to ask, “why didn’t you tell me it was this cold?” My kids just rolled their eyes, laughed at me, and walked away.


These little “I told you so” moments happen in sales too. Rather than “I told you so”, I have always tried to make these learning moments, both as the student and the teacher. As my career has evolved over the years, I do find myself serving more and more as the teacher, and yet I still learn from these moments through my students eyes.


First of all, no one ever wants to hear “I told you so”, but mature, level-headed sales people will recognize and understand that constructive criticism can go a long way in building one’s sales career, because these teaching-learning moments almost always are based upon experience. It doesn’t take a master’s degree in education to be the teacher in these scenarios, rather it takes a story teller’s approach.


Sales people, so I’ve come to learn over 20+ years, tend to be more receptive when being told a story versus being given a directive. When a young sales person comes to you for advice, or you are placed in a situation where you may be tempted to offer advice (as in be careful the stove is hot), sales people have an increased likelihood of listening to you (avoiding the stove) if the advice is told in story format (such as: let me tell you, that happened to me once, and here’s how it turned in my favor). Giving a directive, the “do this” and “don’t do that” approach generally doesn’t come with any “why reasoning”, and instead comes off just as it sounds “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot”.


Think of the parent-child relationship for a moment. It’s happened since the dawn of the hot stove. Parent says to child, “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot”, child proceeds to touch stove, and child then gets a burn on his or her hand. Instead, the scenario could have played out like this: parent says to child, “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot, and trust me it will burn you. In fact kid, I did not listen when I was warned once, and boy oh boy did that burn hurt. It doesn’t look hot, but it left my skin so severely burned that it took two months to recover. I just wouldn’t want to see you go through what I went through.”


In sales we could take the directive approach: sales person tells sales manager they are being met with resistance to their closing approach on a sizable deal. Sales manager says, “go tell them XYZ and come back with a PO”. Unfortunately, that is a directive, whereas the sales manager may have taken this approach: “here’s how I would handle their objection, but realize it is all in your delivery, so you may want to try this tone of voice, use these words, and give them a few examples such as these, and also be prepared for a follow-up objection, which I’ve encountered too and here’s how I dealt with it…”. Do you see the difference?


Most sales people have an ego and asking for advice and guidance is not always their first choice. More times than not the sales manager or other seniors in the company tend to overhear the sales person talking and they chime in. They mean no harm, they simply want to be helpful. When you’re in the advice offering seat, be mindful of your message delivery, offer advice and guidance, and wish them well. If they ignore you, call you old school, and end up losing the deal, well then you can say, “I told you so”.

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