How can being so positive be so negative?

Being overly enthusiastic, aggressive and positive can spoil a sale. At first glance, this may sound whacky. But think about it. I did upon coming across an article by Denver-based Leadership Connections entitled, "Is Being Too Positive and Assumptive Hurting Your Efforts?"

The article states, "Attitude is everything but don't let it interfere with your listening skills. A recent buyer told a seller that she had wanted the seller to contact her a few weeks back and had wanted to use his services, but since she didn't hear from him promptly, she found another solution to her problem. The seller then sent emails, left voice mails and sent an unsolicited proposal in an effort to gain back a lost opportunity. He apparently didn't hear that the prospect had already solved her problem. His efforts only reinforced that he wasn't listening closely either time. Buyers want and need to know you hear them and understand them. Don't be so overly assumptive and positive that you fail to hear or read their hesitations and objections. You cannot listen your way out of a sale but you can sure talk and act your way out of one. Slow down and really listen."

This article hit home because of a recent sales experience. Already leaning toward purchase of a service, I encountered a sales guy who was "as pleased as punch" to cram me full of information-some of which already was familiar. He kept throwing out features and benefits; I kept trying to get a word in edgewise.

He wasn't hard selling, just overwhelming me with enthusiasm. Finally, he took a breath. I took the opportunity to inform him that he didn't need to sell me on the service, just address my specific questions. Unlike some, he got the message-and it appears he won't lose the sale.

Whether it's outbound sales or inbound customer support, the common thread of success is to "slow down and really listen." Then, respond to what the person says. Obviously, this runs counter to scripted and canned approaches to sales and support.

A recent Inside Self-Storage article by PhoneSmart's Joel Little reinforces the importance of handling communication carefully and competently. According to Little, "Millions of dollars are spent in advertising to attract customers and entice them to pick up the phone and inquire about renting a self-storage unit. But all that money can potentially be wasted when a customer is turned away with a sub-par phone conversation. It only takes one call for a customer to determine if he'll visit your facility and rent a unit. Likewise, he could be completely turned off at the idea of renting from your facility and choose your competitor instead."

Here are some quick tips to help handle sales and support interactions:

1. Ask lots of questions and listen closely. Q and A can help you assess the mindset and needs of the prospect or tenant. And you can't typically talk while listening, so this approach helps ensure not falling into the trap of talking too much and listening too little;

2. Feed back your understanding of the conversation high points to demonstrate a) that you really did listen; and b) that you understood. This gives the other person a chance to reflect and correct anything deemed important;

3. Invite discussion of any items that haven't been discussed. If the consumer expresses interest in something that opens the opportunity for a sale or upselling, address it. Otherwise, tread very carefully so that you don't appear pushy. (I know. I know. "Ask for the sale" is a mantra of the sales profession. I would suggest a subtler approach.)

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