I don’t play golf, and according to the common consensus, that means I never stood a chance to be successful in sales, or in business. After all, everyone does business on the golf course, right? The relationships created on the golf course create the relationships you need in business and sales is “all bout the relationship,” correct?
Not so much, actually. Success in sales or business is not primarily created on the back of a personal relationship built on the golf course or anywhere else. Yes, I know, you or someone you know closed a million dollar deal on a gold course once. Fine, good for you, but the golf course was at best a geographical data point of the sale, not a causal one. People buy from people they trust, and liking someone and trusting them are two completely different things. I have a cousin I really like. He’s funny and entertaining and makes me laugh. I wouldn’t trust him with sharp objects though. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t trust him with any dull objects either.
The best bet and most common path to sales success comes primarily from one thing. Being the originator of a paradigm shift in your prospect. That alone wins you so much trust, it creates an almost compelling urge in prospects to do business with you.
This is because the world is not static. It changes. Yet most humans hang on to certain beliefs with a certainty that borders on fanaticism. Once they make decisions based off some observation or fact (accurate or not), they will hang on to that belief in the face of contrary evidence of Gaussian proportions.
I’ll give you a personal example. I’m a poker player. I’m not a World Poker Tour champion level player or anything, but at a table of amateurs I usually do pretty well. My strategy is to allow the table to label me based on a first impression, and then change up my approach to confuse them all. That means that if I get caught bluffing once or twice, I stop bluffing from that point on. If I get called and have a monster hand early in the game, I start bluffing a lot more. As a general rule, the other players (minus the pros) will go with the opinion of my playing style they themselves created based on one or two early hands, regardless of how many more times it gets proven false going forward. If I get caught bluffing early, they will call every hand I play, no matter the evidence in contradiction of the impression of me as a “bluffer”. Because I bluffed once or twice, I’m labeled a “bluffer” and they’ll lose dozens of hands to me before they figure it out. Even if you end up at a poker table with me one day, fully forewarned of my strategy, you are more likely than not to fall for it, so strong is the human compulsion to label things and stick with that label.
Even math and science, disciplines based on hard fact and experimental observations are not immune from this effect.
A hundred years ago the world of science stipulated that the human body was incapable of running a four-minute mile. A significant amount of scientific data was provided to prove this. “It could not be done”, they said in unison.
Years later, someone ran a mile in under four minutes.
Every expert stated that a computer would never beat a human chess champion, and then Kasparov lost a game to a computer named Deep Blue, and every expert had to rethink what was possible.
At the end of a lecture in June of 1993, mathematics professor Andrew Miles calmly announces that the information he had just lectured on conclusively proves Fermat’s Last Theorem. For the non-math-nerdy among you, Fermat’s Theorem is that while a square number can be broken into two smaller square (25, the square of 5, can be broken down into 16 and 9, the squares of 4 and 3) the same cannot be done with a cubed number or any other higher power exponential number. This was considered an unsolvable mathematical theorem for over 300 years, despite a large offered reward in the 1800s by the French Academy of Science to anyone who solved it. Before that day in 1993, 99.99999% of mathematicians would have said it was impossible.
If even math and biological science can be labeled as “non-static” and a huge paradigm shift can happen in the best chess minds in the world, surely nothing in your world is safe from the same principle.
Things change. People’s views, however, linger far longer.
This reality is your single greatest leverage point in Sales. If you help someone see the world more accurately, or cause a paradigm to shift for them, you get a titanic dose of trust in return. Being buddy-buddy and playing golf every weekend can’t come close that in terms of trust “currency”.
The product or service that you sell likely exists because it solves a problem. Very few useless products survive in today’s super competitive world. That problem and the pain associated with it is your customer’s reason to buy. Many customers live in ignorance or denial of that pain, and of the causes of it. Sometimes they’ve stopped seeing it, and sometimes they never saw it at all. They are firmly planted in their comfort zone.
Trying to be their Golf buddy doesn’t help them see or solve the problem. Challenging their thinking does. Their comfort zone isn’t good for their business. No great inventions or achievements ever came from someone staying in their comfort zone.
As a sales professional, you are not coming into the customer’s world to be accepted into it as a new member. You are coming into it to disrupt it, and make them more aware of the pain situations you can solve for them. You are the one tasked with pointing out that the emperor has no clothes on.
Their comfort zone is based on the status quo, and that re-enforces inaction. Push people out of their comfort zone and not only it will help them, but it will win a relationship based on trust, not based on a golf swing.