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In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, “Look at me…I’m tall, and I’m straight, and I’m handsome. Look at you…you’re all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you.” And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, “Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest.” So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.”
― Tom Waits
Are you tall and straight, are you the one that one day the loggers will come and pick to chop down? A few years ago I was involved in a sales training program for good sales people that wanted to be great. Although I’m not sure it worked, I did learn a number of things through that experience.
One thing that was taught over and over again was to be “not ok”. What that means is in the sales world, people expect the sales person to be polished. They expect the well-mannered, suit wearing, fast talking young man or woman to enter their company and wow them with how damn great they are.
The teachings of this particular program were that being not OK was a pattern interrupt. Interrupting the prospects pattern so that they almost felt sorry for you open entering. Spilling coffee on your shirt (on purpose), dropping your laptop as you entered an office, or passing gas early in the bonding and rapport stage were all ideas that were bantered about to get the prospect a little unnerved. I actually made that last one up about passing gas, but you get the point.
The idea is that once the prospect was disarmed, they would be more open and not be so defensive. If the “not ok” sales person were to then act to begin simply asking questions with a keen interest in the answers, it would allow them, the sales person to make the determination if this was a client that was worthy of moving forward with.
Sales are a game. I’m sorry, if you are in sales and thought it was a lofty profession allowing for great financial gain, or that you were “actually somebody”. You are a player of the best game in the universe. Sales people are nothing more than highly paid actors that get to act on a daily basis. The better the actor, the more consideration given.
If you are straight and tall, you might have the audacity to tell others how awesome you are, but this is “old school sales”. Just like the tall straight trees, you will eventually be cut down. The crooked tree, the one with the coffee stain, the broken laptop, or even the one that passes gas is usually the one in control of the sale process even thought the prospect or clients thinks differently.
If you are in sales, go out and have some fun. Forget everything you know and have one day of pure acting excitement. Grab an old laptop from the backroom, enter your “new new” appointment and drop it on the floor. Ask your prospect for a pen and paper and watch how the meeting develops.
If you are unable or unwilling to do the above, I totally understand. You are a straight tree and you are so much better than the rest of us. You won many awards, your company is in the Burt’s top 50, and anyone that does not do business with you is a fool. For me, I’ll continue being that crooked tree that is around for years, laughs after every appointment, and is never cut down for toothpicks!
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