Welcome to "Ask 8cr!" - a new section of our blog where we've created a forum to find out what kinds of issues and challenges people are having in the workplace. We then take these issues and apply a business book we feel offers a viable solution. Others then chime in via the comments section. The person with the selected challenge gets a free copy of the book, but everyone who reads these posts, wins. Do you have a challenge at work? Send it to me at jon(a)800ceoread(dot)com.
Today's challenge deals with overcoming fear in the sales process. Here's a note from one of our readers:
"I am in sales and have found that I linger around mediocrity or below not because of lack of skills or desire but because of the fear of rejection I have, which is a manifestation of my inability to trust in combination of my fear of abandonment. When I say fear, I am not talking about sweaty palm fear or "a knot in the stomach before I pick up the phone" fear but a gnawing insidious little thing that crops up in the most inconvenient places like the times I need to be exploring the customers needs or asking for the order. It is not even a conscious thing, I just don't do it and it has really hamstrung my career. It is also not something that can be simply overcome by doing that which the fear keeps you from doing." - Greg
Fear can ruin all of us, no matter what we do. In Greg's case, it's important to point out that he's good at what he does; he has the skills and desire to sell, but he's afraid of losing, and that's keeping him from moving forward. What Greg needs, and what we all need, is the confidence of better outcomes. I'm sure Greg understands that in business, we need to claim and create value. But how do we build this and support it through the entire process so that we come out where we want? Negotiation. By building a process and sharpening his negotiation skills, Greg won't have to be wondering about the customer's needs or asking for the order. These issues will be addressed in the negotiation process he creates.
Roger Fisher and William Ury's book, Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
, discusses how to identify the underlying interests involved in any business situation, and tells readers that "behind opposed positions lie shared and compatible interests." Consider this, in business, both parties want stability, both want maintenance, both want a good relationship, but they also might have some different interests - terms of payment, different materials, etc. Figuring out how to comfortably work around those differences by asking "why" and "why not" questions (which the book identifies through a series of real-world examples) will put anyone in a sales discussion on better ground. Let's face it, talking about interests is a conversation that shouldn't be shadowed by the subconscious fear that Greg describes, and this book gives great advice on how to avoid those feelings and create a positive outcome for both parties.
Similarly, G. Richard Shell has written a book called Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People
that focuses on Shell's "Six Foundations" (personal bargaining styles, goals, authoritative standards, relationships, the other party's interests, and leverage). He refers to his method as "Information-Based Bargaining" and makes it easy to apply the theory to deals ranging from large business to, humorously, negotiating with your kids. The book concludes with a full assessment tool that readers can use to track their progress in learning these skills - a handy and useful way to extend the content into real-life situations Greg or any of us might have.
Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman have also recently written a helpful book called Negotiation Genius: Real World Strategies That Give You the Edge
. In it, they say, "Negotiation genius is about human interaction, and the only raw material you need to achieve it is the ability to change your beliefs, assumptions, and perspective." When sales people lose a sale, they think they got a bad deal and that there were circumstances out of their control that inhibited them from landing the sale. These factors can range from price, market, and time. But, the path to negotiation genius tells us that these can be overcome, that everything can be negotiated.
The book states: "Selling involves telling people about the virtues of the product or service you have to offer, focusing on the strengths of your case, and trying to induce agreement or compliance. Effective negotiating requires this kind of active selling, but it also entails focusing on the other side's interests, needs, priorities, constraints, and perspective." What the authors go on to show is that in negotiation, no one has to lose for the other to win. By using case studies of political and pro sports negotiations, it's clear that these claims aren't academic pipedreams, but real possibilities that business people can apply to their work - particularly salespeople. From a sales perspective, this means you can avoid getting the "bad deals," the lost opportunities, and the fear that Greg experiences every time he gets close to closing the deal. Through negotiation, and the ideas outlined in this book, we can learn how to make agreements that benefit everyone involved.
Greg is going to get this jackpot of books on his doorstep. Hopefully he'll chime in here with some follow-up notes after he has a read.