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Why Is It So Hard To Say, “Yes”?

Our most recent two blogs discussed the obviously worrisome task of saying “no” to the client. We think that saying “yes” can be a surprisingly difficult challenge, too— and for reasons that are more subtle and, perhaps, more difficult to overcome. Let’s talk about three forces that tempt us to reject even our client’s good ideas out of hand, despite our best intentions as consultative salespersons.

  •  “Not Invented Here” syndrome: virtually a universal human trait, NIH is especially likely to affect strong-willed, proactive, competitive business professionals. It comes from (secret and embarrassing?) feelings of jealousy and insecurity when someone else comes up with a compellingly attractive idea that we didn’t think of. (It’s especially daunting if the idea is within our own area of expertise.) Our “solution” — reject the good idea and try to substitute something of our own.
  •  “I believe in myself and my stuff”: This one ‘comes from a good place;’ we’re confident that we have the best answers, so we don’t really want or try to listen to other points of view. How could they possibly be as good as ours, anyway?
  • I need to prove my value”: Every consultative salesperson feels a continuing need to demonstrate that he/she adds value to the client— especially in the current economic climate, in which provider costs are under a microscope more than ever. One apparent way to show our worth is to always be “right;” to always have a better idea; or to always at least embellish the client’s good idea.

This is very self-destructive behavior, especially since clients who can see their own input in our proposal are inevitably more genuinely enthusiastic; “involvement is the prerequisite to commitment.”

We know of a sales director who was shocked to hear his client privately confess that he took a tranquilizer (only) before meetings with the sales team. When asked why, he replied, “There’s nothing I can say in our meetings that your team won’t challenge, redirect, or add to; they always claim to have a better way. I’m in a leadership position in a Fortune 100 company. Isn’t it just possible that, at least on occasion, I might say something to which the appropriate response would be: “Good idea” or ‘Okay’?”

The sales team later conducted some attitude research among its clients, and was surprised (!) to learn that most of them branded the team with a scarlet letter “A”— for “arrogance.” When a sales team counters or “improves” every client idea, they believe they have demonstrated their value several times over. The client team leaves that same meeting thinking, “We lost again; today, it was 4 – 0.”

Everybody wins when the consultative salesperson is objective, receptive and supportive of the client’s good ideas. Fortunately, just being conscious of the forces that work against that is at least half the battle.

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