From time to time, I’ll meet a salesperson who will tell me that they are not assertive. Typically they say things like, “I’m not pushy – I just let the sale happen,” or “The customers will let me know when they’re ready to buy, but I’m not going to push it.”
There exists for many salespeople a built-in excuse for not closing – “it’s just not me.”
I suppose that’s fine if your only interest is in keeping the customer in a comfortable place. But look closely – that was never in your job description. The sales process is a two-way street. That means both parties have needs that must be met. There is a win-win solution, which ultimately involves the prospect moving forward with a purchase decision.
The question we must consider is one of degree – how much is too much? How much should we push, and when should we back off?
For some perspective on this topic, consider a definition. In the classic book Your Perfect Right, authors Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons offer the following definition of “assertiveness”:
Assertive self-expression is direct, firm, positive – and when necessary persistent – action intended to promote equality in person-to-person relationships. Assertiveness enables us to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, to exercise personal rights without denying the rights of others, and to express our feelings honestly and comfortably.
Inherent in that description is the idea that I can ask for what I want, so long as I am respectful to the person I am asking.
It is my opinion that the majority of salespeople (in all industries) lack the necessary assertiveness for the job. Their fear of rejection is so high that they end up paralyzed in their approach. Often this is due to a high threat sensitivity, as they play out the worst-case scenarios of customer interactions.
The problem is that the salesperson is robbed of the opportunity to accomplish his or her goals. But they are also robbing the prospect of the same thing! When we let our fear get in the way, we force the customer to make the next move. If they share that same fear, they will sit on the sideline waiting to be asked. Each then disables the process further.
Can I suggest that you get it out of your mind that assertiveness is a dirty word? You have a right to ask for the sale, and your customer has the right to say no. But if you do not ask, you do not get. And sometimes, when you do ask….you change people’s worlds!