In the Heat of the Moment: Sellers Behaving Badly

In every sale, there’s a moment of truth.

It’s the moment when the buyer decides whether or not to buy.

Sellers often miss the moment. Why? Because in the “heat of the moment” we aren’t fully tuned in. With adrenaline pumping and anticipation building, we miss not only that moment but also fail to stay in charge of it.

The “heat of the moment” refers to being caught up in emotion or circumstances that override logic and impair us from being optimally engaged and effective. This idiom is used to justify crimes of passion, things we say and wish we could take back, and decisions that were driven by something other than rational thought.

Adrenaline is usually the culprit when the “heat of the moment” takes over. Physiologically, we can become addled by adrenaline in any instant where a situation is tense or when we are fearful (even as mildly fearful as an anticipation of the word “no” from a prospect).

Fear, in any magnitude, prompts our adrenal glands to pump out surges of adrenaline. The purpose of adrenaline is to equip us for a “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline signals the body to redirect more blood to the muscles and more oxygen into the lungs — making us stronger and more capable for the fight or flight response triggered by our fear.

Here’s the problem. That blood and oxygen that’s being redirected… well, it comes out of our brain’s supply. In other words, we get dumb in these critical moments. Since we don’t typically fight with or run from our buyers, our biology is working against us in these critical moments.

That’s why sellers often behave badly in the “heat of the moment.” Perhaps you’ve experienced it or seen it manifesting like this:

  • A seller completely misses an obvious buying signal. In my own field research, I observe more than a quarter of buying signals left unanswered or misunderstood. Very recently a buyer said “I’d be interested if you could do a rush order.” The seller kept talking about the product features as if the buyer hadn’t said a word. The buyer interrupted and asked “Can you do a rush order?” The seller responded with an 11-minute explanation of the ordering process and, eventually, said rush orders were possible. By then, though, the buyer had mentally moved on and was no longer interested in placing an order. The sale was lost.
  • I experienced a “heat of the moment” fail the last time I purchased a vehicle. The sales person was so intent on making the sale that day that he missed the sale entirely. All I wanted to do was order the car in a different color. I was willing to wait for delivery. I was willing to sign a contract and pay cash upfront. But he was so set on seeing me drive off the lot in a vehicle already on the lot that he lost the sale entirely. When he called me back a week later, I’d already completed my purchase with another dealership. I asked him why he wouldn’t just order the car I wanted. He sheepishly acknowledged that he wasn’t thinking clearly “in the heat of the moment.”
  • Sellers also get confused by buyer questions in the “heat of the moment.” An innocuous question or one that is a strong buying signal may be misinterpreted as an objection. Classic example: Some price considerations are buying signals, NOT objections. You have to listen closely to discern the difference. A buyer mulling over “how can we adjust our budget to make this work… maybe with financing?” is about to let you close the deal. It’s not necessary to respond desperately with a price discount. It’s not appropriate to treat this like an objection and/or become defensive.

To curb your adrenaline rush and remain calm enough to think straight, take a deep breath. Pause. Replay what your buyer is saying. Buy a little time if you need it by asking a question for clarification. Recognize that you are in “the heat of the moment” and not at your best.

Don’t let that adrenaline surge take over and trip you up. Instead, redirect the energy you’re feeling into an enthusiastic — but well thought out — response.

For more stories about Sellers Behaving Badly, look at previous posts in the CONNECT2Sell Blog.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales and leadership resources and tools. 

Inside Sales & Multitasking: Sellers Behaving Badly

You are fooling yourself if you think you can multitask while selling by phone.

Selling by phone requires just as much focus as selling in person does. In fact, I believe it requires even more dedicated focus if you are to pick up on subtle intonations, context and nuance without the benefit of visual cues.

Inside and outside sales reps alike are buying into the myth of multitasking. I seldom see sellers working by phone and doing nothing else simultaneously.

I understand why some tasks are being completed in tandem with the phone conversation. It only makes sense, for example, to enter data gathered into the CRM during the conversation. Checking a buyer’s credit or opening their web page to keep advancing the sale makes sense, too. These tasks are directly related to the conversation.

What I object to is all the other multitasking. I’m alarmed by how often I see sellers playing solitaire or minesweep while talking with a buyer. I recently asked a seller why she was playing old school games vs. something more interesting. Without picking up on my sarcasm, she answered that the work computers didn’t have many games and that she got more distracted when she played games on her tablet.

It’s not just game playing. I’ve seen a seller fill out a job application in the middle of a sales call. Online surfing is rampant. Working ahead in the CRM to plan the next call before the current one wraps up is also commonplace. I’ve also witnessed these examples of sellers behaving badly, all in the name of multitasking: eating, texting, e-mailing, addressing a birthday card, talking with a co-worker (with phone muted… hopefully), and crocheting.

When I ask sellers about this, they tell me it doesn’t compromise their effectiveness. Several said that multitasking keeps them alert and makes them more effective. More managers agree with them than disagree, and I’m seeing a lot of manager multitasking, too.

Interestingly enough, sellers don’t like it when their managers multitask. They want 100% of a manager’s attention when meeting together. They feel minimized or annoyed when a manager gives them less than complete focus, checking e-mail or getting distracted by passersby and the like.

They aren’t seeing the parallel. Sellers: your buyers feel exactly the same way you do. Just like you can sense your manager’s lack of dedicated engagement, so can your buyers feel YOUR lack of engagement when you multitask. You aren’t hiding it as well as you think you are.

In fact, you can’t really hide the fact that you’re doing something else. Multitasking is a myth. You cannot do it as well as you think you can. When you are multitasking, you are impaired. You are doing neither task as well as you would if focused on just one task. One study found that people who were multitasking were about as effective as people with a .08 blood alcohol level. In other words, it’s like you are Selling Under the Influence.

When you multitask, you think you are engaged in Attention Splitting. You believe you are capable of effectively splitting your attention between two or more unrelated tasks. Unfortunately, the human brain just doesn’t work that way (except for 3% of the world’s population who are designated as Super Taskers… Caution: 3% is a small number, so chances are very slim that you are in this group).

Instead of Attention Splitting, what you are actually doing is Rapid Attention Shifting. Every time you shift your attention back and forth, you lose time and focus in both tasks. You miss things. You are inefficient and less effective than you would be with a singular attention to one thing at a time.

You’re fooling yourself if you believe you are saving time. You’re fooling yourself if you think you are getting more done. You’re fooling yourself if you think your buyers are unaware that you’re (rudely) dividing your attention. And you’re fooling yourself if you think multitasking serves you well.

Top sellers — like high achieving professionals in any field — give their full attention to one thing at a time. They aren’t distractible because they are dedicated in that moment to doing their best work. They aren’t caught off guard and aren’t missing opportunities because they are keenly aware of what’s going on in the moment.

Research from Mihaly Csikszentmihayli also shows that “full attention in what we do feels good.” He calls this being “in the flow” and links being in the flow to higher levels of achievement.

Give it a try. See what happens if you discipline yourself to give your full attention to your buyers. You owe that to yourself and to your buyers.

Check back every Wednesday in August for more stories about Sellers Behaving Badly in the CONNECT2Sell Blog.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales and leadership resources and tools. To learn more about our sales training and leadership development programs, take a look at

In a Desperate Moment: Sellers Behaving Badly

Not every sale is a good sale.

Some sales are worse than no sale. Bad sales lead to buyer mistrust and explain why buyers dodge calls from sales professionals. A bad sale can damage a company’s brand. It can even cause a buyer to resist buying a similar service or product from anyone, even when they need that product!

Here’s a classic example. This is a real story and, unfortunately, it’s not an isolated example. At a recent conference of newspaper advertising executives, every head in the room emphatically nodded in agreement when I shared this example. In media advertising sales, this happens with alarming regularity.

While field coaching an advertising sales rep who calls exclusively on auto dealers, I was eager to see the seller’s approach with a former advertiser who was described as being “right on the brink of coming back to us.” The sales manager had done a good job, it seemed, of preparing the rep. They’d worked together on a customized product bundle that included mobile and print advertising. They’d role played responses to anticipated objections. They’d discussed what to do if the GM asked for a price concession. The seller was confident as we walked into that dealership.

As a field coach and researcher, I don’t participate in sales calls. Sometimes, holding back is downright painful. This was one of those times.

Despite the seller’s confidence and prep work, he lost control of the sales call less than two minutes into the meeting when the GM said “I know you need me more than I need you.”

From there, the GM painted the bleak picture of this marketplace. One by one, auto dealers had abandoned the newspaper for “greener pastures” (his words, not mine!). Only three dealerships still placed regular advertising with this newspaper. This dealership, the largest in town, was the one others watched. If this GM returned to newspaper advertising, others would follow suit. So, in the mind of this GM, the newspaper company should pay him to place his ads in their products! (Yes, he actually said that.)

This wasn’t one of the objections the seller and his sales manager had rehearsed.

I had to bite my tongue (remember, I’m contracted to conduct research and to observe and give feedback on what happens without my interference). The burning question I wanted to ask was this: “If those other pastures are greener, why did you take this meeting?” We knew, direct from the dealership’s own sales manager, that market share had been lost to another dealership — one that was advertising steadily with the newspaper.

The seller was flustered by the response. Worse yet, he was desperate to make a sale. You see, the message his manager inadvertently gave him was this: “Get that dealer back in the paper.” The seller, addled by the GM’s tactic, wasn’t thinking clearly. He actually said “You’re right. I should talk to my manager about that.”

I didn’t speak. But I’m no poker player, and I’m sure my expression was one of alarm. The seller noticed and regrouped. He hemmed and hawed while the GM stretched back and smirked. (If you’ve ever called on auto dealers, you know the look I’m talking about).

This is what the seller came up with next. He said “I know you’re kind of kidding. I really need to take something back to my manager that won’t get me fired. What will it take for you to place an ad with me?”

The GM was ready for this opening. He whipped out a sketch for a quarter page ad and declared the ridiculously low price he would pay for it.

The seller breathed an audible sigh of relief. Without hesitation, he agreed to the price and the one-time placement of this ad. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

After the call, I asked him what he thought about how this had played out. He was celebrating a victory, patting himself on the back. He had, after all, achieved what he believed was the objective.

If merely getting this dealership back into the paper was the objective, it was the wrong one. You see, advertising doesn’t work that way. Generally, a single ad is not effective. Frequency is what makes advertising work — that’s why you see the same ad over and over again.

By taking an ad and placing it just once, this seller did a disservice to himself, his customer and his company. He lost his credibility and future negotiating power with this GM. After this ad runs, the GM will have a legitimate objection that “the ad didn’t work.” He will be right, because single ads don’t drive response. Campaigns do, but this seller didn’t even open the conversation about how advertising really works. Ultimately, this objection will become “advertising in the newspaper doesn’t work.” That’s simply not true when advertising is properly placed. But it is true when sellers behave badly and, out of desperation, accept single placements that are doomed to fail.

Are you celebrating hollow victories when you make sales out of desperation? The only sales you should celebrate are the ones that will truly deliver the results your clients are seeking. Anything less is a surefire way to destroy your own image and that of your company.

Check back every Wednesday in August for more stories about Sellers Behaving Badly in the CONNECT2Sell Blog.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales and leadership resources and tools. To learn more about our sales training and leadership development programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog

In a Restaurant: Sellers Behaving Badly

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That’s a good question.

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Not all sellers are comfortable with the idea of challenging their buyers.

For some, this discomfort stems from a preference for building relationships and currying buyer favor with a “nice guy” approach. [Read more…]

Sales Community: Here’s a Chance to Give Back to One of Our Own

Stereotypes about sales professionals are unflattering and unfair.

One stereotype I especially loathe portrays sellers as greedy and self-serving, lining their own pockets with complete disregard for others.

I’ve worked in hundreds of sales organizations and can unequivocally say this is not the norm. Most sellers want to make a positive difference. They are generous, thoughtful and supportive of others.

Another stereotype that rankles me is the one that says salespeople are hyper competitive and quick to undermine each other. Again, not true and not fair. I belong to an elite group of sales trainers, authors and consultants who — at the top of their game — disprove this stereotype by consistently building each other up and working together to create a sales community.

One example that demonstrates just how off base these stereotypes are comes from an unfortunate situation. It shows how the sales community has rallied to give hope to one of their own.

Kelley Robertson, one of the world’s leading authorities on sales, has asked for our help as his wife, Louise, is battling cancer and needs highly specialized experimental treatment in Germany to save her life. In just 19 days, 264 people (many of them from the sales community) have already raised nearly $37,000.

Louise and Kelley still need at least $8,000 more to cover the costs of treatment, travel and related expenses. They need our help, sales professionals, to save Louise’s life.

Like all sales professionals, Kelley earns money when he is working. When he is not working, that revenue isn’t coming in. As he’s been attending to Louise over the past 14 months and, of course, she has also been unable to work during this time frame. Can you imagine the financial and emotional pressures during this time period? As it would for any of us, this quite likely cut into their reserves even before the opportunity to seek treatment in Germany became available.

I’m proud to be part of a community that cares about one of our own. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help Kelley and Louise in some small measure. And I’m hopeful that other sales professionals who read this will also seize the chance to make a difference.

Any donation to help Louise is appreciated and will help. We are a huge community, so all it takes is a small amount from a lot of us. The GoFundMe campaign (with a special incentive for sellers!)can be found here — http://www.fillthefunnel.com/make-a-difference-for-louise/

About that additional incentive: Sales guru Miles Austin set this up so we would all take swift action to donate and to help spread the word. More than 25 sales authors and experts have collaborated to offer free eBooks and other content to everyone who donates through this link. You’d spend a small fortune buying all of these bestsellers and resource materials on the open market.

Please help to save Louise’s life and to disprove the unfair stereotypes about sellers. Let’s work together to make a difference that really matters for one of our own.

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When sellers think about quotas, they’re really thinking about commission pay. That’s the most obvious way a quota benefits a sales professional.

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