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The Silent Conversation that Determines Sales Success

Two Different Languages: The Salesperson’s Perspective vs. the Customer’s Perspective

Imagine a conversation between a salesperson and a customer. The salesperson is proud to be offering this customer an extremely low price on the machinery they are selling. When the salesperson quotes their price they are surprised to see the customer get angry. The customer accuses their company of using cheap parts in order to sell at such a low price. The customer terminates the conversation and asks the salesperson to leave.  

Someone observing this interaction may rightfully remark that it appeared as if the salesperson and customer were speaking two different languages. In a way, they were. In the salesperson’s “inner” language, low-price meant good value. In the customer’s “inner” language, low-price meant poor quality.

Understanding Conversation-A and Conversation-B

This example demonstrates that every sale involves two conversations. Unfortunately, the traditional model of sales coaching only focuses on one of them. They overlook the second conversation at their peril. Let’s refer to them as Conversation-A and Conversation B. They’re comparable to the “Self-1/Self-2” of Timothy Gallwey’s Inner Game methodology.

Conversation-A: The Outer Conversation between Salesperson and Customer

Conversation-A is “outer.” It’s the conversation that’s happening between the salesperson and the customer. It’s “outer” because the salesperson can hear what they’re saying to the customer and what the customer is saying back to them. Conversation-A is what traditional sales coaching classes focus on. For example, if you attend a typical sales coaching class you will be taught how to improve your interactions with customers.

Conversation-B: The Inner Conversation Happening within the Customer

Conversation-B is “inner”. It’s the conversation that happens between the customer’s ears. We call Conversation-B “decision-making”. Since Conversation-B is “inner” the salesperson doesn’t hear it. This doesn’t mean it’s any less important. In fact the outcome of Conversation-B will ultimately determine sales success more than the outcome of Conversation-A. In other words, a salesperson won’t get a sale unless their customer decides first that the salesperson will be getting the sale.

Shifting the Focus: Selling Points vs. Customer Mindset

The story of the machinery salesperson shows us how these two conversations can be saying very different things. If salespeople fail to understand their customer’s thought process, then their chance of success is greatly reduced. The term “inner” in the Inner Game of Selling refers to the customer’s mindset more than it refers to the salesperson’s mindset. For achieving sales success, the customer’s buying performance will be more important than the salesperson’s selling performance. The traditional model of “outer” sales coaching doesn’t recognize this. As a result, most people think “selling” means presenting a predetermined list of selling points to their customers. 

If we take a closer look however, it’s easy to see why it wouldn’t serve a salesperson’s purpose to adopt that description. If successful selling only involved saying the right things, then everyone would want to be a salesperson. Selling would be the world’s easiest profession. The reason it’s not so easy is because all customers possess a Conversation-B. Sales success is achieved less by what the salesperson says and more by how the salesperson responds.

The Inner Game of Selling: Accelerating Learning and Responsiveness

The Inner Game introduces a better and faster way for salespeople to learn. How well a salesperson can respond to their customers depends on how well and how quickly they can learn about them. Salespeople need to be learners more than they need to be teachers. However, they typically don’t have much time to get to know their customers. The Inner Game’s methodology accelerates learning by employing techniques that remove the most common interferences to learning. The Inner Game of Selling gets salespeople more focused and more responsive. The best responding salespeople will be the most successful salespeople.

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