From My Sales Book 'No string Selling'
Free to Choose
I cannot imagine a greater gift than freedom. The freedom to act on one’s accord or to choose according to one’s desires should never be compromised. Yet it is this freedom that is most attacked in the sales process. Not only is the client’s freedom under attack, but the one doing the sales often feels that she must act—even shadily at times—or lose credibility among her peers, lose status, miss out on opportunities, or lose some reward. Management often requires the salesperson to close the deal in the moment, and if she cannot complete the task then a second closer is called in, and after hours of relentless games and manipulations and if no progress is being made, the client is subjected to the further tactics of another manager until he or she concedes like a tired animal, or somehow manages to escape frustrated and furious.
Unfortunately, in this scenario, no one wins. The client feels pressured to perform and so does the salesperson. All defend their positions—as would be normal under these conditions—and even if a sale is made, the client does not buy, but is rather manipulated to compromise his or her desires, and neither the salesperson nor the client feels edified.
I often wonder about the freedom of choice in selling. It seems this freedom to act and not be acted upon is central to a successful purchase. However, many businesses run on the premise of high pressure, often compelling clients to act without any regard for the client’s interests or well-being. They swarm the person when he or she drives on the lot, inducing pressure from the get go. According to Sean Brodderick, car salespeople “raise the Jolly Roger like a pack of pavement pirates and set out to loot clients’ wallets.” Pirates hold no regard for other people and neither do many salespeople. By attempting to take away a client’s freedom, salespeople only loot future opportunities. They may get the sale in that moment, but it was stolen and not given, and there is a big difference.
Creativity is Stifled When Freedom is Attacked.
Another problem with attacking freedom of choice is that it stifles creativity. The client is not permitted to come up with solutions that fit his needs, and the sales person is also limited in the options for transacting a successful deal—Yes, I used the word deal because it really does not matter what you call it. Creativity is valuable in helping a client give you a sell rather than you having to loot it.
In an article in Psychology Today, Peter Gray demonstrates that Creative Elaboration, or the ability one has to “take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting and novel way” is declining. He continues, “Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict lives today.” Although Gray’s discussion is geared toward children, reason would claim that adults would respond to monitoring, evaluation, and pressure in a similar fashion. If I know I am being watched and am expected to perform in a certain way, I am afraid to not conform. I fear that I will make a mistake or lose status by not doing what the observer expects.
I was blessed to work in a dealership that does not operate under this premise. Yet, many dealerships—and other businesses—feel the need to control every aspect of the purchase. As a salesperson, I would feel stifled if this were to occur and would not have a desire to come up with novel ways to serve my clients. Instead, I would get robotic and perhaps act like a Pavement Pirate looking to loot my next client’s wallet.
Additionally, clients who are manipulated may feel pressure to conform and therefore might miss solutions that could help them to buy the car they want. Instead, they may only see the solutions that are presented and feel helpless; ultimately succumbing to the pressures placed on them by the salesperson.
In my experience, the more freedom I am given by my management team, and the more freedom I give to my clients, the more often a solution is found, and in most cases, it benefits all of the parties involved. If one can stop trying to control every outcome, he or she will be more productive and more successful in his or her career.
Estienne de Beer says that human behavior cannot be standardized. The more one pushes another to act in the way he or she wants, the less productive the pressured person becomes. We cannot expect others to act in the way we prefer by manipulation and abuse of their freedom of choice—this goes for management as well. Instead, our goal needs to be one of persuasion. The goal is to lead the client and allow them to follow rather than shoving them through the process.
In short, freedom is valuable to the client and the salesperson. By trusting all parties to make the right decision for themselves, the sales process is enhanced. Sales people should not pressure clients to make a decision. Instead, they should lead them through the process and be helpful. In place of acting like Pavement Pirates, salespeople should be advocates and remember that all parties have the right to choose—even if that choice is not to proceed. Managers could enhance the sales experience by trusting their salespeople to make the right decisions; decisions that benefit themselves, the business, and the client.
Allow your clients the freedom to choose. Allow them to walk out your door if that is what they feel is best for them—this is contrary to most businesses’ modus operandi. However, in my experience, the more freedom you give your clients, the more likely they are to return to you, and when they do it will be their choice and they will be happy with that decision. Every other business is going to pressure them and try to get them to close in the moment. You will be a breath of fresh air and will close more deals.
Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose.
Anything less is a form of slavery.