As seen on P. William Clarke .com – 

Somebody Else’s Shoes

One of the enjoyable parts of my business is found on the live seminar platform. My speaking career took flight as a result of my sales training practice, where I became known for engaging sales training workshops. One of the highlights was always the countless live role plays I’d sprinkle throughout the program to reinforce various points. I played the role of salesperson, while my students had fun playing the part of the worst prospect they had ever called on.

It was typical to have salespeople from multiple companies representing a dozen or more industries in these workshops. I tried to give role play examples in as many of them as time would allow. Students would often seek me out in the back of the room when it was over and ask how I made it look so easy and if I had sold their product or service before. For years, I used to tell them it was because I worked on sales related challenges everyday. And, it was my job. But, as time went on, I began to wonder as well.

Pondering this I uncovered a cornerstone of my Discovery Sales Process® — “Selling is all about the prospect, not about the sale.” The ability to understand the prospect’s true objectives, concerns, and motives was always the easiest and quickest way to the sale. The best way to understand someone else’s situation is to walk in his or her shoes.

Over time, without even knowing it, I developed a knack for putting myself in the shoes of the prospect, readily assessing his/her possible concerns, motivations, and objectives. Once I had processed this information I used my questioning protocol to ascertain what the single most important elements were in those three categories from the perspective of person I was working with! And again, I did it by walking in their shoes.

In a seminar role-plays, it’s pretty important that you come out on top when since all eyes are on you. This was never a problem because, like in any selling situation, if you listen, the prospect will tell you where to go with the process. Instead, salespeople are often thinking about what they should say next and miss everything else. During those role plays, I didn’t have to really understand much about the student’s product or service, but rather help my prospect uncover what he really wanted. Once the prospect figured it out, I was happy to show or demonstrate how they could own it.

Prior to my life as a sales trainer, I unknowingly developed a skill for making sales based more on what the prospect wanted and less related to what I was selling. I did this by thinking about the sales call through the eyes of my prospect. Again, by walking in there shoes.

What I didn’t know was that I was fortunate to have a natural ability to easily view things from another person’s point of view. Maybe I developed this knack because I was always so interested in what made people tick.

It wasn’t always easy. When I entered the sales game, I tried to do things the way my manager taught me. He had me focused on convincing my prospects to buy “something” from me — anything! It didn’t work out so well. My manager said it was a numbers game and encouraged me to make more appointments. I soon realized that more of the wrong activity would only result in incrementally more failures!

Thankfully, I was turned around by a sales seminar I attended in my next sales role. Along with the skills I picked up there and my natural interest in others, it all worked out.

Sometimes it’s tough to remember that the sale is all about your prospect. Ask questions but, more importantly, be interested in your prospect getting the right “thing.” Look at the situation from his/her vantage point. Sales shouldn’t be a tug of war. After all, that makes both you and the prospect uncomfortable. Go into the situation with the mindset that you’re going to work together with your prospect to identify what makes sense for him/her. As you become more effective at this, your sales will increase. When you start to notice that you feel good about what you’re doing with your prospects, look down, you may be wearing somebody else’s shoes.

All the best,

P. William Clarke

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