Closing the Sale. Managing The Mind Game Behind The Sales Game

If you’re reading this you may well be “in sales”. What a simple, yet broad, label for a very complicated job!

A novice might ask: What’s so complicated or difficult about sales? My answer? The games salespeople play – with their prospects’ minds and their own! Games that impact sales success and a company’s profits. Today my Cross Coaching™ forum discussed these games. Here’s what we learned:

The old sales ways of manipulating the customer – by overcoming objections and forcing him into a corner where he no longer has any objections, no longer works. Customers have access to as much information as the salesperson does; have become too savvy and are offended by such an outdated sales approach. Not that they weren’t before!

Yes, sales trainers told us to establish a need by asking questions, but those questions were designed to move the ‘prospect’ toward the close – with little regard for who the prospect actually was. Yes, I know we were taught to ask about their recreational interests, their family and pick up clues from pictures, or Diplomas on their office wall to  develop a rapport  – but that tactic masked the sales intentions of getting the deal as soon as possible!

And while sales people played these mind games – as part of the sales game – the ‘prospect’ played his own games too. He misled, delayed, toyed with, ignored (follow-up calls) and sometimes just plain lied to – his adversary, while playing each sales representative against the other. Later, each side retreated to their respective corporate fortress to share stories, strategy and possible outcomes. What a time-consuming and costly mental game. Has it changed much?

Mark, Chris and Elizabeth proposed to the Cross Coaching™ members – who all work for themselves and must market and sell their product or service, that as much as sales is still a process of persuasion; today it must be a subtle process that permits ‘prospects’ to sell themselves. Not be sold. It’s the consultative, relationship-building, approach sales trainers now coach. No pushing a contract across the table, with a pen and a bold “sign here” close! A buy-in by the prospect is necessary, instead of a let me get in the door and get them to buy sales approach!

Peg reminded us of how offensive it is when sales people still apply the outdated systematic approach. The mind game that uses a series of questions to prod the ‘prospect’ to respond and nudge her toward a forgone conclusion that ‘closes’ her where her only ‘out’ is “I have to think about it.” Now both sides are back in the mental game with the prospect furious and fighting furiously to get out of the sales game she’s been forced to play!

So, both sides lose and the salesman moves on to the next ‘number’ on the sales call list as he strives to avoid falling prey to the other side of the sales game – the frustration and disappointment. Now he has to ‘pump’ himself back up, battle the “No!” he just got to avoid the mental tail spin that can follow by focusing on who’s next in line for his sales “pitch”.

Chris felt that knowing there is a ‘next’ prospect should relieve the pressure of having to use tactics to get a buy-in via the close-by-implication method (I led you, by a series of questions, to imply to me you were sold); to avoid the inner mental turmoil that can come from having too few prospects and feeling you have to close someone to meet targets.  The mental game impacts the sales game. If you operate stress-free then you don’t bring stress to the sales presentation.

Now, the consultative approach can work better because both sides are able to revert to instinctive, natural, human behavior – without feeling pressured, without falling into an unnatural state where they feel the sales game has to be played again.

Wes, by way of example, shared his story. His sales apprenticeship quickly helped him see how prospects would zone out and their eyes glaze over, when he went into his pitch and systems approach to get to a close. He was smart enough to ask himself and others questions about how to improve – quickly! He now shares his personal story about all the money he lost from poor financial advice. His potential clients, who are interviewing different financial advisors, see that he’s been there, got back on his feet and is in a position to help them get on their feet too.

Larry, who learned a lot about human nature when he sold cars, reminded us that it’s not just about asking for the sale, it’s knowing when the time is right for both sides to reach a decision that makes sense – so that the sale occurs naturally and comfortably.

A focus on the mental game of sales and what the next step, or question, should be means sales people aren’t listening to their prospects – who frequently complain that sales people didn’t hear them; didn’t identify why they were there, what they truly wanted, or if what the prospect thought they were buying was even right for them!

Manipulating prospects with covert methods is a game that may produce short term gains, but those methods and gains will play a mental game on the salesman eventually; hopefully provoking a more mature mind set that returns to playing a game where mutual respect dominates and – as Jerry put it – people (not prospects) are given an opportunity to buy.

Jerry was in sales for 50 years. He never sold anyone. Everybody and every situation was different. He adapted to every situation, remained true to himself and constantly offered people an opportunity to buy. Here’s the irony: if you are ‘in sales’ you will have fewer mental games to contend with in your own head if you stay away from leveraging on manipulative tactics and simply make sales a game! A game the people you present to can enjoy as well.

The consensus from today’s Cross Coaching™? Enjoy what your selling. Enjoy the people willing to hear about what you’ve got. Give them an opportunity to buy – don’t use tactics to force them to buy. Have a flexible approach that adapts to different personalities. Be consistent and present often.  Avoid the games but make selling a game. Results will happen.

Peter Gibson, Harry Norman Realtor, Speaker, Author, Creator of Cross Coaching™




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