RGUING WITH A CUSTOMER IS GENERALLY
considered to be a bad idea. But is that always so? Maybe not.
Webster’s Unabridged Dic- tionary
defines “argue” as: To debate or dis- cuss; to treat by reasoning. Some debate prac- titioners describe “arguing” as a means to come to a consensus on a particular problem or issue by applying logic and sound judgment. If the goal of an argument is ulti- mately to arrive at a mutual agreement via a collaborative debate (rather than winning a quarrel), then “arguing” at any time could be the best option. Part of a salesperson’s work is to create a communicative environment with customers and prospects that leads to a consensus (e.g., consummating a sale, resolving a problem, or agreeing to the “next action”). The good news is that using prescribed arguing techniques can make that desired outcome more prob- able, although not guaranteed. Polished argu- ing skills can neutralize a potential quarrel or perhaps transform an unwanted confrontation into a productive, affirmative discussion, negotiation, and/or decision.
Look in the Mirror
Customers want salespeople who are trustworthy and credible. Long-term sales professionals have created rep- utations for being knowledgeable, well informed, and dependable and for priori- tizing customers’ needs above all else. Top salespeople don’t earn a premier reputation by being victorious in every discussion. Rather, they intentionally avoid becoming roadblocks to successful sales by not insisting on winning ev- ery argument. Their char- acter is built on having excellent listening skills, appreciating that reason- able people can have dif- ferent perspectives on the soundness of opposing ideas, and knowing that those ideas can differ in importance and urgency in ways that may not be immediately understood or foreseen by them.
Being a professional listener is a key skill in top sales- people. They know to ask questions before giving answers —or risk solving the wrong problem. They know that astute listening skills shouldn’t be taken for granted and that ef- fective listening includes sensible and relevant questioning intended to reveal accurate insight into the true wants and needs of buyers.
Don’t assume that each customer is static. Not understanding a customer’s intellectual and emotional thinking can be risky. Whether the buyer is a loyal veteran or a newbie, selling conditions and attitudes can change gradually or in an instant. Particularly when preparing to explain a new system, a change in proce- dure, or a nontraditional product, a salesper- son should ask him- or herself: What will this person want or expect? What is his or her level of competence, knowledge, and interest? Will someone else in the firm be called in for a formal review—and if so, how much influence will he or she have on the purchase? Additionally, each customer should be assessed on his or her own merits, independent of similarities with other clients. Salespeople must also review what they themselves know and don’t know because they will be held account- able for the information they pass on—right or wrong. Product performance claims are generally supported by manufacturer facts and charts. Having such mean- ingful statistical data on hand can validate a produc- er’s claims and strengthen a salesperson’s argument.
State Your Claim
At the heart of any argu- ment is the claim of facts: a statement (or statements) that answers questions such as “What must be proved?” and “What evi- dence for the claim will be required?” Often, ques- tions related to product performance can be satis- fied with statistics, facts, and data provided by the manufacturer; from rele- vant independent studies; and/or from testimonials by users.
© X IX I N XI N G / I S T O C K
in this issue
back issues 2012-2013
Click to subscribe to this magazine
article text for page
< previous story
next story >
Share this page with a friend
Save to “My Stuff”
Subscribe to this magazine