𝗣𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝘃𝗲, 𝗔𝗴𝗴𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗶𝘃𝗲, 𝗔𝘀𝘀𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲?
Updated: Nov 19
If sales were described in terms of the children’s story “The Three Bears,” then Goldilocks would likely avoid the aggressive and passive bears but find the assertive bear “just right.” You want to be clear in your approach to sales and find what works for you.
Assertiveness in sales is confident and just forceful enough. It’s not overbearing (excuse me) because you respect and understand the client and want them to succeed, too.
Since this analogy may be getting as bland as warm porridge, let’s get to the business lessons.
Form a Plan. Consider all the possibilities of what can go well and what can go wrong in advance to help keep things moving forward. You want to respond effectively and quickly to tough questions and to potential complications. Even the most detailed plan will not cover every contingency, but a plan does prepare you for common objections and concerns.
“I see your point here. Can I explain how we’ve
helped other companies with similar challenges?”
Keep It Moving. No one likes to carry on a conversation or to be dominated by one. Keep the discussion going forward by adding useful, relevant points. Simultaneously, you should be introducing the next steps after each contact. Enter every conversation with a clear sense of what you want to accomplish. Pushing forward may not feel comfortable at first, but eventually, you will form a productive habit.
“It sounds like we can help. When is a suitable
time to show you how the product works?”
Focus on Value. At its best, sales are about helping customers create benefits through efficiency, quality, convenience, etc. Throughout discussions, it should be clear and persuasive how working with you will help them to solve problems. Regularly position the value of your offering based on what the customer will gain in the future. If the discussion gets stuck on price later, revisit the value proposition.
“If you want to lower the price, can we look at
reducing some of the features or service levels?”
Dive in Early. While it’s tempting to ask light questions initially, asking tough questions will teach you more and set the tone for more difficult conversations around negotiating and closing the deal. Confirm upfront that the prospect has the budget, technology, and resources to work with you before investing too much of your and their time. You don’t want to discover a deal-breaker after weeks or even months of conversations.
“Based on the size of your company right now, will
your team have the budget to implement a solution?”
Take a Stand. A passive person may focus only on listening, and an aggressive person may only want to dominate with their ideas. Assert yourself around your business expertise and industry knowledge while listening to their specific needs. Then provide ways the customer can benefit based on what you heard, knowledge of your offering, and case studies.
“We’ve seen remarkable success in companies like yours.
Can I show you some of their results?”
Face Their Challenge. In their mind, the customer is risking a lot by trying something new, including their reputation, time, and budget. It helps to acknowledge their point of view. For instance, you may address their concerns proactively and directly to collaborate on a solution.
“I understand your budget constraint. Can we discuss some
creative ideas that may work for both of us?”
Target the Ideal. While you want to do business with a lot of people, you know that not everyone will benefit from what you’re offering. Understand the right demographics to benefit from your offering. Determine the ideal customers over time by measuring results and refining effectiveness. Occasionally, test new industries, roles, regions, departments, etc. to explore new opportunities.
“We help employees with young children working from home.
Do some of your employees fit that group?”
Keep it Moving. You can’t wait for a door to open itself, and you don’t want to force it open. You want to find that Goldilocks approach between being a bull in a glass shop and never entering the store. After you introduce how you can add value, nicely yet firmly ask for the next step by building on the value just offered.
“Do you have five minutes for me to tell you h
ow we can improve your turnaround time by 15%?”
Accept a “No.” If you are in the middle of asking questions and hear the word “no,” you may be tempted to ask the same question again in different ways. Instead, accept that response and move to the next question. You want to keep the discussion moving forward and may learn more about that “no” later.
If you have reached the close of your presentation and they say, “Actually, we’re all set,” you could reply,
"If you reviewed what I sent you and you
feel that way, then you're right," and pause.
Pro Tip: Sometimes, remaining silent lets the customer provide more context and insight into their thinking.
“Learn to be silent.
Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.”
Play the Long Game. If the deal is not worth pursuing now, ask if you can follow up in a couple of months. Over time, their needs may change. For instance, they may determine that a vendor they chose was not a good fit, or they may hear rave reviews and want to learn more about your products or services.
“I appreciate all your time so far. We are constantly adding new features/services.
Could I reach out in three months and give you an update?”
Key Takeaway: Be clear, thoughtful, and direct to solve problems and move forward without being forceful in a way that’s “just right” for both sides.