When hosting sales workshops for reluctant sellers, I commonly use an introductory exercise to help participants reframe their perception of sales by sharing their own buying experiences.  

In the first half of the exercise, participants share a first-person story of a negative buying experience; this could be any negative experience where someone “sold” them something.

Participants easily think of negative examples and many can think of several. The stories are often cringe-worthy and bring out a range of emotions from disbelieving laughter to anger or sadness. Common words used to describe the seller are confrontational, uninformed, awkward, self-centered, and high-pressure. The participants perceived these sellers to be uninformed and/or only had the seller’s best interest in mind.

In the second half of the exercise, participants share a positive buying experience. In this case, people are often stumped and can’t think of an example. Each time, I have to ask the group to expand their concept of sales. “Think of a time someone advised you in making a decision. You took their advice and when you reflect back on the experience you still feel positively about the advisor and the decision you made.”

After expanding their perspective, participants are able to share an example. The stories are heart-warming, even for small, insignificant purchases. Common words used to describe the seller are understanding, well-informed, responsible, and truthful. The participants perceived these sellers to be knowledgeable, in their offerings and the buyer’s needs, and that they cared about the buyer’s outcomes.

I don’t have any magic advice on selling during a worldwide pandemic but I do believe that now it’s even more important to create a positive buying experience.The average customer is less willing to part with their money—they need a stronger case for return on investment—and they have fewer day-to-day positive experiences.

Despite the current constraints, make sure to continue to sell in a way that your customer will categorize as a positive experience and, therefore, may have trouble even remembering it as a sales experience.

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