Kill the Assumption Gnomes –Farquharson/TedescoJune 2011
Imagine having a gnome sit on your shoulder and whisper negative thoughts into your ear. All day long, you'd hear comments that would keep you from doing good things and urge you to do bad things. He'd tell you why it won't work, why you're wasting your time and urge you to just quit. Everything he tells you is worse than a lie. They're all assumptions. Actually, you don't really need to imagine this "Assumption Gnome" scenario.
He's already there, talking to you. And what's worse, you're listening. You're buying in. He's on your shoulder now, as a matter of fact. Take a moment and see for yourself. No? You can't see him? OK, let's do a little test…
Give this question some thought: What is the worst day of the week to make a sales call? Think about your answer before continuing to read this column. Which day of the week stands out as the one that you believe to be futile to even try making a sale. Think. Did you hear that? The answer you just came up with (most likely: Friday) wasn't your doing. It wasn't your thought.
No Bad Day for Selling
It was your Assumption Gnome telling you that no one wants to hear from you on a Friday because everyone is already gone or, at a minimum, thinking about the weekend and has no interest in you. Don't bother, he tells you, before adding, "and Mondays are out, too. People are just getting their week started and probably don't want to be interrupted."
Here's the sad truth: The Assumption Gnome has just cost you 40 percent of the work week. By listening to him and readily believing everything he says, you were convinced to not even try. You didn't need voice mail to defeat you. He beat you to it.
The Assumption Gnome needs to be stopped. He needs to die or be taught to whisper positive assumptions instead. That way, instead of believing the worst, you have positive thoughts and make positive assumptions. How? Let's look at a few common situations and see where to make changes.
As we all know, Assumption Gnomes are illiterate, so you'll have to teach yours to change by speaking to him. Only through repetition can change be affected:
• You leave a voice mail message for a prospect and as you hang up, you hear, "Don't call again, you'll only make them angry. If they want something, they'll call you." Silly Gnome. The next time this happens, say out loud, "I have products and services that bring tremendous value to my customers. This prospect is waiting to hear from me and hopes that I call again."
Fact: 90 percent of the time, print salespeople leave only one message and never call again. Making this positive assumption and calling a second time will differentiate you from nine out of 10 of your competitors <> just like that.
• You deliver an order and the customer says to you, "T.J., I don't know what we'd do without you. You are a valued vendor. Thanks!" As you are pulling away from the client's office, your Assumption Gnome says, "Man! Those people LOVE you! You're the best there is. You're the king of the world. Expect to see a statue in the lobby within a week."
Um, Gnome? This isn't 1982. We are only as good as the last job we shipped and, while this one might have gone well, it is now in the past and the reset button has been hit. As such, you need to tell yourself, "I cannot get complacent and believe my own press. I need to continue to earn my client's business as if I might lose it at any moment." Making this assumption keeps you on your toes and acknowledges the sad truth that all relationships are temporary.
• A prospect says to you, "We are happy with our current vendor." Quietly, you hear, "Oh well. That's that. We tried. Besides, their printer is probably doing a great job. Move along, citizen."
Here, try this instead: "Give him another reason to see you. I'll bet the current printer is simply reprinting the same thing over and over. Maybe they'd be up for a new suggestion. Offer to bring a fresh set of eyes to their needs."
Sometimes, the Assumption Gnome tells us what we want to hear. When sales prospecting, the easy way out is to just fold up the tent. Overcoming an objection requires a little moxie and the ability to hear the problem as an opportunity.
During lunch, you sit and ponder the industry. Everything you read has the printing industry on the decline faster than a Six Flags roller coaster. "You're a commodity," you hear. "Everyone sells what you sell. It's all about price. Get out. Now. Walmart is hiring."
Print Still Fills the Bill
But you know better and, moreover, you know that if you sell with that negative assumption between your ears, your customers and prospects will surely hear the panic in your voice. So, you close your eyes and focus on the fundamentals. A new thought enters your head: "People still need to communicate and print is a tool in the toolbox. Electronic options and social media won't replace print, they'll augment it. They work together. Therefore, it is in my best interest to know all about social media, how the different options work, and where print fits."
You pay the bill and walk towards your car with a whole new set of thoughts in your head: "My prospects want to hear from me. They are waiting for new ideas. I can beat the price objection by avoiding it entirely. That requires selling solutions, not printing. Moreover, my competition is vulnerable. They are making assumptions of their own, including the 'My customers love me' assumption, and I need to exploit that. I sell a valued product in a consultative manner.
"When I start the prospecting process, I will be pleasantly persistent. The next call I make is the one that gets me the appointment. If not, it's probably going to be the one after that."
Assumptions are deal-killers. They are negative messages delivered in quiet whispers that, for some reason, we believe and harp on. Worse, we buy into them willingly and accept them unconditionally. Think about that. We accept negative thoughts without questioning their validity.
Why is it so easy to believe the worst and so hard to approach sales thinking the best? Your fastest way out of this cycle is to question the assumptions you are making and change them to a positive message. Only then will the Assumption Gnome be defeated, die and never return. Probably. PI
—Bill Farquharson, T.J. Tedesco
About the Authors
Bill Farquharson is the president of Aspire For (www.AspireFor.com). His Sales Challenge can help drive your sales momentum. Contact him at (781) 934-7036 or e-mail email@example.com. T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, a 15-year-old marketing and PR services company. He is author of "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry" and five other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.