If This Is Manipulation, I'm All For It

Art Sobczak
January 3, 2012 — 1,056 views  
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Sometimes people who are not in sales have a misperception of what we do, or are capable of doing.

For example, during one of my training programs at a client's location, a woman who was not in sales for the company sat in during our questioning section. She frowned and shook her head the entire time. She came up to me afterward and said,
"Really, what you're suggesting sales reps do is manipulate people."
I asked her how in the world someone could do that.
She said, "Oh, with all of that questioning stuff you're teaching, you're trying to get people to say exactly what you want them to say and do."
I agreed with her on that part. But then I also pointed out that we're only trying to get them to take action that is in their best interest, and they certainly wouldn't do it if they didn't reach that conclusion on their own, with our prompting. I asked her if she felt that was preferable to simply pitching what we wanted to sell, regardless of what the prospect was interested in, and then subsequently creating objections because the recommendation wasn't on target.
She became flustered, said I was doing to her exactly what she just said, and stomped away.
Maybe we are manipulating people. If helping them get what they want, and helping them think it was their idea, I'm all for it.
Here's a piece that appeared in a recent Telephone Prospecting and Selling Report that details part of what I covered in the training session that made the woman so angry. It really breaks my point down into simple, everyday terms.
If This is Manipulation, I'm All For It
Think about the last time someone forced their feelings upon you by making a recommendation about what you should do . . . a recommendation that wasn't based upon anything you wanted, but rather what they felt you should do or think.
For example, take the person who says, "You should go see this movie." Or someone who gives you an article of clothing (that you think is hideous) such as a tie or scarf, expecting you to wear it. Or the assertive person who goes even further by stuffing a book into your mitts and says, "Here, you need to read this. It's great."
Granted, these recommendations are well-intentioned, and some might be on-target. But many cause us to smile politely through gritted teeth while we think, "How can I tell this person that I wouldn't even waste my time reading a review of that movie, let alone watching it."
This happens to all of us. Annoying, and sometimes embarrassing, isn't it?
And realize it or not, most of us are even guilty of it! In the sales world, that is. You see, every time we "pitch" our products or services without knowing precisely what the other person is likely interested in, we're simply imposing our feelings on them. 
The most productive, positive approach to take is to question first. This has several benefits to us and them.
1. It ensures they're interested in what we have, before we suggest it.
2. It tells us specifically where we should focus our recommendations so they have the greatest chance at acceptance.
3. It moves the person into a positive, receptive, even desirous frame of mind so that when they hear your suggestion, they'll view it through the problems or desires you've discussed with them.
Let's look at a simple situation we all have likely experienced. In doing so, examine the psychology and principles, and think of how you can apply them to your calls.
Scenario One 
Around 10:30 a.m., a supervisor walks over to a sales rep and says, "Hey, I know of the best Chinese restaurants in town that just opened a few miles from here. The Kung Pao Chicken is so spicy it'll make your eyeballs sweat. I've made reservations for lunch. Let's go there."
The rep looks up, smiles politely, while his stomach is already starting to feel like the inside of an industrial laundry dryer running at full speed. Chinese food not only makes him gag, anything spicier than ketchup sears his tongue to the roof of his mouth.
Scenario Two 
Two different people this time. The supervisor saunters over to a rep and inquires,
"Hey, have plans for lunch yet?"
"Not yet."
"Are you up for going out somewhere?"
"Yeah, sure."
"Great, what are you hungry for?"
"Oh, I dunno, just about anything I guess."
"Do you like Chinese?"
"That doesn't sound bad."
"What do you normally like to get?"
"Ummm, I like most of it. A variety."
"Do you like spicy dishes?"
"I do too. The spicier the better for me. How about you?"
"I get extra chile oil sometimes."
"Me too. How about Kung Pao Chicken?"
"Love it."
"Well, let me tell you about a place that just opened up that you'll just love. The reviews so far have not only called it the best Chinese place in town, but I can personally vouch for the Kung Pao Chicken. It's so deliciously hot it'll make the back of your eyes sweat! And the brown sauce, it's to die for."
"I can't wait. Let's go!"
Notice that at any point in the questioning, the inquirer might have gotten a response that would have implied the person either wasn't hungry or available for lunch, didn't like Chinese (or spicy), or perhaps had another preference. And based on those responses, the questioner could have either given up--before making a useless pitch that would have no chance--or could have gone with the flow and readjusted, making a recommendation on the quality of the Chinese restaurant, as opposed to the spicy aspect if that wasn't of interest, or worse, was viewed as a liability.
So what in the world does this have to do with you selling and prospecting by phone? 
Everything. Use the same principles illustrated here, based on your call objectives. Determine what action you'd like someone to take. Then prepare your questions, and their possible responses. Start with general questioning, transition to more specific questions, and once you've moved them emotionally, then make your recommendation.
If that's manipulation, there needs to be a positive definition for it added to the dictionary. 
Copyright (Reprint Terms)

Copyright© 2011, Art Sobczak. All right reserved. For information contact FrogPond at email [email protected].

Art Sobczak

Art Sobczak gives real world, how-to, conversational ideas and techniques helping business-to-business salespeople use the phone more effectively to prospect, sell, service, and manage accounts without "rejection." Art is author of numerous books, taped training programs, and publisher of the TELEPHONE SELLING REPORT sales tips newsletter. He’s also a speaker and trainer, providing high-content, one-hour to multiple-day customized speeches and seminars. To receive his free “TelE-Sales Hot Tips of the Week visit www.businessbyphone.com.