At some point in most training programs we talk about being willing to walk away. In addition to being part of a Kurlan led sales training program, the willingness to walk away is a major focus of any training program on negotiation as well. But most people in sales don’t understand the concept of being willing to walk, how it plays out, and what to do when you get there. I would love to share my thoughts on this below.
I have a couple of concepts that must be understood prior to a discussion on the willingness to walk. First, you must abandon any hope of making the sale.
It appeared in Season 1 of the HBO series, Band of Brothers.
A soldier was telling an officer that after the drop into Normandy, he simply hid in a ditch. The officer asked if he knew why and he replied, “Because I was scared!” The officer said, “You were scared because you thought there was hope. The sooner you can accept that you’re already dead, the sooner you can function as a soldier.”
Think about that statement – not just its war implications, but also its life, and of course, sales implications.
Some people worry constantly about troubled love ones until that trouble causes their death. The worrying ends because in those cases, death eliminates the fear.
In sales, we certainly don’t want salespeople to have a defeatist attitude – nothing could be worse than that. But on an opportunity by opportunity basis, there is tremendous power in believing we have already lost, or that we cannot possibly win this deal or account.
In battle, if we believe we are already dead, then what’s the worst that can happen? If we are already living the worst that can happen – death – then we won’t be afraid, we won’t be tentative, and we will do not some, but all the things we were trained to do. We’ll fight!
In sales, if we believe we have already lost, then what’s the worst that can happen? If we are already living the worst that can happen – we lost – then we won’t be afraid, we won’t be tentative, and we will do not some, but all the things we were trained to do. We’ll sell!
“We’ll sell” means that we’ll ask all those good, tough, timely questions that salespeople don’t always ask; qualify more thoroughly than ever before, and not give in to the pressure of an early demo, presentation or proposal until the milestones in our process tell us that it’s appropriate.
That’s the hope portion of the equation. You must also be taking a consultative approach.
When your salespeople sell consultatively, they are:
- slowing down the sales process, asking dozens – maybe even hundreds – of very good, tough, timely questions,
- having deep and wide discussions about the prospects’ reasons to:
- change how things are done,
- begin an initiative,
- change suppliers,
- spend money,
- take advantage of an opportunity,
- solve a problem,
- save money,
- discussing the implications or consequences of taking various actions or steps
- talking about who is affected by these issues and how they are affected
- identifying the real compelling reason(s) to buy and buy from you,
- differentiating themselves through this conversation,
- building a relationship based on sharing, trust, and caring.
Fewer than 15% of all salespeople have learned to sell this way, with the rest still selling in a very archaic way. They sell in a transactional way, rely on relationships, or sell by presenting and proposing. The rules have changed, the buyers have changed, the reasons and timing for spending limited amounts of money have changed, but most salespeople have not yet changed. If you haven’t learned and mastered the skills required to sell consultatively, you will lose out more often than they you win.
With hope and consultative selling as the foundation, we can discuss being willing to walk away.
I remember coaching a salesperson who was number one at his company. He had just finished providing the background on an opportunity that didn’t go as planned and he was so proud that he had walked out on the CTO.
The problem is that being willing to walk is not actually walking out! It’s when you are willing to walk out – but you don’t.
When you reach the point that you would want to walk out you simply begin asking the questions, challenging the thinking, and/or pushing back on your prospect – only now you have nothing to lose. Of course, you should have been asking the good, tough, timely questions right along but you either weren’t comfortable, didn’t think you needed to, or thought you had asked enough questions. So now you have a second chance. What would you say, do or ask if there was nothing on the line, no business to lose, no prospect to become upset and no boss to question your effort?
Salespeople tend to use willingness to walk as an excuse to give up on a prospect or opportunity. Being willing to walk is a mindset, not an actual departure!