Better Slow Down (Issue 430)

In which we remind ourselves that sales people are (usually) not competing against the clock during sales conversations. While channel surfing the other night I came to a rodeo tie-down roping contest, a.k.a. calf roping. Very exciting! At a given signal the calf bolts from its pen, dashing straight down the middle of the ring.

Adrenaline pounding, horse and rider pursue an instant later, the rider circling a lariat over head, striking before the calf covers 40 yards, pulling the calf to a stop by its neck.

As the horse digs in and pulls back to tense the rope, the cowboy jumps from the horse, sprints to the calf, and, grabbing it by the legs, flips it on its back. Pulling a pigging string (short rope) from his teeth, the cowboy ties three of the calf’s four feet together and holds his hands up so that judges and crowd can see the job is done, hoping that the tie will last the required 6 seconds. In this contest, all is quickness, timing, and the strength to seize and throw a 250 pound calf on its side, hold its legs together, and tie them tightly, once around, twice around, done. All this in 20 seconds… or less.

How similar this seems to many sales calls in which sales representatives, veins coursing with adrenaline, allow prospects or customers a few yards out of the gate, pursued quickly by sales rep at full gallop, striking before the prospect has run 40 words, and attempting with speed, quickness, and strength to tie the prospect tightly into a product with a dozen questions, leaving naught to do but sign on the dotted line.

Or so it would feel from the customer’s side.

While we don’t see “tie down selling” frequently in large-ticket sales involving multiple meetings and layers of questions to fully specify solutions, we see it more frequently in smaller, more transactional sales situations. We’ve witnessed sales calls in which sellers asked only seven questions (including, in one case, “May I sit here?”) before pitching the first product. To many sellers, 15 questions seems like a LOT.

Just like calf-roping isn’t about building relationships, neither is tie-down seven-question selling. If the mission is to fully sell all aspects of a client relationship, whether that’s banking services or landscaping, it takes more than seven questions and more than a few seconds to get the job done.

Or so it would seem from the customer’s side.

CHECK YOURSELF: Just for fun, count (or have a colleague count) the number of questions you ask before you pitch a product or an idea. Seven or fewer, you’re either order taking or pitching blindly. Twenty or more, we admire your patience and you ability to engage your client in discussion to reach deep understanding.

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