Business Irish

Tuesday 12 December 2017

If you can't even speak about money, don't expect to see any in sales process

Paul Lanigan

I believe how and when you discuss money during your sales process has a greater impact on selling success than your price.

A few years ago, I engaged the services of a Dublin-based PR company to help me promote an event I was organising. I found the two partners of the firm to be pleasant hosts and experts in their field.

After a few minutes, our conversation moved from small talk to the business matter at hand. It was a fairly straightforward deal, so we had almost concluded our meeting within an hour. There was just one important matter we hadn't yet discussed -- money. It didn't look like they were going to bring the topic up, so I looked the two partners in the eye and said: "We should probably talk about money now!"

Their response was intriguing. One of the partners shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the other went bright-red, turned to her colleague and tellingly stuttered, "this is where I leave you guys to fight it out" and she left the room.

Both were clearly uncomfortable discussing money. Their attitude toward money was undoubtedly hurting their pocket and doing nothing to inspire confidence in me.

We all grow up with a conceptual view on money. Think about how money was discussed in your home. Perhaps it was rude to talk about money? Maybe you grew up with a belief that money was scarce ("money doesn't grow on trees you know").

If, like me, you studied Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' in school, perhaps you'll recall the dark, money-lending character Shylock who wanted his "pound of flesh"?

Recall the imagery from Yeats's 'September 1913':

"But fumble in a greasy till, And add the halfpence to the pence."

Consider some biblical references to money:

"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

And my favourite: "The love of money is the root of all evil."

It's no wonder that we look forward to discussing money as much as a visit to the dentist.

The problem is that if you are uncomfortable because of these 'hidden' money messages, you will without doubt communicate your feelings to your prospect.

The real problem is that your prospective customer doesn't automatically associate the discomfort he observes with your childhood messages! It's much more likely that he will interpret your discomfort as a lack of conviction and confidence.

The minutest hesitancy, sideways glance or voice inflection is likely to trigger your prospect's unconscious defence system, resulting in stalls, think-it-overs and delays.

None of these options helps you close the sale.

Worse still, because we avoid discussing money, we fail to set the ground rules on how and when we are going to get paid.

Merely putting your terms in an email or referring to them in your proposal or quotation, does not establish an agreed set of mutually acceptable ground rules.

The result is that we may end up putting ourselves under financial pressure and find ourselves chasing customers for payment. This invariably means we'll incur avoidable overdraft fees and the overhead of credit controllers.

Far better to look your prospect in the eye and say "John, one of the conditions attached to my offer is that I get paid on time, in full, every time. I never want to have to chase you for payment. If you can't make that commitment to me now, we can shake hands and part on friendly terms, but let's not do business. Are you comfortable with that?"

You may, of course, fear that having such a frank money conversation may cause your prospective customer to back off.

Not if you have sold him on doing business with you. Let's face it, if a prospect isn't willing to commit to paying you on time, every time, when do you want to find that out?

So, if you want to avoid price pressure, discounting and tighter margins and you want to get paid on time, every time, adopt a different attitude towards money; imagine you believed that you were 'financially independent and you didn't need the money' what would you say and how would you sound?

Paul Lanigan is managing director of the Sandler Sales Institute (Ireland)

Irish Independent

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