Sales And Acknowledging Elephants In The Room

Sales has certainly changed in the last twenty years.

Previously the top salespeople were effective hard sellers, pushing the client into buying. It was widely felt that a good salesman could sell anything! It was the technique, the ability to get the potential client to sign on the dotted line.

Sales have fortunately evolved in the intervening years. It is working to show the client “value” and helping them buy the right product for them as opposed to you selling them what you have. People in sales have become educators and guides, helping people understand the product/industry and making intelligent, informed decisions. And of course, hopefully signing on with you.

But one of the most difficult challenges for anyone in sales is getting the potential client to sit down with you in the first place. The reason for that is because of that history, of what sales people used to be. It is widely acknowledged that public speaking is the greatest fear for adults in their business life. I haven’t seen anything to reflect this, but my money would be that sitting down with a salesman one on one would be a close second. We just do not want to be cornered by an aggressive salesperson.

I must confess I have that aversion. It is so bad, that when I go into a store and a perky salesperson comes up and says. “Hi, can I help you?” I immediately tell them firmly (but politely!) no. I have even gone into stores KNOWING that I would need some help and then having to scramble after them, yelling wait, WAIT, because I first told them no. Gut reactions. I have found out that I’m not alone  in  this.

So what is a salesperson to do?

Acknowledge the  elephant   in   the   room . It’s THERE! Why pretend it’s not?

The most common point is networking and you’re an insurance agent or financial advisor. You have a great elevator spiel about risk management or long term planning, yadda, yadda. People politely listen, nod and don’t give you an opening to go to the next step – making an appointment. Why? Because of the freaking  elephant  standing right next to you! He’s huge! The  elephant  of “I want you alone, so that I can corner you, put you  in  an uncomfortable position and make you do business with me”. Standing in front of it doesn’t hide it, it’s still visible!

So acknowledge it. Let the person know what you would like to do, that you want to educate them, not sell them. You are the knowledge expert. YOU are willing to take them through their situation (insurance, finances, etc) to better help them understand their situation. By giving the person a clear idea of the “value” of the meeting and reduce their fears of being locked away with a salesperson, you create a better opportunity for them to agree to meet you.


Many salespeople make the mistake of then thinking that now that they have the meeting, they can then sell. NO. This is why you have difficulty in the first place! If you got the meeting as an Educator, conduct the meeting as an educator.

First let they (and you) understand their situation. There should be NO talk of you, your company or your product. This is the meeting you offered, where you use your knowledge to educate them on this topic.

One gent who I recently talked to let me know that his company who is training him open up the meeting with a description of the company and what it does before going into the “educating the consumer” portion. Well, ok. But here’s the problem. Why would the potential client give a hoot at that point? Also, you are now being watched closely to see if you are going to morph into that evil pushy salesperson. And now you’re blabbing about your company and its products. Are you crossing that line of selling? If not, you’re getting awfully close.

So now they have a clear idea of their situation. The next steps would be devising solutions if they have any challenges. You can then explain at that point products/features that you and your company may have. But remember you are still an educator. If the client mentions a competitor, be honest.

The competition is another  elephant . Acknowledge it. Embrace it. This is often where salesman begins bad mouthing their competitors spouting statistics and horrifying anecdotes. Pay attention to the client. Watch them stepping back not from the stories, but from you. Be upfront and honest about the differences. Worst case scenario would be that you don’t get that business. But what you did leave them with is the feeling that you were an honest broker. Not a bad position to walk away from.

The best sales job I had was when I was looking for health insurance. An agent sat with me and did the Risk Management process that all insurance agents now do. But this was the first time it happened to me. It was great! Acting as educator, he showed me where my insurance coverage was good, what needed to be looked at, etc. After one hour, I had a clearer understanding of insurance then I ever had. But the big IF was health insurance. As a small business owner, something I needed to get on my own. Not only was this agent aware of the competition, but he even gave me a number to call to get a quote from a competing agent! By those actions did he prove to be not only an educator, but someone looking out for my best interests? You bet he did.

But is that it? Just educate and hope they’ll want to go with you?

No. Although, if you did your educating right, you will have people WANTING to do business with you, just because YOU helped THEM. But, yes there often needs to be a push. But reframe the push. Again going back to my experience, the agent didn’t push me to close with him, but expressed concern that I get some kind of health insurance for my own safety. Did I know he wanted my business? You bet. Did I know he was being a little pushy to get my business? Absolutely. But he framed the discussion  in  MY interests (getting anyone’s insurance for my well being). So remember to be the potential client’s advocate. You can still throw  in  a line like – Of course I’d love to do business with you, but more importantly you should make the decision for your own….health, financial well being, safety, etc (fill  in  the blank).

So if you look at your role as an educator and an advocate, acknowledging those  elephants  that exist, you create a more positive relationship with people  in  such a way that they will want to do business with you and send business your way.

And as to my story with the insurance agent? Even though the other insurance was probably a couple of bucks cheaper, I went with him. I also transferred my home and car insurance with him. And I recommend him to everybody I can. Not because of the insurance, but because of HOW he educated me, acted as advocate for my needs and even recognized those  elephants  filling up  the   room .