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When Positive Behaviors Give a Negative Impression

3 min read

Anything in excess can have a negative effect—even positivity.

Much of our focus on this interesting truth stems from the research of our dear colleague, Kate Reilly. Kate was one of the leaders in our industry, both as an outstanding trainer and a developer of courses.  She was also a marvelous conceptualizer and invented many of the concepts we teach in our Consultative Selling course at The Baron Group.  Over the years, one of the many observations Kate made is that when people overuse valuable skills and positive behaviors, the consequences can be disappointing. Here are some examples that as salespeople, we should take note of:

Be curious, not nosy—Of course, we encourage you to learn as much about your clients as possible.  Curiosity is a wonderful attribute.  And in sales, there’s no denying that more questions lead to more success.  But don’t cross the line.  You need to know what questions are appropriate and what aren’t.  Know when to stop.  Don’t ever let the questioning process morph into an interrogation.  By all means, be curious; just be sensitive as to not go overboard.

Be pleasant and likeable, not sycophantic—One of your top goals as a salesperson is to build great relationships. And demonstrating behaviors like empathy, sensitivity and likeability are critical for doing so.  After all, buyers prefer to work with people they like, respect and enjoy.  That’s a no-brainer. But we don’t need to ever cross the line and fall into the role of back-slapping, apple-polishing, stereotypical salespeople. You can do better than that.

Be assertive, not aggressive—As strategic advisors, we encourage you to stand behind your recommendations.  When you try to set appointments in prospecting mode, you need to give solid reasons to meet.  When you encounter resistance, you must do what you can to demonstrate value.  But don’t cross the line.  The last thing you want is to be perceived as pushy, overbearing or aggressive–nobody wants to be in a meeting room with someone like that.  You can be strong and confident in what you are saying without coming off as overly aggressive.

Take positions without appearing inflexible—This is similar to the previous point but with a key difference.  Strategic advisors are not Yes People,” and when you believe in something, we encourage you to stand by your position.  But sometimes clients need to know why you have taken a position and the risks associated with not following your guidance.  If that happens, you must be flexible. Approaching this situation with an “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude or not giving credence to others’ ideas can ruin your relationship with the client. Accept that this is a reasonable question, be flexible, and tell them what they want to know.

Be an enthusiastic listener, not an echo—Naturally, a mark of a good salesperson is effective listening skills.  Taking notes, paraphrasing, focusing on non-verbals, interpreting and clarifying all make us better listeners.  But paraphrasing everything, taking prolific notes, reviewing highlights too often, and over-interpreting every word is overkill. The client won’t be impressed if you slow things down by constantly demonstrating that you took in every word.

Acknowledge, don’t patronize—Finally, let’s think about the power of acknowledgment.  Whether your client is complaining about his boss, or you just heard a tough objection and want to resolve it, or anything else in between, acknowledging your client’s point of view is a great move.  Yet if the acknowledgement becomes over the top or flowery, it can be perceived as patronizing and insincere.

The list goes on.  Be enthusiastic without being overzealous.  Be careful without being a perfectionist.  Debrief your meetings without overanalyzing.  Take risks without being careless.  Push back without attacking.  And work hard without sacrificing too much.

The key is to use your strengths every day.  Just know when enough is enough.  Going too far can unravel the value you offer.  It’s just not necessary.

What’s another good behavior that leads to problems if used in excess? Let us know with a comment.


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