The Fine Line Between Being Honest and Being Brutal

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who just drones
on and on about their opinions, without once stopping to listen to
what you might have to say? I don’t know about you, but whenever I
find myself trapped into a conversation with one of these people,
it takes every ounce of my self-restraint not to scream "Who
cares?!" In fact, I have yet to meet a customer who enjoys the
experience of having a sales person force their opinions and perceptions
on them – even (or perhaps especially) when those sales people felt
they were only offering their "honest opinion."

Today, we continue our series on "The 9 Fine Lines to Sales
Success" with a closer look at the fine line between offering
an honest opinion, and being brutal with the truth.

Don’t get me wrong, our opinions are important – to ourselves. Nobody
needs to hear all your opinions – especially not your customers!
The mistake most sales people make is thinking that it is our opinions
and perceptions that influence the customer to buy. The fact is, most
successful sales people find that the complete opposite is true: they
are far more successful when they don’t express their opinions and
perceptions, and instead limit their communication entirely to the
facts and their emotions.

Making sure you don’t cross the line
Honesty is stating facts the way we see them, and sharing how we feel
about those facts. Brutality is attempting to force our opinions on
others, blaming others for what we think they did wrong, or adopting
an attitude that just screams "I told you so."

Successfully staying on the right side of this line depends entirely
on your ability to get your customers to share with you their emotional
reasons for buying your products. How do you do this? By asking them
the right questions – questions that will move your prospect from
an intellectual position (knowing they have a problem that needs to
be solved) to the emotional state of trusting you to solve that problem
in a way that will satisfy them.

The right questions, in other words, are ones that will help you
to reveal a buyer’s true motivations. To help you get the answers
to those questions – and close more deals in the process – try the
following four steps to building more lasting and profitable customer

1. Identify the intellectual problem.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing today in the area
of X?

Q: Our clients tell us that we help them solve problems in the
area of X. That’s not a problem for you, is it?

Q: What plans have you made to.

2. Develop an intellectual awareness about this problem.
Q: Can you tell me more about it?
Q: Could you be more specific?
Q: How would you improve.

3. Get emotional! Identify the specific business impact of this
Q: How has this problem impacted your organization?
Q: What will happen if this problem continues?

4. Identify the specific personal impact of this problem.
Q: What impact does this problem have on your job / your staff?

Q: What will happen if you don’t find a solution to this problem?

Staying on the right side of the line
Once you’ve revealed your prospect’s true emotional reasons for buying
your products, you’re ready to move to the next step in streamlining
your communication: learning how to share your emotions during the
sales process.

Now, I want to be very clear here: I’m recommending that you describe
your emotions, not that you show them – especially if that
would mean breaking down into tears or a screaming tirade.

When it comes to expressing your emotions, think of yourself as Tarzan.
Tarzan was a man of few words, yet he was always able to express himself
in a way that people understood. Keep it simple, and simply report
your emotion: I am mad. I am upset. I am stressed.

For example, you might say to a customer: "I noticed that
we haven’t received the purchase order from your purchasing department
yet, and I’m worried that this will delay your implementation."

Or: "It’s been a couple of weeks since we agreed to talk about
your order. If we wait much longer, I’m concerned that they’ll be
out of stock."

You don’t have to go on and on explaining why you’re stressed, worried
or concerned, or telling them why it’s all their fault. Instead, just
state what you notice, eliminate your opinions and then express your
emotions in a clear but concise fashion.

Reporting your emotions helps because it lets the prospect understand
where you’re coming from, which ultimately helps you to get your point
across. Because you’re not blaming the prospect or customer for making
you feel this way, there’s nothing for them to debate. Our emotions
belong to us.

In particularly difficult situations, focus your conversation on
finding solutions rather than bogging things down with a lot of opinion
mongering. For example, try something like:

"I noticed that you weren’t able to get approval for the
changes to your order in by the deadline last week, and I’m concerned
that we won’t be able to ship the product in time to meet your project
deadline. One thing I could have done differently is to have followed
up with you earlier last week. Perhaps what we should do now is
figure out specifically what actions we can take to make sure that
your project can still stay on track."

A balancing act
Balancing the fine line between honesty and brutality is key to resolving
and preventing difficult communication issues. You’ll notice that,
in the example above, the focus of the conversation is on finding
solutions, rather than assigning blame or trying to cover your tracks.

In short, opinions are subjective, and therefore generally not useful
in achieving a sale. While it may seem tempting to bombard others
with what you really think in the name of "honesty,"
a more streamlined approach yields better results – and more commissions!

Join us for the next issue of Engaging Ideas, when we’ll take a look
at the fine line between honesty and brutality when dealing with a
very specific situation: Anger.