How Context Impacts Selling

March 13, 2019
How Context Impacts Selling

This article is influenced by articles written by Michael Jensen, Professor at Harvard Business School; Werner Erhard, founder of EST; Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point; and my own experience in working with many salespeople and business executives.

How Context Impacts Selling

Context dictates our thoughts and actions.

You've heard it all before. For salespeople, “it’s a numbers game” is a very common context.  This context encourages “predictability” and discourages “possibility.” It drives you to seek the winning formula, the tried and true, the prescription, or the silver bullet.

Operating in this context is very much about winning and losing; right and wrong.

There’s a lot of blame thrown around when the desired results aren’t produced. Your first thought is usually “what’s wrong with me?”  Then, you blame the:

  • process
  • customer
  • boss
  • pressure
  • lack of time
  • shortage knowledge
  • lack of training, ad nauseam.

In today’s world of selling, “It’s a numbers game” is no longer effective.

In an effort to create a new context for sales, I offer you “enabling buying in a world of selling.”

This context drives exploration, discovery, authenticity, creativity, and higher performance.

When you operate in this context, you’ll discover new possibilities.  You’ll see things that you didn’t see before.  This context will also drive uncertainty, which is good!  When you’re uncertain, you’re in a heightened state of awareness, searching for answers in a much faster and more effective way.

In the context of “it’s a numbers game,” you’re driven to complete a transaction, such as an appointment, another meeting, a request for proposal, or a sale.  Leaders want you to repeat past successes to avoid the consequences of you not hitting your numbers.  In this place, the use of force is applied to produce hollow victories.  You’re constantly throwing stuff against the wall in the hope that something sticks.

Under these circumstances, ironically, true “buying” is actually disabled.

In a numbers game world, you don’t go below the surface to understand people’s business and you don’t get a deep knowledge of your company’s solution.  When you finally get a meeting, you have nothing substantial to offer.  You end up regurgitating the standard pitch, hoping that it alone will provide insights that lead the buyer to buy.

Enabling buying encourages you and your buyer to work together more closely.  It requires you to search for what’s needed and wanted to help “buying” occur.  In this context, the pressure to produce doesn’t exist.  In this context, “no sale” is allowed.  This is hard for salespeople to grasp because they’ve been trained to avoid entertaining the possibility of a “no.”

But, if you think deeply about it and you’re honest, “no” is just as legitimate as “yes.”

Context impacts selling in so many ways. “Enabling buying in a word of selling” requires that you create new rules with new possibilities.  It’s like declaring that the world is round instead of flat.  You finally get off the hamster wheel and begin to create a new and more powerful context for you and your buyer.

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