“Boy, do I hate being right all the time!” -Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
Back before I became a Dale Carnegie instructor/coach, I assisted in several of the West Coast communications programs in the evenings while working a pre and post sales technical support gig for an enterprise storage vendor during the day.
In one particular program, I was coaching several participants, helping them to build their diplomacy and communication skill set. One sales rep, Big Bob, was selling high tech IT equipment and was really into the coaching sessions. At every opportunity, he looked for ways to apply what we reviewed in the program to his sales environment.
Big Bob had an imposing frame because he spent as much time in the weight room as he did in front of his clients. I’m sure that small fact was not lost on his prospects when he towered over them and told them to ‘press hard because the third copy is yours’.
Nevertheless, he approached me one day for advice on how to address a client with a particular issue. He was at a loss because the client wanted to go in one direction with a particular technology set. Big Bob, however, wanted them to go in another direction with a slightly different set of technology. As far as Big Bob’s wallet was concerned, it was a wash either way because his company was supplying all of the hardware, regardless of which solution was implemented.
So I suggested, “Big Bob, you know, one of the principles that we reviewed in this program is to let the other person feel that the idea is theirs. So when you discuss your ideas with your client, make suggestions and let them feel that they are driving the discussion. As long as you are helping them in the right direction, you should be able to move the sales process forward.”
Bob’s response surprised me. He said, “Yeah, but I know I’m right. My recommendation is what they need and they aren’t listening to me.”
I was stunned after hearing this and my response just popped out before I could stop it: “Big Bob, do you want to be right or do you want to be rich?”
Big Bob started to respond, stopped, looked thoughtfully into space, started to say something again, stopped, breathed a heavy sigh and then sat down. I thought for sure that he was contemplating leaving the program.
But the next week, he showed up. He pulled me aside and said, “You know, I thought about what you said. And truthfully, up to that point, I wanted to be right. My ego was on the line.”
“After our conversation, I had a serious talk with myself. I decided that I would rather be rich and that I didn’t have to be right all of the time. It wasn’t easy, but I took my ego out of the picture, sat down with the client and listened to them.”
“I know my products. I’m an expert. But they know their data center better than anyone else does. In there, they are the experts. I didn’t realize that until I took my ego out of the equation. Once my ego was out of the way, I heard what they wanted, I sold them on the appropriate technology, and closed a bigger deal.”
As salespeople, we need to have a big ego. That big ego allows us to do some of the things that no one else can do so we can drive business. The challenge here is to maintain control over the ego and not let it control us. We don’t need to be the center of attention, the savior of the universe, and we certainly don’t need to be right all of the time.
We need to maintain control over the ego and be able to shut it off when we don’t need it, like when we are listening to our prospects.
There will be times when you are in front of a client and you’ll want to show off the depth of your knowledge. You may want to impress them with the size of your contact list or you may even want to intimidate them with your list of accomplishments. When this happens, realize that the conversation is now about you and not about their challenge.
This is when you need to put your ego in check and regain control of the conversation. The fastest way to do that is by asking yourself the following question:
Do I want to be right or do I want to be rich?
Leash the ego. Learn to listen.