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Tension in Discovery: part 2 - when to ease up

Two hands pulling opposite ends of a rope and the rope is fraying in the middle.

In last week’s newsletter I talked about the dangers of people-pleasing, and how to create healthy tension in discovery.

Now let’s talk about the other end of the spectrum: the reps who are overly comfortable with tension. These reps rely on pressure tactics like false scarcity and the hard close. They sit back with a satisfied grin while their buyer squirms under pressure.

The pressure-loving reps might overtly win more deals than the people-pleasers. But they’re more likely to have customer churn down the line. And their pressure tactics will still lose them deals that they should have won.

So now in part 2 of this topic, let’s look at when to ease up on tension.

The problem with pressure-lovers

Pressure-lovers spark a primal response in buyers. When buyers feel cornered or pressured, their flight-or-flight instinct kicks in. This is because:

 - The buyer feels vulnerable – so they shut down

 - The buyer is afraid of being “sold” or manipulated

 - The buyer’s first instinct is self-preservation (i.e. no one wants to get canned for making a bad decision)

Examples of pressure tactics:

  • Creating a false deadline: “This discount is only available through the end of the month.”

  • The assumptive close: “Since this meets your needs, let’s go ahead and put in an order for 100 of these today.”

  • Guilt tactics (this is especially cringey): “To be honest, your order is going to make or break my quota this year.”

The result? Buyers go dark. And stick with the status quo. Or go with a competitor.

Confusing pressure for tension in Discovery

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A seller’s ability to challenge the buyer is a good thing. The question is whether they use pressure or tension.

Pressure stems from a scarcity mindset. (The rep is afraid of losing the sale if they don’t apply pressure).

Tension is different. Tension comes from strength. Tension comes from the uncomfortable examination of the truth. And the truth is required for change.

The gift of tension-lovers is their ability to:

 - question the facts

 - challenge the status quo

 - offer new insight – even if it’s not what the buyer wanted to hear

These are some of the qualities of top-performers highlighted in The Challenger Sale. But some people have confused the healthy tension in Challenger types for pushiness or downright combative behavior. This will kill a deal quicker than you can say “uncle”.

If you’ve been accused of being pushy, combative, or aggressive, take these 4 steps to ease up:

1. Ask yourself: “what am I afraid of?” The pushiest sellers are often the most afraid of losing. I know, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Be honest with yourself.

2. Remember that your buyer is afraid too: afraid of looking stupid, afraid of making a bad decision, afraid of being “sold”. You do need to ask tough questions, but be gentle about it.

3. Choose your words carefully. Instead of saying “You’re not making sense right now” (which sounds like an accusation), say “There’s more to this picture. What else haven’t we considered yet?”

4. Avoid all false pressure-tactics. Always. Think of drawing your customer to you with your insight – rather than pushing them into a corner.

Do you know someone on your sales team who could benefit from this newsletter? Forward it to them. Tell them their ability to sit with tension is a good thing – it just requires some finessing.

"Tension in Discovery: part 2 - when to ease up"



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