How Sales Taught Me to Approach Conflicts with a Clear Head
We’ve all had bad days on the phone. Days when your words are a swill of stagnant water, not the flowing current of fresh thoughts you need them to be. On these days, conversations are punctuated with awkward bouts of dead air and pretending that the line dropped, so you can say: “I’m sorry, did you say something? I’m getting some feedback here, not sure if you had any questions.” But you know very well that they didn’t say anything.
When I first started in sales, it didn’t take much more than an irritated reply or a mid-sentence click and dial tone to knock my confidence down to nothing. It hurts, man. How could they just hang up on me like my outreach means nothing? Our company has value, our services have value, I have value. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t fully recognize my value back then. So, for my 8th anniversary with BrainSell, I want to pay homage to the much-maligned sales profession and share how this job has changed me for the better.
First Step: Acknowledge that Business is Emotional
It would be a cop-out to say that after years of being rejected, hung up on, and straight up ghosted, I’ve hardened into a cold emotionless robot. But the fact is that is emotional. After helping people improve their businesses for so many years, I’ve learned that business is what gets people out of bed each day and ready to do better than the day before. Sales is about more than making money. It’s about the reassurance I get from clients, that they genuinely feel we support the business they’ve worked so hard to build. When things go well, I motivate them to keep pushing their business toward growth and improvement. And there’s a lot of emotion behind that.
Second Step: Find Healthy Ways to Handle Customers
Years ago, if I got a call from an angry customer, I would flounder in my response and look for anything to make them feel better – whether that solution provided any real value or not. After reading Selling with a Noble Purpose by Lisa Earl McLeod, I learned about how fear triggers our “lizard brains.” This activates a one-track mindset to subdue the source of that fear (the customer, in this case) as quickly as possible instead of exploring multiple other solutions to their problem.
Now when I get these calls, I stop. I breathe. I take my time. Sales has taught me to be much more methodical in my approach to interactions. Instead of reacting to their emotions or out of my emotions, I recognize that this customer is just venting frustrations and needs a sympathetic ear. I didn’t personally go into their software solution and delete their reports, and I sure didn’t hire the intern that did. Even though they’re taking it out on me, I don’t take it personally. Some days, I can’t shake this off so easily, and that’s when I get up from my desk and take a walk. Or I’ll ask for guidance from my leadership team. And if options one and two don’t work, margaritas usually do.
Third Step: Accept that Sometimes There’s No Right Answer
Approaching conflicts with a clear and level head is a great way to ensure a positive outcome to a bad situation. Sometimes, there’s no way to mitigate the anger of the other party. That’s another hard pill to swallow. There are times when you just can’t fix everything for everyone. (And you best bet that all these memories come marching in for the “Remember Your Failures Parade” in your head when you’re having trouble sleeping at 2:00 AM). But I’ve learned to let go of my mistakes.
It gets easier to bounce back each time I take a hit from a bad interaction with a customer, as resilience is learned through experience. There are so many platitudes and catchphrases that tell us to keep trucking and to never give up. As corny as they are, they have some truth. You can’t be successful in sales – or life in general – if you run from conflict.
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