When I was in high school, my dad bought a new car. He wanted a vehicle that made a statement. He bought a really sharp looking Pontiac and drove off the lot.
The car was a lemon. Before there were lemon laws.
His vehicle made a statement, to him, on a weekly basis. As it failed to start yet one more time, and he drove to the dealer only to be told it was something not covered by warranty and that he would pay, that car spoke loud and clear to him: “You got conned, buddy. Big time.” Apparently every salesman at this dealership had driven the vehicle for personal use on weekends without reporting it to the boss or maintaining the vehicle as these unofficial miles accrued. Oh, and the odometer didn’t necessarily reflect this detail.
The one thing the dealership never bothered to take seriously about my dad was his occupation. He was a trial lawyer. You can figure out what happened next. However, the experience of his failure – of his being conned – stuck with him for the rest of his life.
He only purchased used cars from then on, and from folks he knew, like the vintage 1959, 2-door Cadillac hardtop Coup de Ville in metallic silver. The Silver Flagship, as he affectionately called it. What a vehicle!
His experience, and remorse, stuck in my head as well. When my vehicle got totaled in an accident that nearly took me along with the car, I was apprehensive: not only of getting back behind the wheel. I was afraid I’d be conned because I wasn’t exactly thinking with all 8-cylinders.
Seriously, who likes shopping for vehicles even when you’ve got all your ducks in a row? I sought the advice of some trusted sales colleagues. How should I act? What should I say? Here’s what they told me:
The difference between getting conned, or pressured into buying, or not, is one thing: Confidence. It’s your money, not theirs. You own the sale. Therefore you, as the buyer, control the process. You can always walk away from the sale at any time, even when everything seems perfect.
I thought about that one long and hard. It not only applied to my vehicle purchase. It also applied to my own occupation as a business consultant.
I walked away from two dealerships at the close, when the paperwork didn’t reflect what had been negotiated. They had a take it or leave it attitude. I felt conned and told them so. Then I bought the perfect vehicle at a no-hassle dealership interested in working with me and listening to me. I referred them plenty of business afterwards.
I became a confident buyer. I first had to “sell” myself on the fact that I owned their sales process: I was in control of my money and the purchase decision . I did my homework not only on the type of vehicle I wanted but also on how car dealerships are structured and the flow of their sales process. Then I executed the deal based on my right of ownership.
I carried this mindset and insight into my professional throughput as well.
As business development professionals or CEOs of startups seeking funding, you initially will be perceived with skepticism by buyers / decision makers. Is your pitch really a “con”? Do you really have the data on your product, service, or platform – or is it all in your head and conceptual? Does your stuff really “work” within the context of their business or manufacturing situation?
Your buyers have done their homework, have you? Most buyers anticipate being on the receiving end of a stereotypic sales pitch, a con. Their defenses are heightened.
Your buyers have something you want: their money. They control the sales and investment process.
Understand the context in which they will make their decision before you set foot in their offices or on stage to pitch. How do you sound to them? Are you prepared to walk away from their table even though they are the folks with the money? Do you understand the triggers to move the sale or investment forward?
That type of understanding impacts your body language, demeanor, and delivery. That’s confidence. That’s when you are invited – by them – to confidently take your seat at their business table.
How confident are you when it comes to selling and pitching? Do you con or are you confident?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo back into small and mid-sized businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector. She builds vibrant revenue-producing business strategies for technical start-ups seeking investors and early customers.