Sales reps have it rough. Besides the endless slog of cold outreach, when you actually do connect with a buyer, you’re told to suck up to them. Smile, dance, give-in—do anything to win the deal.
But what most reps don’t know is that there’s a better way to get what you want from your selling conversations. And best of all, it doesn’t require you to leave your dignity at the door.
“The customer is always right.” We’ve all heard the old saying. And unfortunately, a lot of sales professionals have moved through their careers believing that it was true. That the rep who charms, kowtows, and leaves buyers smiling 100% of the time is the one that kills it month after month.
But what would you say if I told you this age-old rule was… ready? Shit. It’s shit!
It’s just plain wrong. And in fact, bending to a buyer’s will in every single conversation is a surefire way to muck up any sale.
Instead, the trick is to be assertive. And if you’re one of the many professionals out there that isn’t as assertive as they should be, never fear. Because today, we’re looking at how to be a more assertive sales rep.
Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, let’s first hit on…
Why Assertiveness Is a Must
Why assertiveness is a must in sales. There are five main benefits to being assertive in this industry. First…
A) It Closes More Deals (Duh)
It closes more deals. You don’t get the sale if you don’t ask for the sale. When you lack assertiveness, you lack the confidence you need to push through the awkward yet entirely necessary stages of closing a sale. But as you become more assertive, you’ll find yourself closing more often.
B) It Gives You More Authority
It gives you more authority. The more authoritative you appear, the more likely buyers will be to listen, value your opinion, and look to you as a trusted expert. Consequently, you’ll find yourself having more influence over not just whether they buy. But also what they buy.
C) Communication Improves.
Communication also improves. Tiptoeing around an issue may seem like a good way to soften a blow and keep on your buyer’s good side. But in B2B sales especially, being clear and to the point is a better way to communicate. Your buyers will appreciate you saying outright what you think.
D) Higher Self-Esteem
Assertiveness leads to higher self-esteem. That, in turn, leads to greater job satisfaction, a higher earning potential, and ultimately a happier, healthier home life.
Alright, so how do you become more assertive?
The Assertiveness Training Framework
The Assertiveness Training Framework comes in. Now, if you want to learn more about this framework, be sure to check out the Selling Made Simple Academy. But for today’s purposes, let’s quickly go over the core tenets of this proven framework.
You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for your behavior. It’s true.
Now, you might be tempted to give an excuse for your actions or beliefs. But doing so takes the control out of your own hands. Instead, get used to not giving excuses for your beliefs, actions, or decisions.
Don’t get me wrong—you still need to take responsibility if you’re in the wrong. So take ownership and apologize.
But if you’re being pressed to say sorry for something you were in the right for, you do not need to offer up any excuses. And in fact, you shouldn’t do so.
You have the right to decide if you will (or won’t) find solutions to other people’s problems.
You need to learn to say “No” to solving other people’s problems.
You are ultimately responsible for your own psychological well-being, happiness, and success in life. And as much as we might want to do good things for one another, we are not responsible for other people and their problems.
To master this step, you need to get comfortable with saying “no” more often.
So to build this skill up, start saying “no” more. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
You have the right to change your mind.
We don’t have access to all the evidence, all of the time. And when new evidence comes to light, it’s natural—even more, it’s beneficial—to change your mind in light of that new evidence.
This is especially important in a fast-paced business environment like sales. Variables change all the time. And what was a given about a deal or a lead will often flip, turning the knowns on their head.
If you are rigid in your responses to these changes, you can’t react as well as you should. And that can lead to blown contracts, angry prospects, and poor performance overall.
So don’t be afraid to change your mind. Your buyer might even respect you more for it.
Alright so step four of the framework is…
You have the right to make mistakes.
No one is perfect. And no matter how smart, skilled, and charismatic you may be, you’re going to make mistakes.
It’s important to remember, though, that everyone else is in the same boat. We all make mistakes. And since everyone does, you shouldn’t have to feel like you need to hide them.
It is your assertive right to make those mistakes and not to tear yourself down (or let someone else tear you down) because of them.
You are not uniquely terrible or especially flawed if you screw up.
And in fact, making mistakes is often the only way you learn. So if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough to grow.
5) “I Don’t Know”
You have the right to say, “I do not know” without embarrassment. This one is huge for salespeople. Especially salespeople that work with a particularly technical product or service.
Despite what many in the public think, sales isn’t about bullshitting. It’s not about trickery or cons. Instead, it’s about problem-solving. And if you’re not providing the right information, your solution won’t fix the issue your buyer’s trying to solve, leading to low satisfaction, damaged trust, and zero loyalty (this is bad stuff).
Rather than rattling off a white lie, it’s actually better to say you don’t know the answer to a question.
If it’s a specific product detail, don’t fudge the numbers. Instead, say, “I don’t know” and then assure them you’ll find out the answer.
If it’s an unrelated question, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” and then shutting up.
But just because a prospect asked a question doesn’t mean you need to have the answer, especially if the question was downright stupid to begin with.
6) “I Don’t Care”
You also have the right to say, “I don’t care.”
Your needs, goals, and interests are your own. And just because someone else is worried about an issue doesn’t mean you have to be too.
You tend to find this in the workplace a lot. Random people will tell you how you can become more efficient, or you can become more of a team player, for example. But when it comes down to it, your sales target is based on your actions and work alone.
You should not be forced to care about the stresses, accomplishments, or methodologies of others.
If you’re missing out on some real benefits from collaboration, then that’s on you. But if it’s all about feigning interest for the sake of “harmony,” you shouldn’t feel obligated to care.
Now it’s time to put the framework into action. It’ll take a bit of work to make the shift, I know. But when you do, you’ll find yourself becoming more confident, more effective, and more successful as a sales professional in no time.