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Sales TipsIs the attentiveness by your prospect just an illusion?  It just might be!

Your assertiveness is the key.  There are two typical behaviors a prospect will demonstrate when they react to a salesperson who is naturally more assertive than themselves. Typically in the face of assertiveness prospects will:

  • Avoid; that is, go quiet
  • Or acquiesce; that is, agreement to do something, yet without a commitment to act.

Both are negative reactions and produce only limited outcomes.  You may get results in the short-term but the long-term outcomes can be disastrous in terms of being able to call on a particular customer or fostering cooperation with a business associate.

The problem with assertiveness is that an assertive salesperson may be blind to the effect their assertiveness is having on a prospect.  The reason for this is that both of these behaviors, avoid and acquiesce, can masquerade as more positive customer reactions.

Avoidance behavior can masquerade as attentiveness.  To the assertive salesperson, the prospect may appear to be listening attentively to them; when in reality, something very different is going on in the customer’s mind.  They are actually trying to figure out how to get out of this interaction.

Acquiesce can masquerade as agreement with what is being said since a typical acquiescing behavior is head nodding in agreement.  Again, something very different is going on in the prospect mind.  They are politely yessing you out the door!

Think about it.  Have you ever been challenged by a prospect and found yourself going quiet (avoid) and wondering how you were going to get out of the interaction?  Or, have you ever found yourself nodding your head in agreement when you were actually in disagreement, just to reduce the tension?

You can be made to feel this way when others are more assertive than you, and vice versa; you can cause these reactions in others when you are more assertive than they are.  The reactions are relative to the degree of assertiveness used in communication between both parties.

Your assertiveness can be off-putting in a number of ways.  In an earlier post, Building Instant Rapport, there are two components to building rapport.  They are your voice and demeanor (body positioning).  Assertive salespeople have a tendency to have a firm and strong voice.  They have a tendency to lean into the prospect, that is lean forward on the desk across from them or step closer to them.   These verbal and non-verbal behaviors can be completely out of the salesperson’s awareness.  Yet they can have a tremendous impact on the prospect.  Let me illustrate this point.

Not long ago I was traveling with a salesperson who was very frustrated with a prospect whom had not done a single piece of business with them after six months of calling on them.  During the call the prospect appeared “attentive” and responded to questions.  To the salesperson the interaction seemed to go well although, again, no commitment.  I suggested he take a step back and lower his voice during the next sales call.  He was very skeptical about the suggestion.  A couple months later the salesperson said he had followed the suggestion and was completely surprised at the prospect’s reaction.  The prospect opened up and became very engaged in the conversation.  The customer asked the salesperson why they haven’t told them this information before!  Here is the essence of the problem when a prospect reacts to assertiveness.  Remember, at that point they are NOT LISTENING TO YOU they are trying to figure out how to get out of the interaction, by either patiently waiting for you to finish (avoid), or yessing you out the door (acquiescing).

The best way to avoid these situations is to pay close attention to the prospect.  If they go quiet on you, match their volume and be sure you are not leaning into them.  If you see a lot of head nodding, back off and appear friendlier to them.

“Observations often tell you more about the observer than the observed.” ― Chris Geiger

What does your prospect’s reaction say about you?


Sales Tip #19:  Make sure the prospect is not reacting to your assertiveness.


Copyright 2012 J.P. Thompson CHt.  All rights reserved.

Visit Ascent Selling Technologies website: www.ascenticg.com


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J.P. Thompson CHt


Clinical Hypnotherapist
NLP Practitioner
Master Sales Trainer (34yrs)

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