Remove barriers to communication, but beware barking dogs

In selling, information is king and the best source of customer information is, of course, your customer. It’s a nice old-fashioned truism and with all the talk of collaboration these days we should dust off some of these pearls and cautiously lower our guard to try an open dialogue and ‘reset’ buyer rapport.

Back in my early repping days, I kept a card under the Vauxhall Cavalier’s sun-visor with some fundamentals written on it to study when stuck in traffic. There was the five things a buyer needs in order to say ‘yes’ and the nine steps of the rep’s call – but my favourite was the five barriers to open communication. These barriers are worth a mention because they are still totally relevant today. Slightly updated over the years they are: inflexibility, value statements, sensitive questions, lack of decision power and lack of purpose.

Contact me any time if you want to know more on these, but for today I want to focus on ‘lack of purpose’. This is a problem in selling and we only have ourselves to blame for it. Even doctors vent their frustration with reps whose only purpose is to have a friendly chat then agree another meeting. So don’t be like a medical rep, keep meetings focused with clear purpose and you will remove the need for that frustration. Of course, this means extra preparation to have a clear objective and a sell that gets to the point with the minimum necessary information.

Buyer style is perhaps the sixth barrier. Some people just need a hug – around the neck, with a rope. I’m not a huge fan of the typical behavioural modelling tools used in selling. Although scarily accurate if you are honest on the inputs, they only give you insight on natural styles. The trouble is they don’t work if you are dealing with someone who is acting another role, and some buyers act most of the time so it’s no good just being terminally trusting. Cutting through this involves walking towards the barking dog. People who try hard to be liked are putty in the hands of an aggressive buyer and achieve the precise opposite result: the buyers take advantage whenever possible.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Apart from the stuff that weakens you and then kills you in the end, of course.


Sentinel Management Consultants deliver sales, negotiation, planning and finance training courses for our clients worldwide.