“Build bridges instead of walls. Bridges rhyme with the fluidity of human interaction; walls, don’t”

Unfortunately, in the process of human interaction (selling),we build walls instead of bridges. Sometimes because we are human; sometimes because we are inexperienced and, sometimes, though regrettably, because we are indifferent. This article is not for the indifferent; depleting sales will bring them back from it. In selling, you want to build bridges, not walls. Consider these three scenarios.

Getting unreasonably defensive

“The chips were hard,” I inform the seller just as he clears the table. “No,” the seller immediately and defensively responds, “they were not.” A wall comes up. As the buyer, I’m irritated. Are you saying I can’t tell the difference between soft and hard? With the wall up, meaningful progress is limited. Becoming unreasonably defensive impedes the sale.

Compare this to, “Arrgh!, I asked for a cold beer!” and the waiter whose holding the warm, just popped open one, pauses and says, “I’m sorry. Please let me bring you another one while this one chills in the freezer. I’ll bring it in the next round.” Just like that, she’s built a bridge. She acknowledged your complaint and offered an instant solution. Of course, the waiter who places the beer before you, and asks “Baridi?” for you to confirm, ahead of her opening it, is much better at avoiding the wall.

Asking for the appointment

The seller’s email asks, ”When can I come and see you?” And the buyer says, “Come tomorrow at 10am,” only for the seller to respond, “I can’t. I have another appointment at 10 tomorrow.” Now why did he keep the date open, only to shoot me down, the buyer silently curses. A wall goes up. You set yourself up for this.

Build bridges instead of walls

Compare this to, after you’ve consulted your diary, “May I meet you at 10am tomorrow or is Thursday same time better?” 9 out of 10 times, the buyer will pick one. You created a bridge-you gave an option. And if he doesn’t pick one, he’ll come back with an alternative. “I’m away the whole of this week; could we make it Tuesday next week at 10am?” Even if you can’t, the bridge to counter with alternative timings still exists. Instead of a hanging, “I can’t make it then,” you add, “How’s Tuesday midday or would Wednesday 10 be better? This way you build bridges instead of walls.

Build bridges instead of walls. Giving in to fear

Why do sellers insist on giving a response to a question they don’t know the answer to? Is it the fear of losing the sale or the fear of looking foolish? Either way, it’s the thickest bunker sized wall the seller can create. For instance, when will the elevator be here? The buyer asks. In six weeks. What?! Your competition has a lead time of 3 weeks! Make yours shorter; I can’t wait that long. It’s ok Sir, the seller acquiesces, we’ll bring it in 3 weeks. It’ a lie; you know it. It takes a minimum of 6 weeks to ship it in, even if you were piloting the ship yourself.

Now you have put yourself under undue pressure to do it in half the time! Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. The three weeks are over. No lift. Only lame excuses punctuated with ers, ums and you sees. The fuming buyer won’t have any of it. If only you had explained that 6 weeks is the minimum time feasible by any shipping line, and that alternatives being by air, will mean his budget shooting through the roof, how much more of a bridge than a wall would you have created?

To succeed in selling strive to build bridges not walls.


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