Imagine it’s almost 2,000 years ago and you’re a peasant living in Italy. Your boss sends you into Rome to get some supplies. You saddle up your donkey and head into town. As you make your way through the city, you come upon a huge structure that is about 15 stories tall. You are awestruck. You’ve never seen anything of this magnitude in your life.
The large structure sparks your curiosity so much that you ask a Roman guard, “What is that?” He tells you that’s the coliseum. “What’s if for?” you ask.
He tells you in a very matter of fact way, “Rich and powerful families use it to host great shows.”
The coliseum was built in 80 A.D. by the reigning emperor Vespasian and seats up to 80,000 people. It was used to entertain both the rich and the poor. A typical day had three events. In the morning, it would be beast against beast. Maybe a rhinoceros against a couple of lions and two to three bears. At midday, they would conduct a few executions, mostly deserters, prisoners of war and criminals. They would unleash wild animals on these low-ranking citizens and the spectators would watch for sport. In the afternoon, gladiators who were often times slaves schooled under harsh conditions and socially marginalized would demonstrate their abilities against other gladiators or wild beasts.
The Roman Empire had mastered the art of intimidation. They wanted you to know that if you are a deserter of their army, an enemy of their empire or a criminal amongst their people, you had a high probability of dying a horrible and terrifying death. While doing so, you would provide entertainment as people witness it, even furthering the intimidation factor.
How Intimidation Affects Salespeople
That was 2,000 years ago, and things have changed. But the art of intimidation lives on.
What does it mean to intimidate, and how does it affect us as salespeople trying to make a living?
Intimidate means to frighten or overawe (someone), especially to make them do what one wants. Overawe is an interesting word. It means to impress (someone) so much that they become silent or inhibited. Frighten means to make someone afraid or anxious. Anxious means uneasy or nervous about an uncertain outcome.
Let me ask you a few questions:
- If you were independently wealthy to the point that making a sale would have zero impact on your life, how easy would it be to intimidate you?
- If you knew with certainty that your prospect needs you more than you need them, how easy would it be to intimidate you?
- If you knew all of your buyer’s tricks and how they were going to try to keep their leverage while making you lose yours, and you knew how to not only defend yourself, but be one or two steps ahead of them, how easy would it be to intimidate you?
The fact is this: if you were wealthy, if you knew they need you more than you need them, if you knew their tricks better than they did, you’d have extraordinary power and confidence walking into a sales call. Intimidation be damned.
Beating the Intimidator
Think about this. In sales, the person who is intimidated is toast. Maybe you are not riding to your prospect’s office on a donkey, but how many times have you gone to a buyer’s office, sat down on their cushy leather sofa and been made to wait for 30 minutes while looking at all of their trophies?
Buyers seek to create an environment of fear and uncertainty with sellers, leading them to get what they want (better price, product and service).
How many times has a prospect kept you waiting in the lobby, then had their administrative assistant “usher” you into their office and before you had a chance to even say hello, they looked at their watch and said, “Sorry, we’re going to have to cut this short. I’ve only got five minutes. What are you here for?”
How many times have you made a cold call, got the person screening calls for your buyer on the phone, and they ask, “Can I tell him the purpose of your call?” It’s at that moment that you go through your inventory of power phrases like, “I can save him money on his insurance,” “I’m a risk transfer expert. I help find gaps in coverage,” or “I want to quote his insurance.”
You probably have some really powerful phrases that get people’s attention, but even when you do, they come back on the line and say, “He asked if you could put something in the mail and if he’s interested, he’ll call you.”
It’s all a form of intimidation, and if you’re not prepared for it, it’ll make you shrink up like a prune.
If you want to beat the intimidator, you need three things:
- A Rich Man’s Attitude: When I’m in a tough situation, I ask myself, “What would Bill Gates, Donald Trump or Mark Cuban do with this situation?” Those guys are all rich and that gives them power to walk away. You too are rich because no one deal is going to have a significant impact on your income or lifestyle. That’s the mindset you need going into every deal.
- They Need Me More Than I Need Them: When you’ve developed a concrete and tangible value proposition, one that your competitors only wish they had, you have power. If you are still saying things like it’s my knowledge, experience and reputation, you’re screwed. If that is you, stop pretending. Go fix it.
- Know Their Verbal Tactics: When you know what they are going to say and how they are going to say it, they lose their power to trick you into doing things you don’t want to do.
An example of doing something
you don’t want to do is quoting on an account and wasting your time putting together a proposal in hopes that they will “favor” you with the business. If you are relying on that, you just got verbally tricked — shame on you. This too can easily be learned.
Intimidation and fear has ruined many great people. If it’s affecting you, you can take action by creating a rich man’s attitude, developing real differentiation and becoming a verbal tactics wizard.
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