7 signs you’re a sales control freak

To be truly great at sales, you have to be able to hand over control to the buyer.

Whether it’s control of the topic of conversation, control of what and when they want to hear certain stories or information from you, or control of the next steps. Unfortunately, giving up this control can feel counterintuitive to many sales people. The irony is that the more you give away control, the more the client wants to work with you and often the bigger and sooner the sale comes in. But it’s not easy – if it was,everyone would be doing it.

I was recently chatting to a client of mine who told me about a meeting she’d had with a prospective client that she thought went really well. At some point during the meeting, she got wind that there was a project in the offering – so when she thought the meeting was drawing to a close, she pounced.

“Can I send you a proposal for that project?” she said.

She beamed when she told me this story – “I’ve got a great lead!” – but I winced. Because in that moment, she was taking control when she should have given control to the buyer to see what they wanted to do. She should have instead said something like “What would you like to see happen next?”.

Sure, the buyer may have said “Please send me a proposal”. But equally they might have said “I’m not sure, what do you think I should do?” or “Can you send me a quick email about how you think I should tackle this project?” or even better “I’d love you to work on this project. Are you interested?”

Instead, she was now holed up in a room for two weeks working on bid document that she might never have had to submit if she’d just relinquished control and placed some trust in the buyer.

When I told her this she baulked and said “But what if I’d walked out of the room without the proposal?” to which I replied “If the meeting was that great, and the client really wanted to work with you, they wouldn’t have let you.” So, not only do you need to hand over control and trust the buyer, but you also need to trust yourself and that you’ve done a good enough job in the meeting for the buyer to want to buy.

This is not to say that you should give up all control – in fact, if you do that you might be perceived as hands-off and disinterested. But it is about making sure that the buyer feels you trust them to have control most of the time.

So here, are 7 signs that might indicate you’re a bit of a control freak and need to learn how to pass over more control:

  1. You don’t delegate.
  2. You ask closed questions to direct the conversation.
  3. You tell the buyer what they should do without being asked.
  4. Once you think you have a sale you will try to close quickly.
  5. You hate it when other people from your company want to meet with ‘your’ client.
  6. You work on your own and not in teams, or are seen as independent within a team.
  7. You are constantly checking what people are doing.

Do any of these sound familiar? If they do, you need to work on starting from a position of trust, rather than a position of control. Here are a few ideas that might help get you started. If the thought of actually doing any of these leaves you shaking in your boots, that’s probably also a sign that you need to loosen the reins….

  1. Delegate a task that is low risk and see what happens.
  2. Instead of trying to close a sale, ask a client what they would like to see happen next.
  3. Do something which clearly shows that you are trusting someone with something very important to you.
  4. In your next meeting, ask some open ended questions (and don’t answer them before the other person can).
  5. Explain that you will not be reviewing something you are delegating – that you trust them to get it right.

Want to know how much of a control freak you really are? Find out your Octagon behavioural profile and look at your score on category 3: Trust/Control. The higher the score (maximum 180) the more likely you are to start off a relationship by trusting the other person. The lower the score, the more likely you are to try to stay in control.

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