No More “Water Cooler Talk”!

I really hate being wrong, don’t you?

Sometimes, when I’m wrong, I actually change the story a little bit, so that I don’t sound so ridiculously stupid. It’s a little bit of a cheat, but sometimes I do it for my own sanity and self-worth.

I might change the story so that instead of making a bad decision, someone has tricked me into making a choice that was not wise. Or, I may even change the entire situation so that it reframes me into the smartest guy in the room. 

It is actually really incredible, because I get to continue to feel smart and important and generally great about myself!

When I was on the sales floor, my favorite thing to do was to go where people were gathered to make myself feel better if the sale didn’t go so well. If a customer ended up walking out without making a purchase, that’s when I headed to the group and needed to talk about why that customer didn’t end up buying. Of course, I changed the story so I didn’t sound like I had done anything wrong, so that way everyone in the group would agree with me: that customer was stupid.

Customers do not buy because they are stupid. Customers do not buy because something went wrong with the sale.

What the group didn’t know was that there were a number of things I did wrong: I said the wrong thing, got impatient with a customer, suggested something without actually listening to what the customer needed… I didn’t do a very good job (I was learning on the job, by the way). So what the group heard was how many things the customer did wrong, not the things I did wrong.

Why would I share my story? It was completely selfish. I just wanted to feel better. I wanted others to commiserate with me, so we could all regale each other with our tales of woe and laugh at the misfortunate souls who we drove away with our bad habits.

All this exercise did was continue to spread those bad habits.

We could have done so much more and do it so much better.

The “Water Cooler”

The water cooler does not have to be a water cooler, it just has to be a gather place for people to work together. Our gathering spot, back in my sales days, was the sales podium; for some reason that is where everyone gathered when they were not with a customer. This place can be an actual water cooler, the coffee machine, the lunch room, a phone call, or anywhere people hang out when they are not being productive. These are not bad areas, they can be filled with creative energy and good ideas can be exchanged. They can also be cesspools of negative energy.

Most sales environments have a cesspool. Because when you deal with people, and not all of them are great, you need to let off the steam.

The issue with having this as a spot for blowing off this steam is that there is very little creativity, very little positive energy, that is exchanged. Most of the time people talk about stupid management decisions, that last lousy customer, or why we have too much or too little of whatever is selling/not selling. The worst thing is that newer salespeople learn from these exchanges, but they do not learn how to do anything useful, they just learn how to spin these tales of the one that got away in an entertaining manner, which does not help anyone become better at their jobs or better for their customers.

A Learning Lesson

So let’s try to reframe these conversations. How about, instead of trying to sound like we were awesome and the customer sucked, we tried to look at it from a standpoint of a puzzle we need help with.

Every customer is like a puzzle. Sometimes they are really easy to solve puzzles, the kind we really like. For instance, some people are just awesome at sudoku, and when faced with a sudoku puzzle they can just blast through it. Some people are great at crosswords, and can figure out all of the clues quickly and can even use a pen instead of a pencil! Some people are good at both, but then they see a jigsaw puzzle and won’t stop until they are completely done. However, give a sudoku puzzler a crossword and you might notice they are not as excited about it. A crossword puzzler might be ecstatic about words on a grid, but looking at that jigsaw puzzle gives them a headache. And jigsaw puzzlers… don’t get me started about jigsaw puzzlers.

So, if a jigsaw puzzler is stuck with a crossword, what would be the best way to learn how to be good at crosswords? Complain about it? Not likely. But, perhaps by talking through the crossword with the crossword puzzler, we can start to get answers.

The Conversations We Could Be Having

Customers do not buy because they are stupid. Customers do not buy because something went wrong with the sale. This is a helpful way to look at sales, and one that actually creates a growth mindset.

So what are the things we can review after the sale to get some good feedback from our peers on what we did right and what we did wrong?

Did we build good rapport with the customer? Did they feel that we were working in their best interest?When we asked questions, did it allow the customer to feel confident when answering? Did we actually create an environment to allow the customer to discover their needs, or let us know what their needs were?Was our energy level the same as the customers? Did we try to deliver a high-energy presentation to someone who was a little down, or vice-versa?The product or service we were offering, was it the right solution for the customer? Did we address all of their needs?Did we effectively ask for the sale?

More than likely, you might even know exactly what went wrong. I have had situations that after a sale I realized, by talking to someone else, that we had a solution for the customer and I just didn’t know about it. Not my personal brightest moment.

If we can change our mindset about the conversations we have after a sale, both positive and negative, we can actually help our fellow salespeople get better at their jobs, while at the same time getting better at ours. Though sales environments can be very competitive, it is also important to discover that a rising tide lifts all ships; it is also important to know that team members that continually miss out on opportunities tend to hurt the entire sales team’s reputation which will absolutely effect your sales, whether you are a great salesperson or not.

I can’t wait to see you at the water cooler next time, I am sure it will be a refreshing experience!

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