Recognizing Misunderstanding in Sales

To be effective in a Sales role, you HAVE to have confidence.  You have to believe that each time you're walking into someone's office or picking up the phone that you have the unique ability to help that person and that you're RIGHT.  You definitely, need to be confident to have the door slammed in your face by a potential prospect and yet keep on believing in your product or service.  

The Consequences of Misunderstanding

Unfortunately, this necessary confidence can also lead us reps to overcompensate and exhibit arrogance in certain situations.  The key is being able to differentiate when we've crossed that line and swing the pendulum back in the other direction to compensate.  I had a customer, let's call him 'dissatisfied Drew' (instead of 'really pissed off Pete...'), call me a while back and tell me that I'd severely misrepresented the details of an upcoming promotion to him (i.e. the price, the effective dates, etc...).  There had clearly been some miscommunication between Drew and I, but at this point I let my ego get the better of me.  I took his complaints as a personal attack and responded by becoming defensive.  Not my finest moment, but quite frankly it happens to us all and often more than we'd like to admit.  I've seen misunderstanding almost destroy a hugely profitable customer relationship over something as inconsequential as a small piece of marketing creative.  I've seen reps forgo opportunities because their contact went over their head and hurt their pride.  

Why Misunderstanding Becomes Personal

Since then, Drew and I have been able to repair our relationship and move forward, but I think it warrants sharing some of my reflections.  Why did Drew's accusation elicit a reaction from me that I would deem uncharacteristic?  I interpreted his criticism as a personal attack because it violated one of my core principles, fairness.  I believed I was being fair and honest, but from his perspective he was being taken advantage of, and not necessarily by me personally.  My ego reared it's ugly head and I reacted by what I justified as 'standing up for myself' in a situation that was not at all about me or my values personally.  I was also new in the role at that time and while I wanted to build the relationship with this customer, I also wanted to set a precedent that I was not a push-over, which was an insecurity of mine, something I was not confident in.  Neither of us were right, but neither were wrong either, the truth of what actually happened was somewhere in the middle of our misunderstanding.

Stopping Misunderstanding Before it Starts...

Now when I'm faced with a situation that pushes my buttons, I try to recognize when my need-to-be-right behaviour is taking over.  I stop for a beat and ask myself 'is this personal?' and 'how would I be viewing this situation from the other person's viewpoint?'.  I try to stick to the facts of the situation and be direct but empathetic with my communication.  It's also important to try and identify what elicits a reactive response in ourselves.  These hot-button issues usually stem from our sense of self or insecurities.