Go Fishing with a Frying Pan

Go Fishing with a Frying Pan

E. MichaelShays CMC

Some years ago a friend went fishing with his grown sons. They packed their fishing equipment, camping gear, and a cooler with the beer. But no one thought to bring a frying pan. What were their expectations?

One of the greatest reasons sales are lost is because of our weak expectations. Closing is a matter of attitude. Your basic assumption must be that you and your firm have the solution the customer or client needs. If you negatively and unjustifiably prejudge the quality of a prospect or the outcome of a sales call, you will betray these feelings to your prospect without saying a word.

Psychologist Howard Friedman, at the University of California at Riverside, put pairs of people in separate rooms to sit silently together for only two minutes. They could look at each other but not talk. One person in each pair was a high scorer in contagious emotion, which you might call charisma; the other, a low scorer. Before the session, each had taken a detailed questionnaire measuring how they felt “at this instant.”

After two minutes without a word being spoken, each individual was given an identical questionnaire on how they were now feeling. Friedman found that the low scorers picked up the mood of the high scorers. Even when the low scorers went into the room feeling buoyant, if the charismatic person entered depressed, both ended the session feeling depressed.1

Attitudes are catching. It is important that your attitude is worth catching. You must feel good about yourself, your firm, and your abil¬ity to provide real value to the customer or client. Your words will not cover up a negative or apprehensive feeling about your sales visit. You transmit your feelings before you open your mouth, as you walk in the room and sit down. Each minute thereafter only reinforces how the customer believes you feel.

Are you a thermometer, reacting to what happens around you? Or are you a thermostat, controlling what happens? You can change a negative or apprehensive feeling to one of con¬fidence and expectation. Before you reach your prospect, focus on what you have done and what you know you can do. Realize that the customer wants you to be a winner or she wouldn’t have agreed to meet with you. Be truly interested in the client. It’s hard to be selfconscious when you are reaching out to truly help others.

Furthermore, be clear in your mind what you want to come out of the meeting. Why not set your goal to get started on the work itself or as a fall-back, a letter of agreement? I once went on a sales call with a partner who heard the words, “It sounds good. When can we get started?” His answer was, “I’ll have a proposal to you by the early part of next week.” My partner was so intent on leaving the meeting with an agreement to receive a proposal that he entirely missed the close that was dropped in his lap. He had just proposed the work once. Now he was intent on writing it down. The client wasn’t prolonging the sales cycle. My partner was.

Expect the close. It’s like going fishing with a frying pan.

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1. As told by Malcolm Gladwell. 2000. The Tipping Point. Little, Brown & Company, p. 86.

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E. MICHAEL SHAYS CMC (ems@emsnetwork.com) is President of EMS Network, International, an association of senior consultants helping clients faced with conflict, transition, stagnation, and management dilemmas.


Michael Shays is a senior management consultant, public speaker, facilitator and mediator. He has coached executives in 24 countries in six continents to resolve conflict, manage transitions, and develop breakthrough solutions to tough problems. He has helped over 500 clients, including AT&T, IBM, KPMG and, Hewlett-Packard, and the CEOs of smaller companies. After seven years with the operations improvement firm, Bruce Payne & Associates, he passed examination as a Certified Management Consulta...

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