In this exclusive article, noted psychiatrist Dr. Charles Parker outlines the typical sales behaviors that can lead to a cycle of compulsive and unproductive activity. While these behaviors can inhibit top performance and personal satisfaction, Dr. Parker also offers a surprising cure.
According to Parker, salespeople must deploy two essential talents in order to reach success: They must be able to build relationships and close sales. If a salesperson can apply both talents equally, you're looking at a sales superstar. But the salesperson who focuses too much on building relationships will make a lot of friends, but few sales. The salesperson who is too preoccupied with closing the sale will forfeit customer loyalty and repeat business.
What causes salespeople to get off balance? Why do some salespeople get stuck in the relationship mode, while others get obsessed with closing to the point of alienating their own best customers? Dr. Parker's clinical explanation is simple but not readily accepted: addictive behavior patterns.
How Addiction Affects Performance
We all recognize the havoc a drug or alcohol addiction wreaks on a person's life. The first casualty is often balance. The addict's life becomes so skewed to the needs of the addiction, everything else takes a back seat and the person's life tilts ominously in one direction. In sales the tilt may be more subtle but no less damaging. Sales professionals can lose their successful edge if they fail to balance their talents for forming relationships with their need to close sales.
Dr. Parker says, "Any activity that has a certain measure of gratification associated with it can have the potential of becoming addictive. It doesn't matter if it's drinking, spending money, running or working in sales." While other professions usually offer highs only for those who reach the very pinnacle - say a football star - in selling anyone can get a rush out of landing a big order.
Does closing a sale give you a high? Do you get excited when you meet a new prospect? Do you get a feeling of bliss when you've met your sales quota?
People in sales can easily become addicted (and thrown off balance) by the adrenaline rush associated with certain phases of the selling cycle. The more you do it, the more kicks you get.
Is there anything wrong with pumping your fist through the air, expressing a triumphant "yessss," when you return to the office with that big, fat, record-busting, signed contract? Nothing at all, says Parker, as long as you are able to achieve balance. If you really enjoy selling, and if you don't get hung up in any one particular part of it - such as meeting new people or closing - you're not likely to suffer from an addictive pattern.
Surprisingly, at some point in their career many salespeople lose their ability to balance their selling talents. Some salespeople get addicted to relationships to the point that they ignore the potential for closing the sale; other salespeople get so addicted to the thrill of closing that they stop caring about the customer. Parker says, "The relationship builder becomes ineffective in dealing with the potential for business; the closer fumbles in the relationship with the customer."
The Closing Addict
The sure way to recognize a closing addict is to listen to their statements about the sales process. For example:
"Closing is the process of transferring money from the prospect's pocket into mine."
"In selling you've got only two choices: Either you sell the customer or the customer sells you. You either close or you lose."
"It doesn't matter if the customer is weird, as long as the check has cleared."
Closers are attractive, intelligent, quick with their words and often economically successful. They are very focused on numbers, obsessed with their sales goals and with collecting commission checks. Their main preoccupation is to sell something to everyone they meet. Closing addicts want to get what they want with a vengeance and quickly move on to the next prospect. Impatient to get to the brief, emotional high at the conclusion of the sale, they don't allow the conversation to get sidetracked. They know how to attack the prospect's defenses with surgical precision so they can reach their key objective: another closed sale.
Dr. Parker says, "Closing addicts are users. They say that they like people, but they are just using them to satisfy their impulse for a temporary high. They are takers instead of exchangers. They take what they can get from everyone. They are consuming the external world, taking it in and spitting it out."
Closing addicts rarely talk about their personal lives and believe that taking a client to a ball game is a waste of time. They carefully conceal their own feelings and don't (continued on page 2)