Selling – The power of potential

Sales people and the power of potential

When it comes to weaving a persuasive sales narrative, there is no shortage of advice.  One of the most common snippets of wisdom is you must be accomplished at highlighting your “track record.”  For example, where has your company had a previously successful implementation of the solution you are proposing – and do you have documentation of that success?

The folks at the Harvard Business School and Stanford jointly conducted a series of imaginative studies that added a new twist to this key to success.  The studies indicated the factor most important in making a go/no-go decision was the potential for greatness versus what someone had already achieved. As the authors concluded: “we are more impressed by potential than by track record.”

The authors investigated this effect from a variety of perspectives including how to land a new job, secure a promotion and score a sales lead.  Let’s focus just on the selling angle and explore what the results might mean for selling in a major account market.  A couple of possibilities:

  • Understanding the Story. More emphasis needs to be placed on helping sales people understand the future direction of their company.
  • Translating the Story. Companies need to translate their future direction into compelling customer narratives – because we are going to do this, we will be able to help you in the following ways.

  • Learning the Story. Companies should incorporate into their ongoing sales training opportunities for sales reps to practice and get feedback on how to position the “potential of the future.”

Now, clearly there is a need to document and learn how to talk about track record.  The moral of the story is one must not only talk about the past and the present – but also the future.  The study reinforces the point the future not only fascinates but also persuades.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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