How to harness the art of tension

When you’re not in front of your customers in some form, you are failing to be even remotely part of their reality.

Yes, you’re attractive, perhaps articulate, and maybe you really know your stuff. But that matters little to a customer who is in their own world, just as self-focused and busy as you are.

Forget sitting in front of the phone or refreshing your inbox every 30 seconds. Sorry to be the bearer of nasty news, but the customer is just not that into you! In this instance, your best approach is applying a technique I like to call, “positive tension.”

The vast majority of sales professionals apply “no tension”. This form of tension is passive. It requires no process or genuine interest in pursuing the customer to make the sale. A soon as the customer leaves the conversation they’re swiftly removed from memory. No tension tells the customer you couldn’t care less about them.

“Negative tension” is more aggressive. It can be used to jolt the customer into action. It’s more commonly practiced by arrogant salespeople who blur the line between persistence and harassment. These tactics can work, but usually lead to buyer’s remorse. Similarly, incompetent salespeople generate this type of connection before the customer morphs into feeling “no tension”.

“Positive tension” is just that. It’s a conscious connection between customer and salesperson. Both know where they stand. There’s a logical process being followed. Contact is initiated equally. Mutual respect is felt. Returns are made promptly and accountabilities kept. Sound like a sales nirvana? It doesn’t have to be if you’re following the right engagement process.

Like any successful relationship communication is the key. When you’re leaving message after email without reply, your customer is hearing you, but she’s definitely not feelin you!

If you don’t have a desire to chase up genuine client opportunities, and/or aren’t being contacted back by them, it’s more than likely you’re in a “negative’’ or “no tension” zone. In this case, I recommend you check your mindset and tweak your strategy.

Think about your key client opportunities and define them as one of the three tensions. “No tension” profiles should be quickly addressed and either discarded or guided towards positive.

“Negative tension” profiles require a complete strategy rethink. What about your offer and approach is contributing to this negative state? What needs to stop and start happening immediately?

“Positive tension” connections should be acknowledged and moved forward. Just because a potential target customer is always willing to give you their time, doesn’t guarantee their value.  Are they initiating contacting with you? This can be a telling sign.

To create more “positive tension”, try applying an educative approach to selling. Simply following-up and touching base doesn’t little more than train customers to ignore you. What can you contribute that will inform and move them to an uncomfortable but positive position, where by action is the only way forward?

This could mean leveraging new industry insights, a latest competitive advantage or technology, or something you know (they dont know) about their competitors. Genuine “positive tension” inspires action!

Understand the different levels of tension and harness them to your advantage. Maintain the “positive tension” and your customer connections will be vastly more meaningful and valuable.

Trent Leyshan is the founder and CEO of BOOM Sales! a leading sales training and sales development specialist. He is also the creator of The NAKED Salesman, BOOMOLOGY! RetroService, and the Empathy Selling Process.


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