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The Suspense is Killing You (And Your Deal)

June 27th, 2013

Willy Wonka’s eyes gleam as he watches a boy wedged in a pipeline for chocolate and quips, “The suspense is killing me – I hope it lasts!” 

 Gene Wilder’s line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is relevant for sales people and business owners who sell. Suspense can kill you, and it can also kill your sale if it lasts. 

 In sales, stress can be reduced by managing the source of the stress. That isn’t the case with all vocations, according to CareerCast.com. The career portal annually researches and rates the top 10 most stressful and least stressful jobs (www.careercast.com/jobs-rated). The most stressful jobs in 2013? Soldier. Military General. Firefighter. Sales didn’t even make the Top 10 list. True, sales didn’t make the Top 10 list of least stressful jobs, either. It’s somewhere in between, and where it falls on the scale for you depends on how you deal with the stress. Here’s an example.

 While attending a trade show, I struck up a conversation with the CEO of a small company that was exhibiting at the show. He had arranged several sales meetings in advance of the show, but he focused on complaining that his prospects at a large company that was also exhibiting had not responded to his requests to meet. “They know where my booth is,” he groused. “They can come find me, and if they don’t, I’ll go over there and give them a piece of my mind.”

 Focusing on what others were not doing added suspense and negativity to the sales equation, not only for the CEO but also for his young sales team at the booth. When you’re in a similar situation, you can create suspense and spiral down with the stress, or you can manage it and use it to make progress with a few key questions:

  • What is the worst that can happen with this situation if I do nothing to change it?
  • What’s the best that can happen if I take action?
  • What are the options for action?
  • Which options can bring me closer to the best that can happen?

The CEO didn’t ask me for my opinion. If he had, I would have suggested stopping by the large company’s booth on the last day for an informal conversation with his prospects. During the initial small talk, the CEO would likely be asked, “Did you have a good show?”  The answer could get the CEO his meeting: “We had a great show. We had several meetings onsite that we arranged in advance, and those meetings went really well.  I am sorry that you and I couldn’t get our schedules to coordinate before the show. Let’s figure out how to make that happen.”

 Back to the three most stressful jobs: all of them involve fighting something—like other human beings or the elements. That’s why they’re stressful. Sales is not war. The prospect is not your enemy unless you think of him or her in that way. 

Sales is a team sport, with the objective of bringing both you and your prospect onto the same playing field. Finding options that put both of you on the same playing field are a lot more rewarding than letting the suspense kill you and your deal. Unless you own a chocolate factory.