Sales is…. The Provocation of Truth - 1st February 2017

Reading last night, I came across this wonderful phrase – the provocation of truth – used to describe what psychologists do when questioning their patients.

I’ve used various similar versions to describe sales, particularly the questioning phase of sales conversations, but this one beats everything I’ve used to date!

Many times I’ve talked about sales being the search for truth. Done properly, sales is about helping clients make buying decisions. You can only help if you know the truth and, all too often, people don’t tell you the truth for all sorts of reasons. So, as a salesperson, you have to search for the truth before you can help.

Like any good sales training company, we encourage our clients to probe, listen, probe, listen to uncover the needs, wants and dreams of clients. We also implore them to listen in order to understand rather than just listening in order to reply, the most common mistake made in sales (“Great, you just gave an answer that I can sell into. Let’s sell!” No! Listen. Understand. Don’t sell so quickly).

But what this phrase captures wonderfully is that you need to provoke people into telling you the truth. Much like psychologists, we’re told answers that don’t represent the truth, at least not the whole truth. We can’t say, “Sorry, Mrs Client, you’re not telling me the truth now, are you? What’s the real answer?”

We must coax the truth from people, nudging them along to feel more comfortable and of course that’s partly about building trust between us. The more we’re trusted, the more likely they’ll share the truth, that’s a given.

However, inspired by the world of psychology, I encourage you to provoke the truth a little more. It’s more challenging, more risky perhaps, but much more likely when done well to get to the heart of the problem your client wants you to solve.

Paul Owen