Learning not to yield

by BN26 Oct 2011

Do you experience difficulties asserting yourself with others in a sales context? Is maintaining positive relationships with clients so important to you that you are concerned these relationships may be damaged if you are perceived as pushy or intrusive? Do you hesitate to prospect, sell or self-promote due to a reflexive fear of being considered too pushy, intrusive, or selfish?

If you recognise any of these behaviours you might just be suffering from the debilitating behavioural issue known as ‘yielding’ which affects many sales people and keeps them from earning what they are worth.

Despite the fact that selling requires assertive behaviour, ‘yielding’ is a common behavioural issue for sales people. The result of yielding is underperformance in sales and devastating consequences for the individuals concerned, their teams, customers and managers.

So how do you stop yielding and start earning?

 Defining behviours

 Make no bones about it, selling is an assertive profession. Selling requires people to ‘push’ themselves out into the market place and put themselves in the right position to work with the right customers.

People who act assertively are:

  • Positive – Rather than negative.
  • Calm – They’re at peace with themselves and others.
  • Enthusiastic – They complete tasks with zest and feel they’ll succeed at them.
  • Proud – They accomplish what they do without stealing ideas from others.
  • Honest – When they give their word that they’ll do something, they do it.
  • Direct – They don’t play manipulative games to get what they want.
  • Confident – They take calculated risks.
  • Satisfied – They know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there.
  • Respect for others – They recognise others have needs and rights.
  • Energetic – Their energy is directed toward achieving their goals.

By contrast, yielding is passive, fear-based behaviour and is usually learned to avoid dealing with difficult or confronting situations. If practiced too much it can become a deeply ingrained habit affecting many situations in life. Some of these habits include:

  • indecisiveness, non-committal or excessively subjective
  • tend to agree with everything, hesitate to challenge or contradict
  • waiting for the ‘right time’ to prospect or sell
  • needing to be liked over making sales
  • sometimes manipulates others through non-confrontational means such as gossiping, pouting, and passive-aggressive power plays
  • super-sociable, a rapport-builder, empathetic, always agreeing on the surface yet can be critical behind others backs
  • conflict-avoidant; and have difficulty speaking when angry
  • have difficulty closing sales and talking about money
  • focused on rapport-oriented sales presentations rather than having real discussions about clients’ priorities, issues or needs
  • too quick to accept client objections and let them walk all over you
  • give away margins or discount unnecessarily
  • would rather make friends rather than clients

Sadly sales teams have far too many people with yielding behaviour producing poor sales results. Individuals with yielding behaviours often show a lack of prospecting capability, poor up-selling and cross-selling skills, have issues with quality control because they will not speak up about issues, often undermine the actions of others, which all leads to the erosion of trust in relationships which is the very things yielders do not want. The result is stakeholders and clients not getting what they really need because people with yielding will not ask more in-depth questions, assert themselves or challenge the views of others instead accepting everything on the surface while often disagreeing beneath the surface; and so on.

Often labeling people who act assertively as ‘aggressive’, people with yielding behavior will justify their actions and often resist attempts to be more assertive. What people with yielding behaviour often do not realise is that when they yield other people feel:

  • Irritated – They wish you’d stand up for yourself and make your own decisions.
  • Withdrawn – They avoid you because your negative attitude makes it difficult for them to maintain their own positive attitude.
  • Superior – They lose respect for you as a person, because you aren’t willing to stand up for what you believe in.
  • Tired – They waste valuable energy dealing with their negative reactions to you.

Yielding is not cool. Never has been and never will be. While building rapport with clients is important, a reluctance to adopt more assertive selling behaviours such as speaking up for yourself, challenging ideas, asking questions, etc. is likely to prevent you from initiating and closing sales. So how do you overcome your yielding tendencies?

How not to ‘yield’

Here are a few tips for overcoming yielding:

  1. Remember that the price, terms, conditions, and other related aspects of your product and service have been set with a lot of forethought and planning in mind. Try not to fall for the trap of undermining your own product or service before you begin the negotiation.
  2. Negotiate for positive outcomes i.e. win/win outcomes. Quite frequently giving way, for its own sake only serves to damage the longer-term relationships with your clients and others.
  3. If you give something, ask for something back in return.
  4. People respect assertive people who speak well of their products or service. Inject enthusiasm and real warmth into your discussions. Particularly when you have to say ‘No!’ .
  5. Speak up about how you feel and what you really want – we cannot read your mind.
  6. Don’t make assumptions – always ask questions to uncover what people really need.
  7. Challenge yourself by asking some questions about the situation.
  8. Ask yourself ‘What is the worst thing they can say if I ask for what I want?’ The worst answer is ‘No’, however you will be surprised how often they will say ‘Yes’.

Some people have personality traits which are more passive by nature, this means they will exhibit more ‘yielding’ behaviours. However, they too can learn to be more assertive with training. Most people have learned how to be passive or yielding which means they can unlearn these destructive behaviours.

Sue Barrett is the founder and managing director of Barrett, a group that specialises in sales coaching and training. Sue Barratt can be reached through www.barrett.com.au