TALKING SALES 30: "Sales paradox: Don't focus on the outcome" - Susan Donovan

John Smibert


In this 3 minute interview Susan Donovan presents another sales paradox- "don't focus your mind on your desired outcome".

She tells John Smibert that being too focussed on the planned outcome for a sale we can have negative impact on the achievement of that outcome..

She discusses how strong focus on our planned outcome during the sales call can limit the discussion and put the blinkers on our observations.  Our interaction can be limited.

Susan outlines a number of ways in which we can avoid this, and to be more relaxed in order to develop a more constructive and productive dialogue with the customer.

Susan is a specialist in high-level micro-skills for salespeople, she's an author and a leading sales trainer.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John: Welcome back! I'm with Susan Donovan, the lady of paradoxes. Susan, talking about paradoxes: I read, again, one of the paradoxes you put in place, and that is that we can be too focussed on outcomes.

Susan: Yes.

John: I've got to tell you, I focus very heavily on outcomes. I really train people to be focused on outcomes, I coach everybody in the fact that if you're not focussed on outcomes then you're not going to achieve it. So, that's a real paradox for me. How can we be too focused on outcomes? Can it destroy an outcome?

Susan: It actually can. I mean, I'm totally with you on that you need to be very, very clear around what the outcome is that you're aiming for.

John: Yes

Susan: Very specific about that, totally, and you need to have planned that. When you're actually in the conversation with the customer then it's something you need to hold kind of lightly, like with an open palm rather than with a clenched fist. Because if you hold it with a clenched fist then you tend to listen very selectively and you collect information very selectively, and it ends up meaning that you miss opportunities to, ironically, get to your outcome. So, the paradox is that when you hold the outcome lightly, once you've been very clear around what it is, you're going to be more open to finding ways to achieve it than if you hold it too tightly.

John: That makes a lot of sense to me, and I know that sometimes I've been guilty of the fact that I've gone in, I've had a certain outcome, I've gone through the sales process and I've missed the sale, and when I'd gone back to reflect on it it was exactly that.  I've forgotten to explore and discover in areas that would've given me the insight I needed to actually get to the end result.

Susan: Yes, yes.

John: Okay. So, what do we need to do to make sure we can avoid doing that?

Susan: Well, we plan very, very well, and when you plan well and you internalise your plan then you go into the conversation with your customer and you deeply relax. Because once you've planned it and internalised it then it's going to be a little bit of a compass that guides you. And that's a really wonderful position to be in, to be deeply relaxed. Focused at the same time and purposeful in the call, but not overly focused or overly attached.

John: But we might be overly attached to our plan too, which could close our mind to asking the right questions.

Susan: Yes, exactly right - that's very much the case. When you're holding that outcome open then it's like the whole plan is kind of something you're having to hold lightly when you're in the call.

John: So, the bottom line for me from what you're saying is that it's really important to have a good plan - have an outcome in mind, but when you then walk into the meeting and start having the dialogue then put all that away because it'll stay in your mind anyway. Put all that aside, become relaxed, and have a good dialogue with the customer. Good questioning techniques will help in doing that.

Susan: Absolutely, absolutely.

John: Great advice, Susan - thank you very much!

Susan: Thanks, John!

John: Look forward to the next time we meet!

Susan: Me too!


See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


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