Growing up I often heard my dad say; “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” He was quoting the famous UCLA men’s basketball coach, John Wooden, who won a record 10 national championships in 12 years.
These words echo in my mind today as I think about how my dad tried to impart to my brother and me the value of a strong work ethic and persistence. It rankled him to watch a job done poorly just because someone was lazy and inefficient. He loathed a rushed process, cut corners, or when people scraped by doing the bare minimum.
I would have never guessed it at the time, but this lesson at an early age has proven foundational for all aspects of my life, especially when it comes to sales and customer relationships.
Quick Communication vs. Hurried Responses
Effective communication is key to customer relationships. It is what makes the difference between going quickly and hurrying. Responsiveness is good business, but true engagement transcends a mere reply. Customer communication that wins sales and builds relationships is more about context than speed. It hinges on providing the answers customers need when they need it.
Hurrying sacrifices effectiveness for speed. If your reply doesn’t answer all of the customer’s questions, it’s not effective. Taking extra time to “get it right” is slower, but the result is better.
Carl Honore has it right in his book In Praise of Slowness:
Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity.”
One Size Does Not Fit All
I’m not sure who came up with concept “one-size-fits-all,” but in my opinion it is laughable. The “one size” may be true, but the “fit” more certainly isn’t. At least, not all the time. Maybe it’s because I’m 6’8”.
Rushed sales cut corners. They are generic and devoid of the personal attention that produces long-term, quality customers. They are the one-size-fits-all approach of the sales world: semi-functional but not very successful.
By reducing time spent in the sales cycle, it is difficult to see the unique needs of potential customers — you just don’t have the time. Sure, some times customers need quick solutions, but don’t let false urgency drive you to eliminate eliminating intentionality.
This is where the quintessential stereotype of the pushy car salesman is born. No one wants to do business with that guy. His customers feel like they have lost control. As though suddenly someone else is in charge of their destiny, someone they neither know nor trust. They don’t run to him for solutions, they run away because of his high-pressure tactics.
How different would that scenario be if you walked on the lot and the salesperson asked (and listened!) to what you need in a car, your budget, and what you are interested in. He shows you the models that you mention, makes a few recommendations about things you haven’t considered, and then says, “I’ll be over there, let me know if you have any questions or want to test drive anything.” The customer gains insight but is still in control, free from a circling vulture eager to swoop in for the sale.
Patience vs. the Adrenaline Rush
Sales is a hustle irresistible to adrenaline junkies. And this isn’t all bad. Negotiating and closing a deal brings built-in satisfaction that preserves your customer’s best interest as well as your own. But, left unchecked, chasing the adrenaline for its own sake can rush the deal and produce the opposite result.
Good salespeople understand and distinguish between the energy they derive from doing a deal well versus a deal that comes from artificially hustling a customer.
In the sales world, one of the hardest virtues to cultivate is patience. To be content and calm in the waiting. And there is a lot of waiting: waiting for their response to your proposal; waiting for them to send the contract back; waiting after you’ve negotiated a final price. Waiting is agonizing, but essential. Delayed gratification can be the most rewarding.
Patience is an important trait in a good salesperson because Slow Sale methods require the fortitude to stick with the deal. Patience is especially important during times devoid of an adrenaline rush, when the process of sales can be more excruciating than exciting.
Speed Influences Execution
Going fast on a straight, flat road is easy. In perfect conditions, acceleration is a safe thrill. But roads, like sales, are rarely straightforward and predictable. Speed influences how we drive and how we respond. The faster we go, the more difficult it is to navigate the road. Our response time is compressed and our margin for error diminishes exponentially—or completely. Consequences become dire.
How can you slow down the deal to accommodate the road ahead?
Slowing does not mean stopping. It means improvising and allowing the geography to dictate the new pace. It allows forward motion that preserves the integrity of the deal and the sanity of the customer (and salesperson).
The key is to stay focused on the destination and to continually navigate toward the mutually-desired end point.
Creativity Requires Incubation
Do you feel like your best ideas seem to come from out of nowhere? You know, those moments when you allow your thoughts to wander in the shower, at the gym, or in the grocery store. Psychologists have coined it “creative incubation.” By slowing down your day, and therefore your sales process, you can make room for the possibility of this type of innovation. Slowing down gives you a steady, tactical method for improving the way you speak and interact with customers.
None of us are machines. We were not made to hum along at a constant speed with predictable input matching corresponding output. As humans, we require ebbs and flows, moments of activity interspersed with moments of rest, noise punctuated by silence. Quiet is not idle; it is creativity in formation.