Tough Conversation? Create a clearing… and use a Ramp!

Today, we welcome guest blogger Bill Knoche, Outlaw in the world of selling…he breaks all the rules when it comes to selling. (You’ll see from his blog post, he breaks all the rules in writing, too!) Selling…in the field, or face-to-face with customers and clients, is no different than selling on the phone…or selling the people you work with, or your sales manager…

It is no different than selling the person you are dating…or your wife, your husband, or your kids…or the butcher, the baker, or the guy at the 7-Eleven…it’s all the same. It’s about “creating a clearing” for conversation.

I have noticed that most problems that exist between people are based on a conversation we should have…or…should have had. We don’t have them because we don’t want to, but because we don’t know how to have them…because we don’t know how to get them started.

I suggest to my clients the first thing you have to do is create a clearing for conversation. The concept is one that sticks with me from when I was a Boy Scout. If you were going to be comfortable in your sleeping bag during the night, you had to think a little bit in advance about where you were going to pitch your tent. If you’re not thinking you might set it up on bumpy soil…or in a soft place where water will collect if it starts to rain. If you are going to get a good night’s sleep without a lot of“stuff” keeping you awake, there’s a lot to consider.

What’s any of this have to do with selling? The truth is that for selling or sleeping…I guarantee you… you will see much better results if spend a few minutes creating a clearing before you start. When I meet with a client the first thing I do is find out why they agreed to see me? What were they hoping would come out of the conversation… sometimes if a client or prospect is comfortable enough they might even tell you what they don’t want to happen or what they are afraid will happen. I begin to create a clearing.

Communication in the office could be generated in the same way. Let’s talk about possible conflict situations. Maybe you have been putting off a conversation for three months because you don’t like to confront people. You could start to create a clearing for the conversation by sharing with the person you have been avoiding by saying…“Judy… what would you say if I said that I have been putting off a conversation that I’ve needed to have with you for 90 days because I don’t know how to get it started… ?”I call this a “ramp”… it’s a way to ease into a conversation without hitting anything too hard… you can just ramp up to it. I can’t tell you what they will say next, what I can tell you is that you have taken the first step to a conversation that is 90 days older than it would have been if you knew how to get it started when the issue first came to light.

As you create a clearing, I suggest that you consider what, if any resistance you will run into along the way. In this situation I am sure there was the thought of major resistance or the conversation would not have been put off for this long.

Look for their resistance, respect it, know it is real… don’t belittle it or them. Disrespecting something that someone else respects can get you in a heap of poop…so what I am saying is notice what’s important to them… and address it gently… you then start to dismantle it. This takes practice… it’s like being able to dismantle a live bomb…if you don’t know what you are doing you can get killed. The nice part is here is that you, in fact, probably won’t be killed… you may have to beg for forgiveness…but not your life.

Remember the “ramp up” where you said you didn’t know how to have the conversation? If someone happens to be detonated by your conversation… here’s your “flak jacket”… remind them that, “When I started the conversation I said I had been putting it off for the last 90 days…and now you see why I have been putting it off… not because the conversation might upset you but because I didn’t know how to have it without upsetting you. I’m an amateur at tough conversations… please don’t hate me for it. Please give me some help here… I know it’s a conversation we need to have…what I don’t know it how to get it started.” I think most would take pause if approached like this and make the effort to find resolve.

Next time you’re about to have a tough conversation, these tips should get you off to a healthy start.

About the Author: Bill Knoche is an Outlaw in the world of selling…he breaks all the rules when it comes to selling and has been teaching others to do it for years. You can find him at: and or call 716-648-2625 ext. 213.


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