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In the Heat of the Moment: Sellers Behaving Badly

In every sale, there's a moment of truth.

It's the moment when the buyer decides whether or not to buy.

Sellers often miss the moment. Why? Because in the "heat of the moment" we aren't fully tuned in. With adrenaline pumping and anticipation building, we miss not only that moment but also fail to stay in charge of it.

The "heat of the moment" refers to being caught up in emotion or circumstances that override logic and impair us from being optimally engaged and effective. This idiom is used to justify crimes of passion, things we say and wish we could take back, and decisions that were driven by something other than rational thought.

Adrenaline is usually the culprit when the "heat of the moment" takes over. Physiologically, we can become addled by adrenaline in any instant where a situation is tense or when we are fearful (even as mildly fearful as an anticipation of the word "no" from a prospect).

Fear, in any magnitude, prompts our adrenal glands to pump out surges of adrenaline. The purpose of adrenaline is to equip us for a "fight or flight" response. Adrenaline signals the body to redirect more blood to the muscles and more oxygen into the lungs -- making us stronger and more capable for the fight or flight response triggered by our fear.

Here's the problem. That blood and oxygen that's being redirected... well, it comes out of our brain's supply. In other words, we get dumb in these critical moments. Since we don't typically fight with or run from our buyers, our biology is working against us in these critical moments.

That's why sellers often behave badly in the "heat of the moment." Perhaps you've experienced it or seen it manifesting like this:

  • A seller completely misses an obvious buying signal. In my own field research, I observe more than a quarter of buying signals left unanswered or misunderstood. Very recently a buyer said "I'd be interested if you could do a rush order." The seller kept talking about the product features as if the buyer hadn't said a word. The buyer interrupted and asked "Can you do a rush order?" The seller responded with an 11-minute explanation of the ordering process and, eventually, said rush orders were possible. By then, though, the buyer had mentally moved on and was no longer interested in placing an order. The sale was lost.
  • I experienced a "heat of the moment" fail the last time I purchased a vehicle. The sales person was so intent on making the sale that day that he missed the sale entirely. All I wanted to do was order the car in a different color. I was willing to wait for delivery. I was willing to sign a contract and pay cash upfront. But he was so set on seeing me drive off the lot in a vehicle already on the lot that he lost the sale entirely. When he called me back a week later, I'd already completed my purchase with another dealership. I asked him why he wouldn't just order the car I wanted. He sheepishly acknowledged that he wasn't thinking clearly "in the heat of the moment."
  • Sellers also get confused by buyer questions in the "heat of the moment." An innocuous question or one that is a strong buying signal may be misinterpreted as an objection. Classic example: Some price considerations are buying signals, NOT objections. You have to listen closely to discern the difference. A buyer mulling over "how can we adjust our budget to make this work... maybe with financing?" is about to let you close the deal. It's not necessary to respond desperately with a price discount. It's not appropriate to treat this like an objection and/or become defensive.

To curb your adrenaline rush and remain calm enough to think straight, take a deep breath. Pause. Replay what your buyer is saying. Buy a little time if you need it by asking a question for clarification. Recognize that you are in "the heat of the moment" and not at your best.

Don't let that adrenaline surge take over and trip you up. Instead, redirect the energy you're feeling into an enthusiastic -- but well thought out -- response.

The CONNECT2Sell Blog has been discontinued as our focus has shifted to leadership at every level. Research with buyers demonstrates that buyers respond favorably when sellers show up as leaders. If you'd like to step into your full potential as a leader (and boost sales!), take a look at our free and affordable courses on