The “I’m Sensing That” Statement
When talking with someone such as one of your salespeople (or customers), did you ever get the feeling that they were not being one hundred percent honest and upfront with you? I’m often told that managers really don’t have a foolproof approach to extracting the truth, the real truth out of someone without sounding either confrontational or pushy.
Instead of confronting the person about their innate concern, the manager takes what this person says and tries to do their best to work their solution around it, even though they know that their employee isn’t telling them something.
After all, what could you say to a salesperson who you feel is not being forthright? “I think you’re lying to me or not telling me everything.” This is certainly not an approach I would endorse. Aside from putting the salesperson on the defensive, there’s a good chance that this approach will destroy any chance of getting this person to open up to you any more than they already have.
How can you tell when there’s something else a salesperson may be holding back from you? Here are a several signs.
1. A sudden change in their performance.
2. A sudden change in their activity.
3. A sudden change in their attitude, disposition or work ethic.
4. A sudden change in their behavior around the office, amongst their co-workers or towards you.
5. A reluctance to doing something they’ve typically done before.
6. A failure to honor certain commitments which they historically never had a problem doing.
7. There’s a noticeable misalignment between their intentions and their actions. (For example: You schedule a meeting to provide some additional coaching and training and the salesperson keeps canceling or delaying it due to some other ‘scheduling issues’ or sales related activities.)
Or, maybe you’re in the process of screening a new candidate for the sales position that needs to be filled. It seems the person has a clear interest in the position and you have a keen interest in hiring them but there are some inconsistencies in their resume which makes you question their long term commitment.
If you have ever run into a situation like this, there is a strong chance that there’s something else the person isn’t telling you. Here’s a great way to find out what’s really going on.
Use Your Senses
If a person makes a statement (or fails to confirm or do something for you) that causes your spider senses to tingle, trust and listen to your instincts. Remember, sometimes, just like when you’re selling a prospect, the real objection is two to three questions deep. Here’s an example of how you can use the “I’m sensing that” approach when you feel there’s something else that needs to be brought out to the surface when talking with one of your employees.
You: “Rob, based on our conversation a couple of weeks ago, do you still agree that it would be to your advantage for us to meet one to one so that you can get the personalized training and attention needed to handle some of the challenges you’re running up against?”
Rob the Salesperson: “Yes. I definitely see the benefits.”
You: “Well, we’ve been attempting to get together since then but it seems that something always gets in the way of our meeting. I know you’re working hard to bring in a few more accounts before the quarter is over but I’m sensing there may be something else that’s getting in the way of scheduling this meeting so that we can begin the work we can do together. Is that true (or, Is there any truth to this/how I’m feeling)?”
Salesperson: “Well, actually.”
And now, let the truth be known! Whether he had a bad experience with another manager, is reluctant to admit he is a little intimidated by this process, has a faulty perception of what “coaching” really means (broken wing mentality/something’s wrong with you vs. delivering more value to employees/I want to invest into you because your worth it) fears his job security, is worried what other people may think, doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by saying “No,” or wasn’t motivated by a reason compelling enough that would make this a priority, these are a few of the obstacles that can fly under your radar unless you dig deeper.
Notice the question I ask doesn’t put the person on the defensive simply because I’m not accusing him of doing anything that would make him wrong. I’m not offending him by pointing my finger and playing the blame game. For example: “Every time we plan to meet, you keep rescheduling with me.” “You told me that you were going to call me but you never did.” “You said we would be able to get together for a few minutes.” “I told you I was going to call you on Friday at 9A.M. and when I did you weren’t there.”
Instead, here’s one of the very few times during a coaching relationship that you can actually make it about you; your feelings, that is. Beginning a statement with, “I’m sensing” acknowledges how you are feeling. Then, ask the person for help in determining whether your feeling is, in fact, valid.
This approach gives the other person you’re talking with the space and permission they need to share the real truth, concern, or more of what is going on without feeling pressured. Of course, there are those occasions when the person is actually telling you the truth or simply isn’t interested in speaking with you. That’s why it’s critical to tap into your intuition and trust your instincts to determine how deep you actually want to dig to uncover the truth about what is stalling your ability to create a breakthrough in one of your people.