Ever read a book, wanted sex or turned up the music?

In a novel or movie, there needs to be a central focus on emotional tension between the hero and the heroine that will keep you interested, keep you on the edge of your seat or have you personally invested. If it were all about the situations and facts and external story lines without the emotional tension, we would lose interest pretty quickly.

In a flirtatious or romantic exchange between two people there is a certain amount of tension that is needed to lead to successful and mutual sex, and that is for the guy to become a master at creating anticipation. Because most women love anticipation then the two steps forward and one step backwards scenario creates the most successful emotional tension that leads to results.

In music designed to help us relax, release or reminisce, we, as listeners react to the tension in what we hear. This tension, built through elements that include harmony, rhythm and melody and produced either singly or collectively, impact our emotional intensity. Try watching a horror movie without the sound, a romantic TV show without the soft and slow tear-jerking music or try a rock and roll track being played without a guitar and realise the impact of that anticipatory tension created that makes us emotionally invest.

The art of tension is crucial to success BUT it must be the right kind of tension. For every positive there must be a negative – that’s the law of opposites.

So what that means is that in a sales environment, we are going to come across people, no matter our intention, who will view us with arms crossed, coming to the table with their own set of beliefs about what they have heard, read or noticed about us, pre-occupied and set in their way of thinking that means they can see no apparent and immediate value we can add.

The tension is negative.

Our role is to reduce the negative tension and to increase the anticipatory tension.

And that can be both difficult and fun and yes, sometimes worthy of walking away from.

It won’t matter how well you build rapport and reduce that negative tension, it’s what you do next that is key.

My most viewed article, ‘nobody cares about your product – truly’ demonstrates that very point, because nobody does care about what you sell, and so your role is to find out what they do care about.

Start talking product on that first call, that first visit or with that first company PowerPoint presentation and you undo the relaxed and released state you have created in building rapport. Sure, the tension increases – but it is the wrong kind of tension.

You will have just created an environment with absolutely no anticipation.

You have just taken the tension back up to where it started from – negative, sceptical and untrusting.

At this point the buyer will not know why they are feeling what they are feeling because it’s happening at a subconscious level. In their gut. But they will be thinking ‘this person isn’t like me and doesn’t get me’. And you will be undoing the relationship you are beginning to build because you are making it all about you and what you can get. Trust is beginning to dissipate. Why?

You are creating a pressure situation and not a tension situation

Think about yourself. If you buy something and you feel in a pressured frame of mind, no matter how much you need the product, you will harbour some type of negative emotion – maybe resentment, maybe resistance or maybe buyer’s remorse.

So what do you do to create the right type of tension that gets results and connects with someone at the same time?

  • When you build rapport to diffuse the negative tension and to increase the anticipatory tension, it is more than assessing body language and sussing out what personality profile they are. You position yourself as an industry expert by the statements you make that demonstrate your knowledge of their industry trends, their trigger events and the challenges of their tasks at hand.
  • Once the rapport is built and you sense an alignment of values you acknowledge this phase and position yourself as a trusted advisor by the questions you ask. Questions that relate to their wants and their needs, their pleasure and pain and even questions that might go personal.
  • Once the questions are asked and you have the answers you need, you clarify what you know and by having the strength of character to hold that space open, you position yourself as an extension to their business and jointly work on shifting the status quo and creating change that impacts the profits, the business’ purpose and the people who will work to make it happen.

None of this is rocket science. But the path to building the right kind of tension though, for some, is rocket science because it is so counter-intuitive.

Just like hang-gliding requires you to pull the handle in when you jump off a cliff rather than push it out, breaking down negative tension and creating anticipatory tension, means having to reprogram your approach. It means being mindful about not being too collaborative or emotional (which is counter-intuitive for some) or being mindful about ways to become a little more collaborative and emotional (which is counter-intuitive for others).

So, whether it’s a movie you are watching, a potential partner you are woo-ing or a buyer you are winning over, remember that people will pay for tension to be released. They won’t pay for pressure to be built.

The secret is in that fine line. Here’s to fine lines.
Be Bold, Brave and Brilliant

THow Tension Trumps Pressure in a Sales Scenario

Bernadette McClelland is CEO of 3 Red Folders – a modern day saleswoman and keynote speaker on business growth, personal leadership and sales performance.

BIO: Business environments wanting to increase their revenue and profits, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market, ask for Bernadette McClelland because of her thought leadership on sales performance, her ideas on thinking beyond resilience and her fresh perspectives surrounding personal leadership skills — all designed to master the outcomes that matter.

Bernadette has proudly coached Harvard MBA students on their sales enablement curriculum, been the Master Asia Pacific coach for Anthony Robbins across twelve countries, authored five books on leadership and sales transformation, won a coveted Telstra award for Business Excellence, and continually shares her ideas around behaviour, the brain and business growth on stages in the UK, Europe, Thailand, India, NZ, Australia and North America.

Believing that sales performance is a leadership issue, you will also find her heading Melbourne’s human potential based sales performance consultancy, 3 Red Folders, as she navigates lead generation, message to market and digs deep into sales process activities with her clients in the mid-tier sector as well as founding ‘Women Who Sell’, an initiative designed to bring more women up to speed in their sales success.

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