Selling to Sociopaths.

Inside of each sales person is an unquenchable thirst to win.

It's almost indescribable the raw gut-wrenching aversion we have to losing.  We can't stand the thought that we might not be able to evangelize our story to every last person in our target market.

And so we make the mistake of selling to everybody.

It's brute-force sales tactics.

And sometimes that attitude gets you deals that no one else could possibly land.

Long after all the other sales rep would have deleted the opportunity from CRM and scrambled to fill the gap with new deals, you're still hammering away  -- reinventing yourself, bringing new advocates to the table, and finding budget from creative places.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that...

While those peddling the ten latest sales processes will try to convince you that you need to drop these type of losers and install the latest in "demand generation" solutions on your website with landing pages, free ebooks, and a newsletter list that you zealously promote, that might not be the Holy Grail of selling utopia you expect it to be.

You can't always avoid confrontation, manipulative prospects, or buyers intent on stealing your soul.

Despite your charm, professionalism, and great intentions, some buyers just seem to have a corner office in the bottom floor of Hell.

They're called sociopaths.

And that's the neat-and-tidy clinical term we now label them.

They're psychopaths.

And if you're wondering how you get that label, here are a few common traits that you you'll find in a person like this.

  1. They completely lack empathy, but attempt to hide it with a glib and superficial social facade.
  2. They never accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong and create scapegoats ahead of time in order to excuse their failures.
  3. They are habitual liars. They seem incapable of either knowing or telling the truth under any circumstance.
  4. They are egotistical. They truly believe they were created with different rules than the rest of humanity.
  5. They are heartlessly vindictive when exposed or when their behavior is confronted.

Know anybody like this?

Now before you get too distracted profiling each of your customers for any one of these qualifications, it should be noted that "just not buying from you" isn't on the list.

And in fact, a buyer telling you a lie or talking about their recent accomplishment for too long doesn't make them a sociopath.

It's something more.  And sadly you sometimes only realize that way too late in the the sales process.

So what can you do?

The easiest, safest answer is to "RUN" .

Do not pass go.  Do not set up another sales call.  Do not try harder.  Stop what you're doing immediately.

And when you get asked by the buyer why you aren't interested in their business, you shouldn't even answer the email.

See, manipulating you is the number one game the prospect enjoys playing most.

But if you decide that you are going to sell to sociopaths (in spite of overwhelming evidence that you might be crazy) here are a few strategies you might want to consider:

  1. Confront lies with candor. -- When you hear a lie, either overt or inferred, you should stop and offer an inquisitive: "That doesn't seem to add up" qualifier.  If you are going to be lied to, you should make the other guy work for it a little.  And when you do point out apparent unreliability when you see it, you set the tone that you aren't going to be pushed around easily.
  2. Have a confident process. -- Know where you are going.  This isn't the time to be a consultative sales person.  Everything you get will be poisoned.  Believe nothing and validate everything by triangulating with others who work with the same person.  Don't flinch in public and never back down from a perspective you first initiate.  You can use wording like: "You seem to be missing an important point" to drive home your insistence.
  3. Don't make mistakes. Ever. -- If you don't mess up, you won't be the scapegoat.  That sounds hard, but is actually the best plan for selling in general.  Take your time answering questions.  Expect that you are being manipulated with every interaction.  And you'll find yourself spending that extra 3-4 seconds planning what to say before just blurting out the top thing on the mind or the next thing prepared in your presentation.
  4. Build logical financial arguments. -- Since emotional arguments are completely worthless, you should save any drama for when you get back to your office.  Keep it all simple dollars-and-cents.  Let the math do the talking.  Despite all the neurosis going on in the sociopath's head, the success  of your deal hinges primarily on their own personal financial gain.  Stick to the facts and let them explain their way to getting behind your plan.
  5. Be unpredictable and full of surprises. -- Change it up all the time.  Because the sociopath lacks a moral conscience, they compensate by an extreme proclivity for mental stimulation.  They gamble with your emotions.  You van leverage this weak spot by bring up things that are new and exciting that specifically pertain to your deal.  And when you talk, say it fast and loud and then turn around and leave.  It's shock therapy.
  6. Stop being needy and "faking it". -- Sell.  Don't try to build rapport or share anything personal.  And don't try the fake-it-until-you-make-it style of selling that has you rolling up in a fast car and over-priced Rolex.  The sociopath will peer pressure you to leverage your "faked" social image to pay for drinks and dinners and other things for them -- all in the name of "you obviously have a bunch of money".

Selling to sociopaths is a lot of work.

And, it rarely works to your advantage.

It might be easier to just avoid sociopaths like your selling career depended on it.

Because it probably does.

And by the way, these same rules apply to less psychotic prospects too.