That Awkward Elevator Ride Has Competition

There’s very little that compares to the awkwardness of the elevator. The fear of sharing it with a complete stranger can be the deciding factor to take the stairs twenty floors up instead. After all, we’re cramped in a tiny box being dangled by cables while being forced to say hi or raise an eyebrow to someone we have no interest in connecting with. Making conversation is usually the last thing we’re in the mood for. That’s because “you don’t have enough space,” says Professor Babette Renneberg, a clinical psychologist at the Free University of Berlin. “Usually when we meet other people, we have about an arm’s length of distance between us. And that’s not possible in most elevators, so it’s a very unusual setting. It’s unnatural.”

So out comes the phone but not surprisingly, there’s no service. Why would we expect differently? We scroll to oblivion instead. Checking the time and then putting the phone away to simply look up at the ceiling or stare as floor 20 moves closer to the end of this dreadfully slow and painful experience. The rule is not to make eye contact, of course. But why is it such an uncomfortable experience? Aren’t we social creatures? Some of us aren’t. But to those who are? Wouldn’t it make sense to get to at least get to know the other? Much of it has to do with personal space or lack thereof. 

There’s another situation so awkward that those who attempt it, would be begging to have this elevator awkwardness instead. Personal space might or might not be a conduit but it’s nevertheless a nerve-racking experience for all those who initially attempt it. It wasn’t that long ago that I did everything I could to avoid it. It was only a matter of time until embraced it. I now do it almost daily. The cold call. 

I remember the first conversation I had making that cold call. I was literally sweating bullets. I couldn’t hear myself speak once I introduced myself. I sure wasn’t expecting my prospect to let me talk. But I got the floor anyway. Off to the races I went. I sold hard on that call. Too hard. I don’t think I let my prospect talk. I was told that they had recently sold their business. I said thank you and hung up. I was way too nervous to ask for an introduction to the new owner. I really wasn’t prepared for the phone to answer in the first place. 

My initial feelings as the phone rang were fear, awkwardness, and nervousness. I just wanted to leave a message or simply hang up. I stood in there and embraced what I was doing instead. 

So, what’s the big fuss about? Why is a sales call to a stranger something that many avoid at all costs? Is there any way to tackle that hesitation and become enthusiastic? 

Yes. The recipe for an effective conversation is to believe that we can be a solution if we only have the right information. Our call is about us introducing ourselves to the prospect. Let them know who we are and what we’re about. It’s a virtual handshake. Now stop selling. You did it. The trick now is to learn how to properly introduce yourself. This is done by creating a need for what you bring to the table. There’s an art of how to make this happen. We’ll discuss this in a later blog. In the meantime, if you know the ins and outs of your product and believe in your product, that’s farther than most other sales calls this business is getting. Let that alone be what sets you apart from the rest. Now go make that introduction in confidence! 

Shalom Markman
Merchant Consulting Group LLC
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