Don't Feel Like A Ping-Pong Ball

Dear Sharon,
I feel like a ping-pong ball! I'm bouncing back and forth between both the husband and the wife, trying to make sure I'm answering both of them. But, some women have a lot more questions than their husbands have and that's a big problem for me. It's hard for me to concentrate when I'm worried that I'm losing the guy while I'm answering the woman's questions. Sometimes he's even rolling his eyes. What am I supposed to do, just keep bouncing back and forth, talking to both of them?

- Pierce

Dear Pierce,
Good news! You can answer the questions that both of them have without feeling like an out-of-control ping-pong ball and alienating one or both of them. Let's deal with that worry and concentration issue first.

Now, stay with me here. It is important to remind yourself to relax and breathe when you are in this or any stressful situation. Sounds almost too simple to be true, but here's how it works.

When you are tense, you will discover that you are holding your breath or taking quick, shallow breaths. This will quickly lead to tensed shoulders and a tight throat and jaws, which will significantly affect how clearly you can think and also the sound of your voice.

And, I bet if we peeked under the table we'd find that your ankles are locked as well. So, relax yourself from your ankles right up to your jaws. Take a deep breath and give your brain the oxygen it needs for you to think more clearly. When you speak, they will hear confidence rather than tension.

Tell them you'll be happy to answer all the questions or concerns each of them has. Then, throughout the sales call, make eye contact for a full eight to 10 seconds with one of them before you move to the other, rather than every two to four seconds. Be sure to make eye contact with her at the beginning of some of your comments, rather than always beginning your eye contact with him.

Answer all her questions, even if she has more of them than he does. If he's rolling his eyes, that's likely more for her benefit than yours.

When it's time to close, no matter how much he rolled his eyes, he will almost certainly turn to her and say, "Well, Hon, what do you think?" And when he asks her that question, you and your bottom line will be delighted that you answered all of her questions.

Spaghetti And Waffle Brains

Dear Sharon,
I loved your session at the AirTime 500 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. You were a real treat. I came home and told my wife her brain was like spaghetti - but it's OK because mine is like a waffle. It has really helped, and she has actually said, "Well what do you expect? My brain is like spaghetti!"

I saw your article in The News (April 18, 2005) and it sparked a question. We are having trouble making sure both decision makers are present and the one-leggers are really killers with the way our presentation works. What is the best language to use with a woman on the phone for solidifying this? How about once you are at the home and he is nowhere to be found?

I have two salespeople, one male and one female. Both have issues with this and hate the one-leggers, of course. I remember you talking about this, but I think the waffle thing pushed out this info into another cell that I can't find!

God bless you and your service to us and others.

- Jared

Dear Jared,
I'm delighted that you enjoyed the presentation in Anaheim and especially glad that it has helped you and your wife. I had a fantastic time as well.

As I read your questions and comments, here's what stood out to me:

  • Your customers have changed.

  • Your current sales process and approach must adapt as the problem is a killer "The way our presentation works."

  • An attitude adjustment is needed to create value for "one-leggers."

    Just as you keep an eye on the bottom line, you must be ever vigilant to watch for changes in your customers. Your customers have changed, and they require a different way of doing business.

    Larry Taylor of Air-Rite Air Conditioning Co., Ft. Worth, Texas, said, "One of our greatest challenges is first teaching management how to deal with this change [today's customer], and then training and coaching our team members to handle it well." There's wisdom in that quote. It's a business owner's responsibility to lead the way, inspiring change with an open and creative spirit.

    When customers are choosing a company to contract with, they actively seek out one that is easy to do business with from their perspective. Your current sales process and approach is inflexible and outmoded for the way many customers have changed. This is your current reality.

    I sincerely hope that you and your team will choose to channel your sense of humor and creativity to incubate fresh ideas for your new reality and get excited about the possibilities for you and your customers.

    To add another quote from Taylor: "When you believe your company is called to make a positive difference for your customers and your employees, and you start every day with that belief in mind, you'll have more direction, clearer focus, higher energy, greater creativity, better performance, quicker solutions to problems, and a deep, abiding loyalty to your vision from your customers and employees."

    Sharon Roberts is a consultant who specializes in selling to women and couples. Please send your questions or comments to She will respond in her "Ask Sharon" report in The News.

    Publication date: 05/16/2005