It seems the 800lb. Gorilla has escaped his cage and is joining many of my coaching clients in critical sales meetings. Other clients mention some interesting elephants making their way into the conference room. They’re both sitting in the corner waiting for acknowledgement and hoping you’ll invite them to join the conversation. If you’re like many clients, the last thing you’ll do is acknowledge their existence, and you certainly won’t allow them to participate in your big sales call. I think Mr. Gorilla (or Mr. Elephant if you prefer) and his intentions are sorely misunderstood. We perceive him as mysterious foe that should be ignored at all costs rather than a friend who might actually help us to nail the big deal if we were to just give him a listen.

Who is this Gorilla and why is he joining your sales presentation?

The Gorilla is your personal early warning system. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that he usually shows up when something begins to go awry. There may be a sudden drop in room temperature as your questions illicit brief answers. Clients may begin to fidget in their seats, check watches, and shuffle papers. As for you, chances are that each fidget is a sign warning you to hurry up. The speed at which you move through your presentation increases in direct proportion to your rising personal pressure meter. You look up for a moment and there’s the Gorilla in the corner, sitting at the table, or hovering somewhere near the ceiling looking down on the entire scene. In short, his presence is your active intuition kicking in trying to bring your attention to something that may be important.

What is he trying to tell you?

He’s trying to tell you that something is going unsaid causing discomfort for you and your client. The “unspoken” may be a question, concern or fear regarding the decision to purchase your product or services. There may be important factual information that was inadvertently omitted or that your client failed to hear. Have you provided them with the information they need to make an educated decision? Purchasing your product or service may be perceived as taking a modest or high level of risk for the organization or the individual responsible for the buying decision. Is there a sufficient amount of personal and professional trust established in this relationship to move forward? The probability of making your sale is most definitely linked to what you do when your Gorilla makes his appearance.

What should you do when he shows up?

As with any other kind of warning system, its effectiveness is tied to our ability to hear it followed by our willingness to take an appropriate action once the warning has been acknowledged. Let’s take car alarms as an example. Car alarms are great example of warning signs that we’ve learned to ignore and thus rendered ineffective and pointless.

Like a car alarm, you do have the option of ignoring the warning signal. Keeping with this analogy – there will be times when this choice yields no negative consequence. Perhaps no one is really stealing car and a shopping cart banged into it. You may still make your sale but you may have gotten a little banged up in the process. Your client may have enough confidence to move forward despite some underlying discomfort.

However, you may instead choose to acknowledge the warning signal. Acknowledgement will help you maintain control of the sales process and increase the probability of closing the sale you hope to make.

First, hit the “pause” button. What is he trying to call my attention to? However counterintuitive it may feel, you may even choose to verbalize the warning out loud and engage your client in acknowledging that something important needs to be thrown on the table. Second, ask the tough questions – the ones that your client is probably asking himself. Third, help your client work through their concerns by verbalizing the “hard truths” about their situation and their options. Contrary to undermining your sale and your credibility, introducing this level of authenticity and awareness almost always serves to build the trust and credibility that yields not only a sale but a strong relationship with your client.

Instinct and intuition are just two skills associated with emotional intelligence at play in outstanding sales performance. Together they enhance communication and help foster strong relationships with clients, friends, partners or co-workers. Actively working on listening to the Gorillas and Elephants that show up in your sales interactions will help you to work smarter producing greater results for your efforts.

Author's Bio: 

Diana Habich is the president of DD Lawrence Inc. and founder of “Tier 2”, a unique 12 week sales training program designed to help sales management optimize the talent and revenue potential of second quartile ranked sales associates. She is also the author of Sales by Design – a series of workbooks that address common sales challenges with fresh perspectives and techniques. To learn more visit